DOT: We Are NOT Backing Down on Neighborhood Loading Zones!

DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg at a presser last month. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman
DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg at a presser last month. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman

Reports of the demise of the Department of Transportation’s elimination of parking spaces in a dozen residential neighborhoods to make room for the delivery trucks summoned by all those neighborhood residents have been greatly exaggerated.

DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg told Streetsblog that the agency’s pilot Neighborhood Loading Zones program — which was assailed by some residents who wrongly believe that the curbside space is set aside for the storage of their automobiles — would continue, though not in Fort Greene, where it received the coldest reception after DOT’s quiet rollout last month. (Residents objected to getting tickets for parking in the newly marked “No Parking” zones.)

“Clearly we could have handled this better,” Trottenberg said. “I’m the first to admit that this rollout did not go the way it should have — but we only had issues in three neighborhoods, most notably in Fort Greene.”

Look for this logo on "No Parking" signs in select residential neighborhoods. Photo: DOT
Look for this logo on “No Parking” signs in select residential neighborhoods. Photo: DOT

To save the program — which seeks to decongest dozens of residential streets that are clogged and endangered by double-parked delivery trucks — Trottenberg will unveil new signage by Labor Day (left) that will make it more clear to car owners what they are getting in return for roughly 180 fewer free parking spaces.

“We will brand the space in the same way we do for car share,” she said. “Initially, we didn’t do the proper messaging to say, ‘Hey this is a good program.’”

She also said she will shift the program so that the agency is only working with local elected officials who are on board — a “coalition of the willing,” if you will. The unavoidable conclusion? Criticism of the plan by Brooklyn Council Member Laurie Cumbo led to the DOT pullout of Fort Greene — which only means that Cumbo’s constituents will suffer from streets being clogged and unsafe.

In addition, some of the residential loading zones in Council Members Francisco Moya’s Queens district will be shifted to other roadways in the same neighborhoods. And nine other zones in the project — including on the Upper West Side — will continue as planned.

“I want to do it in neighborhoods that are enthusiastic and want it,” she said. “We don’t want a huge battle. We know will have big debates and challenges over expanding bike and bus lanes, but this is like car share. I want it to be in areas that are open to it.”

Cumbo’s loss is Council Member Antonio Reynoso’s gain. The Bushwick official said he was eager to see Trottenberg’s blue signs dotting his residential neighborhoods.

“Double-parking makes it dangerous for everyone, pedestrians, cyclists and drivers,” he said. “It’s also about equity. Thousands of people are ordering items that they want delivered versus protecting a space for a single-person vehicle to be stored. So I’m 100 percent on board. I have three coming to my district and won’t allow them to be challenged.”

The new loading zones signs will resemble those set aside for car-share parking. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman
The new loading zones signs will resemble those set aside for car-share parking. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman

Reynoso is exactly the kind of council member Trottenberg was referring to at a press conference earlier in the month when she offered the rare admission that her loading zone ambitions were in trouble.

“Some neighborhoods have been embracing it,” she said. “Some neighborhoods, not as much as we would hope. The point of this pilot — as with Citi Bike and car share and more bus lanes and more bike lanes — is the idea that we can use the street space much more efficiently. … Certainly with this loading zone pilot, I won’t lie, we can use some political support. But we are exactly trying to send that message.”

These were the original 12 areas where residential loading zones were installed. The Greene Avenue location has been eliminated. Photo: DOT
These were the original 12 areas where the “neighborhood loading zones” were installed. The Greene Avenue location has been eliminated. Photo: DOT

But in her conversation with Streetsblog, Trottenberg made the less rare confession that she objected to some of the recent coverage that the DOT is not acting boldly enough on the root cause of all road evil in this city which is embodied in the loading zone debate: the millions and millions of spaces of free parking. Many outlets — not just Streetsbloghave embraced the notion that free parking is encouraging more car ownership and therefore more driving.

“I’ve been following the coverage this summer and there is a school of thought that city needs to take all these parking spaces away,” she said. “To be fair, when you look at a lot of cities that have repurposed parking, they are making huge investments in expanding transit. If we took away parking but did not offer new transit options, that wouldn’t work. Congestion pricing will help because it will give the MTA a new source of revenue to expand transit. In 30 years, we’ve added just a few stops on the West Side and the Upper East Side. We don’t have Crossrail like London, for example.”

Streetsblog pointed out that removing parking is itself a good thing, whether more transit is added or not.

“[The city] does want to make it tougher to drive, but only when we can offer more mass transit options,” she said. “And the Green Wave plan calls for thousands of parking spaces to be removed with big projects such as the Central Park West bike lane.”

  • Sasha

    You (the collective you) are the first to bitch about the demise and pricing out of the middle class from the city. This is exactly how that happens. Ban “car storage”. Fight or make prohibitively expensive market level housing construction and then whine about unaffordability. Etc.

  • Joe R.

    Self-mobility is a basic human right. Look it up:

    https://www.citylab.com/perspective/2018/10/universal-basic-mobility-is-coming-and-its-long-overdue/572017/

    A bicycle is just a means to extend the speed and range at which a human can travel under their own power. It’s no different than sneakers or shoes.

    As far as obeying traffic laws, that’s fine so long as those laws make sense for the mode. Pedestrians and cyclists shouldn’t have to follow the same laws designed for multi-ton motor vehicles. There’s no safety or other reason for it. Jaywalking and similar laws are designed solely for the convenience of motorists, to get people on foot out of their way so they can drive at high speeds in cities. As such, they interfere with the right to basic mobility.

    A good idea is to have uncontrolled intersections. Motor vehicles must yield to cyclists and pedestrians at all times. Cyclists must yield to pedestrians at all times. Anything else interferes with the human right to basic mobility.

  • Joe R.

    Maybe you have a different definition for middle class than I do. What you describe sounds like upper middle class to me. Anyone who can afford to own a car in the city just for weekend trips, and moreover who can afford things like skiing, hiking, roadtrips on a regular basis, isn’t middle class. My parents were middle class. They could afford to take us on day trips maybe a few times a year, not every weekend. They often didn’t have the same days off as we did, either. Having weekends off nowadays isn’t a given.

    I don’t see what having free car storage has to do with the middle class. A car is a very expensive thing to own, even without paying for parking. The middle class would have a lot more upward mobility if they didn’t own cars. That money could be put into a lot of things, including saving for early retirement. When the kids of people who had cars just for weekend trips are ready to go to college perhaps the parents should think that the money spent all those years on a car could instead have paid for their college. In general people are awful at making cost-benefit decisions. There are reasonable ways of traveling outside the city without a car. You just need to plan ahead a little more than if you were driving.

  • Joe R.

    Car storage, especially mandatory parking minimums, are one thing that has made housing in cities more expensive. Think about all the space in NYC used for car storage. Now imagine if the 20 or so feet on virtually every street could be used for housing instead. NYC has over 5 million curbside parking spots. At around 200 square feet each that’s 1 billion square feet, or over 35 square miles, of space. Think how much more could have been built here if you laid out the grid by making streets 20 feet narrower on the assumption that people won’t park by the curb. Instead of 20 blocks to a mile you would have about 21.5. That’s 7.5% more space for housing.

    Housing is also expensive due to things like real estate speculation but laws can fix that.

  • Sasha

    Upper middle class?? Some statistics: 95% of American households own a car. 45% of New York households own a car. That ownerships correlates the most with transit availability, not with class – it’s highest in some of the poorest neighborhoods: https://www.nycedc.com/blog-entry/new-yorkers-and-their-cars

  • Joe R.

    Owning a car doesn’t mean being able to afford one. Poor households which own a car basically condemn themselves to being poor forever.

  • Yep, its definitely a basic right that every human is entitled to enjoy. Try and convince me otherwise. good luck!

  • Alethia

    I habitually gather as much as $6,000-$8,000 each 30 days using the internet. Haven’t you understood that the future is in the internet arena whether is online advertising or just working for companies which are based and employ online employees. If you don’t do it now you may always regret it because sooner or later you will be force to make the change but you won’t be in the driver’s chair any longer. So what are the benefits to having the ability to generate money on the web? Well there are several. For one there’s increased ability to automate and therefore be working while, you’re sleeping. You also don’t need to work in the typical and uncomfortable work environment. You can work when you want and this comprises more flexibility to take that needed vacation whenever. You can work where you need –at home, in the library, at the coffee shop, at your cabin, or in your Caribbean cruise. You might even wear what you would like, I prefer sweat pants and a T-shirt you might like your bath robe. Other huge benefits to a”make money online” type of occupation are that you don’t need to think about product whether is storage, supply, tech support, you name it. So this sounds great ? So what are you waiting for? Oh. . .you think the initial risk of quitting the job to generate money on the internet is too large? Well then don’t quit your job! You are able to easily keep both a standard job and an online income at precisely the exact same time and you will discover very soon that you have nothing to fear. So please don’t wait, now is your opportunity to beat the mad rush and at the speed that makes you comfy. >>>> fl-y.com/10ky4

  • Vooch

    what does middle class have to do with owning a car ?

    The reason you are broke is precisely because you own a car in the city. I am rather prosperous and wouldn’t dream of owning a car.

    Why should rich people who own cars get free storage at my expense ?

    can I store a couch curbside ?

  • jojo

    Everyone that drives a car that lives in NJ, upstate NY, the outer boroughs and Long Island should stop driving into Manhattan and never come back to spend their money in Manhattan again. Let MTA/DOT workers, political officials and the cyclists support all the consumer businesses located on Manhattan Island. If you work in Manhattan just pack a lunch and think about all the money you are saving and spend it in you local town.

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