Bloomberg Budget Sets Up Round Two of Parking Meter Fight

Mayor Bloomberg presenting his annual budget, which includes an increase in parking meter rates. Photo: nyc.gov/Edward Reed

Mayor Bloomberg unveiled his budget plan yesterday, including hundreds of measures to close a deficit of billions of dollars [PDF]. While the most controversial element may be Bloomberg’s plan to lay off thousands of teachers, included among the smaller-scale deficit-closing measures is one that is sure to set up a fight over transportation policy. The budget again includes a 25 cent increase in the hourly rate for on-street parking in most of the city, a proposal which the City Council negotiated out of this year’s budget in January.

In Manhattan above 86th Street and in the other four boroughs, meter rates would rise from 75 cents an hour to one dollar, raising $13.8 million in 2012. In Manhattan below 86th Street, meter rates are already scheduled to go up from $2.50 per hour to $3.00, a change which will raise $10.4 million annually.

New York’s on-street parking — even the small fraction of it that’s metered — is priced far below the demand. Over the past 18 years, the meter rate hasn’t increased at all when adjusted for inflation. The enormous mismatch between the amount of on-street parking and the demand creating by the current bargain-basement prices is a major contributor to drivers’ inability to ever find a space on the street, to rampant double-parking, and to the city’s traffic congestion, as drivers circle the blocks hoping to get an open, discounted space.

The Bloomberg administration has already tried once to enact the 25-cent meter hikes. However, led by transportation committee chair Jimmy Vacca, the City Council struck a deal last month to delay implementation of the increased meter rates in the boroughs and Upper Manhattan. They are expected to oppose the same rate hike now, setting up parking rates as one likely front in the coming budget battle between the mayor and the Council.

$13.8 million is only a fraction of the overall budget deficit, but it’s also real money. According to the Independent Budget Office [PDF], $10 million buys 158 new teachers, 956 Head Start slots, or 10 days of residential garbage disposal. If Christine Quinn and the City Council choose to fight over the parking hike, they’re not only prioritizing a discount for drivers over congestion relief, but over everything else that money could buy.