The DOT Quandary: Double-Parking Isn’t Illegal — Except When It Actually Is

Believe it or not, double-parking is functionally legal for delivery companies. But trucking industry reps say a DOT proposal to tighten restrictions is unlikely to curb the practice.

This dangerous, congestion-inducing parking job is, believe it or not, legal. A new DOT rule aims to change that. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman
This dangerous, congestion-inducing parking job is, believe it or not, legal. A new DOT rule aims to change that. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman

Double-parking: It’s dangerous, it causes congestion — and in most parts of New York City, it’s completely legal for delivery vehicles.

DOT officials say they are doing a lot to combat the city’s delivery-induced gridlock — increasing off-hour deliveries, adding loading zones, and putting more restrictions on double-parking — but whatever they are doing has not solved an essential problem: New York City streets are a chaotic mess of delivery trucks that continue to increase in number. Twenty years into the e-commerce boom, our city’s arteries are sclerotic.

DOT has proposed a new treatment: new restrictions on double-parking that would expand a preexisting zone in Midtown where it is actively prohibited, ban it in all circumstances “when it blocks the only lane of travel in the same direction,” and, most important, enact a 20-minute limit on commercial double-parking changing enforcement language to require that drivers are “actively engaged” in making their delivery, not merely working “expeditiously” — language that has basically meant merely being nearby. [PDF]

The agency does not, however, intend to actually outlaw double-parking.

And therein lies the problem: Delivery and trucking companies — whose tickets are already heavily discounted by the city’s Stipulated Fine Program — aren’t going to stop double-parking because on many blocks, there simply is no place for them to park. For most of them — particularly global corporations like FedEx, FreshDirect, and UPS — parking tickets are simply the cost of doing business.

And whose fault is that? City government.

The scope of the problem was a central part of a DOT hearing on Wednesday about its new rules. Trucking industry representatives — long seen by street safety advocates as a villain — presented themselves instead as the maiden tied to the railroad tracks.

“We’re a captive audience, our businesses. We’ve got nowhere to go. We have to deliver the packages,” testified Ken Thorpe of the New York Trucking and Delivery Association, which represents over 700 small New York-based trucking companies. “At the end of the day, packages have to be delivered. Double-parking in necessary.”

Current city rules let drivers double-park so long as they are “expeditiously making pickups, deliveries or service calls.” Enforcement agents define “expeditious” to mean that drivers are “around.” In court, drivers who get a double-parking ticket can get it dismissed so long as they have delivery logs showing themselves present at the vehicle every half hour. So in effect, a truck can be parked for hours at one location. And if the driver gets a ticket, the fee is dramatically reduced for companies that participate in the Stipulated Fine Program.

New York Trucking and Delivery Association CEO Ken Thorpe testifying at Wednesday's rules hearing. Photo: David Meyer
New York Trucking and Delivery Association CEO Ken Thorpe testifying at Wednesday’s rules hearing. Photo: David Meyer

The new 20-minute limit will change the language so that drivers are required to be “actively engaged” in making deliveries. DOT says that will mean less double-parking.

“The police department met with the Department of Finance to have a better language so the agents know that if they are not writing a ticket, there has to be someone on the vehicle actively engaged,” DOT Deputy Commissioner for Traffic Operations Josh Benson told Streetsblog on Monday. “He can’t just be checking in every 30 minutes — and that’s how the existing rules had been interpreted.”

The one place were double parking is already prohibited is a designated zone in Midtown from 14th to 60th streets between First and Eighth avenues. DOT’s proposed changes would expand that zone west to 12th Avenue.

Yet Thorpe told Streetsblog afterwards that the ultimate impact of additional penalties won’t be to reduce double-parking, but to hurt smaller businesses he represents. FedEx, FreshDirect, et al. will be fine, since they can mostly afford the tickets.

“Global companies can absorb a lot more than regular people can,” he said. “[The new rule] is not going to stop [double parking]. It can’t.”

The problem, according to industry officials (and virtually everyone else except car owners), is a lack of dedicated curbside spots for deliveries.

‘We’re only asking for the opportunity to double-park because there is not enough room to park,” testified Joel Summer, who runs a Nassau-based moving and storage company. “It is impossible for us to complete our services if only 20 minutes of double-parking is allowed.”

DOT, for its part, claims it is taking steps to expand delivery zones, such as on Austin Street in Queens.

The agency recently announced plans to expand its off-hour delivery program, which has been fairly limited so far. Only a few hundred companies currently participate. Testifying at DOT on Wednesday, Anheuser Busch Director of Operations Devin Wilzoch said only 2 percent of the company’s New York City clients have made the switch.

“What I ask is [for] the DOT’s assistance in helping us find new account bases and different customers that can help us in this journey to bring more deliveries to off-hours, reducing the amount of congestion,” Wilzoch said.

Save for that, all the city can do is clear more loading zones — which inevitably requires taking parking spots from someone else.

And the de Blasio administration doesn’t like to repurpose parking, because New York’s car-owning minority has cowed elected officials, who fear politically exhausting battles at every community board, which have proven to favor parking over safety.

  • Elizabeth F

    Simple solution, get rid of cars.

  • qrt145

    “DOT, for its part, claims it is taking steps to expand delivery zones, such as on Austin Street in Queens.”

    If the best you can do is name one example, you already failed. There should be loading zones in pretty much every block of every street.

    Imagine if there were no fire hydrants in the city and the government said: “we are working on it; for example, we are planning to put one on Austin street!”

  • ortcutt

    “when it blocks the only lane of travel in the same direction,”

    I live on a residential one-way street. Usually a delivery truck can park on the street and cars can pass by, but if you get UPS double-parked with a box truck trying to go down the street, they cannot pass and people get blocked and go crazy. I saw someone get rammed one time. As it is, anytime a UPS truck double-parks it is potentially blocking the only lane of travel, but will they need to wait until the box truck shows up before they can write a ticket?

  • Larry Littlefield

    On any two-lane commercial street, double parking a wide vehicle blocks the only lane of traffic. Take a ride down 5th Avenue in Brooklyn at 10 to 11 am to see the result.

    But even on four lane commercial streets, say Bay Parkway, the road can be blocked, with one lane obstructed by double parkers and the other by left turners.

    In cases where there is a nearby non-commercial alternative, say 5th Avenue in Brooklyn once again, I believe private vehicles should be prohibited. That would be much better for buses, bikes and deliveries. The private vehicles could take 4th Avenue, and drop off passengers on side streets.

  • cjstephens

    You have a choice: you can get free parking for your private vehicles on this block, or you can get delivery trucks dropping off your Amazon packages without gumming up traffic. You can’t have both. Pick one.

  • cjstephens

    Better solution: get rid of free on-street parking anywhere someone might get a delivery.

  • thomas040

    How about completely reassessing who owns the streets? Why do I get free parking just because I buy a car? Isn’t that PROMOTING car ownership in reality? If they want to fight congestion, they need to stop rewarding people for getting cars. Congestion pricing, PLUS free parking, is sending mixed messages.

  • thomas040

    how about when it blocks a single bike lane in one direction? or two?

  • thomas040

    Get rid of free on street parking. At least start charging for it.

  • thomas040

    Basically ANY residential block with internet access (amazon).

  • ortcutt

    Our coop board has been asking for delivery zones on our block for years now and worked with our council member on implementing it. Still nothing. Yes, if would cost free parking spaces, but people think it would be a overall benefit.

  • 00rodgee00

    Then improve mass transit can’t get rid of cars and not have a robust efficient transit system, what you gonna do bike all over place? People have a right to use and own cars, but city planners should do better as the other commenter mentioned, provided more loading zones for businesses and business districts maybe even designate days for delivery only. Also provide more freight options we have a lot of underused freight lines in the city let’s utilize them better build more transfer hubs to help reduce big trucking traffic. Stop rezoning industrial areas and actually use them.

  • Lisa Orman

    Every multi-tenanted building in the city should have a dedicated No Parking spot in front of it. Why should public parking (the vast majority of it free parking) be king when 40% of households receive a delivery of some kind at least a few times a week? We need flexible curbs that reflect the values and needs of New Yorkers.

  • Lisa Orman

    Also, what a pathetic solution to a fantastically dangerous situation. Come on DOT.

  • cjstephens

    Kudos to your co-op board for being enlightened.

  • Jason Weiss

    I agree with no free parking, how about curb use is $10 (or whatever rate works) per hour per vehicle. (Over 25 feet is extra). You want to park for three days, okay $720; you want to load something for 6 minutes, okay $1; you want 75 feet for a valet zone for you restaurant Friday from 5-11, okay, $180. The rates can vary by time if needed to keep the space available for needed uses. Important everybody pays. Delivery companies can have an app where they hit a button when making a delivery and it disengages when the vehicle moves to make computing amounts easy, but everyone pays.

  • Pam

    After 5 years I chose to depart from my previous work and it transformed my life… I started out working on a task online, for organization I discovered over the internet, for a number of hours in a day, profit definitely more than I managed to do on my previous job… Last pay-check I got was 9000 dollars… Incredible thing regarding this is the fact that I have more time for my friends and family. See, what it’s all about…

  • zach

    People have a right to use and own cars, but they don’t have a right to free parking. Eliminate a couple of spots on every block, free those up for short term deliveries. If more than 85% of the spots are taken at peak hours, bring in parking meters and keep raising rates until 15% of the spots are empty. All that parking meter money will fund a “robust efficient transit system.” Most New York families do not own a single car, yet their communal property (parking spaces) is given for free to freeloading drivers!

  • Andrew

    People have a right to use and own cars

    Where exactly in the Constitution does this right appear? I’m afraid I’m not familiar with it.

    In a city like New York, there simply isn’t enough space for anywhere near all of its residents to own cars.

    Currently, we ration our limited space for cars by giving it to those who are most time-insensitive – those who can afford to sit around for hours on alternate-side days to move the car, those who can afford to sit in traffic jams, etc. That’s a pretty stupid way to ration a scarce resource – especially when it leads to slow and unreliable bus service, slow deliveries, slow emergency response, and dangerous conditions for pedestrians and cyclists.

    Then improve mass transit

    Getting all those cars out of the way of the buses will go a long way toward improving mass transit.


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