Manhattan Parking Meter Rates Increase, Nobody Notices

Meter rates are up, and the world is still spinning on its axis. Photo: Lucius Kwok/Flickr

Did you hear? It didn’t get press coverage, but a week ago rates for on-street parking in Manhattan below 110th Street increased by 50 cents. The lack of attention this story has gotten is truly amazing, given the media’s usual windshield perspective.

As of January 25, meters below 96th Street now charge $3.50 an hour, while hourly rates between 96th and 110th Streets increased to $1.50. In Manhattan above 110th Street and elsewhere in the city, rates remain at $1.00 per hour. The last time City Hall tried to raise meter rates farther out from the CBD, City Council members including Transportation Committee Chair James Vacca made a fuss, though the council eventually agreed to a 25-cent increase in 2011.

The most recent round of meter rate increases were part of the city’s effort to close a budget gap in November and are expected to bring in approximately $5.1 million annually. Another gap-closing measure will bring muni-meters to 428 previously unmetered spots in Lower Manhattan, which is projected to raise $6.7 million per year.

In a way it’s a shame that changes to meter prices are usually tied to budget-balancing efforts, since there’s a compelling transportation policy case to set the price of parking to ensure spots are available, reducing traffic caused by drivers cruising for open spaces. DOT has been making some headway on this front in a handful of neighborhoods with its PARK Smart reforms.

The rate hikes and new meters in Manhattan are a step in the right direction, as far as setting the right price is concerned. But there’s still a long way to go until the price of on-street spaces is comparable to off-street spaces. As long as that’s the case, Manhattan drivers will have an incentive to cruise for spots. Since the difference between on-street and off-street prices got a little smaller last week and nobody noticed, maybe the city can start shrinking the gap faster.