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Posts from the Parking Category

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Parking Reforms Cut Congestion, So When Will DOT Get Serious About Them?

Where is PARK Smart 2.0? Image: DOT [PDF]

Where is PARK Smart 2.0? Image: DOT [PDF]

Earlier this month City Council transportation chair Ydanis Rodriguez convened a hearing on city parking policy. The committee addressed abuse of DOT- and NYPD-issued parking placards, but did not discuss one of the most promising initiatives in the city tool kit.

PARK Smart is a program that increases parking rates on certain blocks at times when demand is highest. It has proven successful in cutting congestion, but technological advancements such as pay-by-phone and a dynamic payment structure would make it even more effective.

DOT launched PARK Smart in Greenwich Village and Park Slope in 2008 and 2009, respectively. Community board opposition prompted the agency to spike parking reforms on the Upper East Side. The most recent PARK Smart expansions came in 2013, with pilot programs in Jackson Heights and on Atlantic Avenue.

Streetsblog reached out to DOT concerning the future of PARK Smart. A department spokesperson indicated that additional parking reform proposals may be forthcoming, but gave no specifics:

“The NYC Department of Transportation is moving toward the development of a more comprehensive management plan for the metered parking environment. The Park Smart initiative will seek to develop a toolbox of approaches to improve the operation and utility of the curb, as well as programs and policies that are more reflective of neighborhood demand and character. Over the course of the next year, NYC DOT will be collecting parking metrics in neighborhoods across the city to build parking profiles which may influence changes that NYC DOT may make in the near future to parking rates and regulations.”

With Governor Cuomo showing no interest in bridge toll reform, innovative parking policy is probably the best means the city has to reduce traffic congestion along its busiest commercial corridors.

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NYPD Still Resisting Attempts to Reform Parking Placard Abuse

Fraudulent parking placards are rampant in NYC, but NYPD remains opposed to a bill that would require the city to include a barcode on placards to ensure proper enforcement.

It may look official, but this “Amtrak police surgeon” placard was not issued by the city. Still, NYPD is in no hurry to cut down on placard fraud. Photo: Noah Kazis

Testifying before the City Council transportation committee today, NYPD Assistant Commissioner Richard Schroeder cited “significant fiscal, operational, and technological issues that… cannot be resolved within the one year effective date of the legislation” as one reason why the department opposes Intro 326, sponsored by Council Member Dan Garodnick. When Garodnick introduced a similar bill in 2011, it also met resistance from NYPD.

Schroeder said the legislation doesn’t give NYPD enough time to build a secure database of placards issued to city agencies by DOT and NYPD. He also noted that barcodes would not be able to completely prevent the fraudulent reproduction of placards, since they can be easily scanned and copied. He said NYPD was open to other strategies to improve enforcement, and expressed hope that DOT’s adoption of pay-by-phone parking technology could help mitigate the problem.

DOT Assistant Commissioner for Parking Operations Mike Marisco later testified that pay-by-phone “will also provide opportunities for much more efficient ways of managing permits.” While that’s intriguing, it’s not at all clear how placard management will be improved by a better parking meter payment system. Fake placards, after all, let people park without paying a cent.

There are approximately 104,000 valid NYC parking placards in circulation, with the largest chunk distributed to members of NYPD. They entitle the placard holder to park for free in any legal parking spot.

The placard system is problematic for several reasons, including the fact that it creates a huge incentive to drive for tens of thousands of public employees in some of the most transit-rich parts of the city. Legitimate placards are often abused as entitlements to park illegally in bus stops, crosswalks, or no-standing zones. Fake placards are shockingly easy to produce and work as well as the real thing. The mere sight of something vaguely official-looking on a dashboard is enough to intimidate enforcement agents.

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Streetsblog USA
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Social Engineering! Cities That Build More Parking Get More Traffic

Cities like Hartford that added a lot of parking over the last few decades saw driving rates increase. Graph: McCahill/TRB

Cities like Hartford that added a lot of parking over the last few decades saw driving rates increase more than in cities where parking volumes stayed flatter. Graph: McCahill/TRB

Build parking spaces and they will come — in cars. New research presented this week at the annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board finds a direct, causal relationship between the amount of parking in cities and car commuting rates.

University of Wisconsin researcher Chris McCahill and his team examined nine “medium-sized” cities — with relatively stable populations between 100,000 and 300,000. They compared historical parking data with car commuting rates beginning in 1960, finding “a clear, consistent association” between parking levels and car commuting that has “grown stronger” over time.

Using an epidemiological research method, McCahill’s team determined that the relationship was causal. For example, data indicated that increases in parking tended to precede growth in car commuting.

The study brings home the point that by inflating the parking supply via minimum parking mandates and other policies, cities are leading more people to drive and making conditions worse for transit, biking, and walking. It’s what you might call “social engineering.”

Researchers compared five cities with low car commuting rates (Arlington, Virginia; Berkeley, California; Silver Spring, Maryland; and Somerville and Cambridge, Massachusetts) to four cities with relatively high car commuting rates (Albany, New York; Lowell, Massachusetts; and New Haven and Hartford, Connecticut).

McCahill and his team found that for every 10 percentage point increase in parking spaces per capita, the share of workers commuting by car would be expected to increase by 7.7 percentage points. So if a city increased its per capita parking from 0.1 spaces to 0.5 spaces, car commute mode share would rise about 30 percentage points.

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A Vote for Parking Minimums Is a Vote to Keep the Rent Too Damn High

Photo: Google Street View

Mandatory parking minimums add construction costs, restrict the supply of housing, and help put rents out of reach. Photo: Google Street View

Jimmy McMillan may have retired from politics last week, but the rent is still too damn high and New York City’s mandatory parking minimums are a major reason why.

That’s because parking costs a lot of money to build and takes up a lot of space. With city rules requiring parking in new construction, New York ends up with higher rents and less housing to go around than would otherwise be the case.

The de Blasio administration has proposed doing away with parking minimums for subsidized housing near transit. Predictably, a lot of community boards still want to compel the construction of parking spaces, even if the city knows most of them will go unused.

Members of the City Council, which will negotiate the final rezoning plan with City Hall, are by and large on the fence about the proposed parking reforms. This is an issue Streetsblog has covered a lot over the past several years, so here are five reminders that a vote for parking minimums is a vote to make housing in New York City less affordable.

1. The Time Building a Project Without Parking Made It More Affordable

Navy Green is an affordable housing project in Fort Greene that consists of 458 homes, 75 percent of which will be affordable to households earning between 30 and 130 percent of the area median income. That level of affordability was possible because the project includes zero parking spots, developer Martin Dunn told Streetsblog.

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Advocates to City Council: Parking Mandates Make Housing Less Affordable

Photo: Google Street View

Mandatory parking minimums add construction costs, restrict the supply of housing, and help put rents out of reach. Photo: Google Street View

Requiring the construction of parking spaces drives up the cost of housing in New York City, which is why parking policy reform figures prominently in the de Blasio administration’s rezoning plans. Now a coalition of advocates is highlighting how much those reforms matter to the campaign to make housing more affordable.

City Hall’s plan calls for the elimination of mandatory parking requirements from some types of housing built within walking distance of the subway, including senior housing and mixed-income inclusionary housing. Doing away with these parking requirements has drawn opposition from several community boards, which cast advisory votes. The real political test will come in the City Council, which has veto power over the proposal.

In a letter to Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and the City Planning Commission, Transportation Alternatives, the Straphangers Campaign, the Regional Plan Association, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, StreetsPAC, and the Pratt Center highlight the link between parking requirements and New York’s high housing costs, referencing two recent studies by the NYU Furman Center:

Parking requirements are not helping the cause of affordable housing — in fact, evidence shows they work against it. In New York City, parking in above-ground garages costs more than $21,000 per space to build. Below-ground parking can run up to $50,000 per spot. Requiring off-street parking in new developments thus pushes up the cost of creating housing, which makes affordable housing a less appealing prospect for builders and stands in the way of actually constructing it. A city-commissioned study by the NYU Furman Center concluded, “The largest and most difficult zoning constraint affecting the development of new housing has been the requirement of building on-site parking spaces.”

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After $11M in Repairs, Is Borough Hall Plaza a Plaza, or a Parking Lot?

This year, contractors hired by the Parks Department got to work replacing the bluestone in the plaza outside Brooklyn Borough Hall, which was busted up due in part to people — including former borough president Marty Markowitz — parking cars on it.

The $11 million project isn’t finished, but someone has already started using the new granite pavers for parking again.

“Before we know it, Borough Hall Plaza will once again be the community common space we have long come to love and treasure,” Borough President Eric Adams told the Brooklyn Eagle in April. And nothing says “community space” like personal auto storage.

The granite may hold up better than the bluestone, but is Borough Hall Plaza a plaza, or a parking lot?

We have a request in with Adams’ office about whether he intends to allow the plaza to be used for parking after the city spent millions to repair it.

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Queens Community Board Chairs Care About Parking More Than Housing

Give it up for Queens community board chairs. Thanks to a vote last night, we now have a crystal clear expression of their priorities. Nothing is more important than parking.

In a city without enough housing to go around, where rising rents are squeezing people in more neighborhoods every year, the community board chairs have taken a bold stand: Parking must come first, before all of this affordable housing nonsense.

City Hall’s big affordable housing plan, which broadly speaking lets developers build more housing while compelling them to set aside some units for people earning below a certain threshold, went up for a vote from the Queens Borough Board on Monday. (The borough board is composed of the chairs of all the borough’s community boards, the borough president, and its council members, though not everyone was present.) The plan went down in a 12-2 vote, which thankfully is only advisory in nature.

One piece of the plan is the reduction of mandatory parking minimums for subsidized housing near transit. This is the provision that the community board chairs could not stomach, reports Politico’s Sally Goldenberg:

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Streetsblog USA
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Cartoon Donald Shoup Explains How Planning for Cars Ruins Cities


This is a pretty great animation explaining how American cities were undermined by a slavish dedication to storing and moving cars. It’s by comedian Adam Conover from TruTV’s “Adam Ruins Everything,” who also made this great video explaining the screwed up origin of the word “jaywalking.”

The best part may be the animated version of parking guru Donald Shoup, author of “The High Cost of Free Parking.”

Television comedians preaching urbanism? We hope this is part of a trend.

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NYC Housing Policy Too Important to Be Written By Free Parking Addicts

Earlier this week the Department of City Planning presented its housing affordability plan to the Queens Borough Board, where representatives of community boards throughout the borough kvetched about — you guessed it — parking.

One of the best things about DCP’s Housing New York plan is that it would bring an end to parking requirements for subsidized housing near subways. This would cut down on construction costs and free up resources to house people instead of cars. It’s not full-on reform of parking requirements, since market-rate residences would still be forced to come with a certain number of parking spots. This allows DCP to point out that very, very few people who live in subsidized housing near transit own cars anyway, which could conceivably help win over people who worry about competition for free on-street parking spots.

Naturally, community board types are still having none of it. They’re fixated on one thing, and it’s not housing affordability. What they want are guarantees that parking for free on the street will not become any more inconvenient, according to the scene painted by the Queens Chronicle:

“I’m a senior citizen. If you take away my car, you take away my life,” Community Board 6 Chairman Joseph Hennessy told DCP representatives Eric Kober and Laura Smith. “You’re thinking Manhattan. This is Queens.”

“This is Queens. We can’t get around here on public transportation, that’s why all us old guys have cars to go to the doctor or go somewhere,” [community board 5 chair Vincent] Arcuri said. “So when you’re saying that seniors don’t need cars or don’t have them… in Queens, it’s our lifeline.”

Okay, so these people aren’t convinced by the housing affordability argument, and they don’t believe or don’t care about the data that says a ton of parking in subsidized housing goes unused. How about an angle they can relate to: Parking requirements make life more miserable, not less, for existing car owners.

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Con Ed Staff Caught Illegally Parking on Sidewalk By Queensboro Bridge

qboro_bridge_parking

Chris Martin walks around illegally parked cars belonging to Con Ed workers on the way to his job at a TV shoot for Blue Bloods. Photo: Cristina Furlong

Cars belonging to Con Edison employees assigned to a project on the Queensboro Bridge are squeezing pedestrians into the roadbed as workers illegally park on the sidewalk. On both the east and west sides of Vernon Boulevard at Queens Plaza South, near Queensbridge Park and Queensbridge Houses, sidewalks are being used as private parking for bridge workers. When confronted, Con Ed said it will tell employees to stop parking on the sidewalk.

Yesterday morning, people were stepping off the sidewalk on their way to work. “This is ridiculous, people should feel safer here,” said Chris Martin, 24, as he walked in the road to his job on a film shoot in Queensbridge Park.

This placard

This placard does not actually confer the right to park on the sidewalk. Photo: Cristina Furlong

“I feel that it’s very unsafe here, the streets are busy and people run red lights,” said Frankie Cane, 28, who works south of the bridge at Plant Specialists. “Every day, I walk this strip to get lunch… and it just isn’t safe.”

Con Ed workers have been placing their orange safety vests on the dashboards of their cars, and according to neighbors, no ticketing has occurred. The area is under the patrol of the 108th Precinct. Calls to the precinct were referred to its community affairs division, which did not respond.

One car displayed a DOT placard. The agency confirmed via email that all the sidewalk parking, including by its staff, is illegal, since “stipulations do not allow for parking on sidewalks and city highway rules dictate DOT construction permits do not allow permit parking for private vehicles.”

Con Edison replied in a statement: “We’ve been doing repair work on transmission cables under the bridge and will inform our employees not to park on the sidewalk areas. We apologize for the inconvenience.”

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