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Posts from the Parking Category

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Don’t Forget to Expose Your City’s Parking Failures This Black Friday

Photo: Brandon Lerch

If it’s half-empty on Black Friday, it will never be full. Photo: Brandon Lerch

It’s that time of year again — time to show how much space we waste on commercial parking!

Strong Towns is organizing its annual #BlackFridayParking campaign, asking readers to snap photos of half-empty parking lots on one of the biggest shopping days of the year.

Vast parking lots and garage consume far too much space in our cities and towns. They make places unwalkable. Their impermeable surfaces generate runoff that pollutes our water. And they erode the fiscal viability of local governments by increasing infrastructure costs and weakening the tax base.

And yet, everywhere you look in America, enormous seas of parking are the norm at retail centers. The fact that many parking lots remain half-empty on Black Friday is proof that we’ve gone way too far with all this asphalt.

The Strong Towns contest is a chance to step back and call attention to this problem, so get your cameras ready and remember the #BlackFridayParking hashtag.

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Police Use Illegal License Plate Covers to Break Traffic Laws and Cheat Tolls

To gauge what police think about traffic laws and street safety, it’s instructive to observe how they abuse their authority with their personal vehicles.

On Twitter, @placardabuse does yeoman’s work posting images of personal cars with NYPD placards violating myriad laws, including blocking fire hydrants, blocking crosswalks, and parking on sidewalks. The placards don’t confer the right to break these rules, they just intimidate enforcement agents into giving the vehicle owner a pass.

Particularly brazen is the practice of obscuring license plates to evade toll readers and traffic enforcement cameras. The @placardabuse account has captured the illegal covers on numerous NYPD-placarded vehicles, some in the parking lot at 1 Police Plaza.

These plastic covers allow the license plate to be seen from a direct point of view but deflect light at an angle, preventing enforcement cameras from identifying the vehicle. They’re illegal in New York state because their purpose is to enable drivers to steal from and endanger the public with impunity.

Read more…

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East Harlem Rezoning Plan Scraps Parking Minimums to Build More Housing

The Department of City Planning previewed its East Harlem rezoning proposal at Community Board 11 this week [PDF].

The Department of City Planning previewed its East Harlem rezoning proposal at Community Board 11 this week [PDF].

The Department of City Planning is preparing a major rezoning of East Harlem, and it calls for scrapping parking requirements along most of the avenues in the neighborhood.

Earlier this year, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito released the “East Harlem Neighborhood Plan” [PDF], a set of recommendations developed by her office, Community Board 11, Borough President Gale Brewer, and the grassroots social justice group Community Voices Heard. The plan called for “increased density in select places to create more affordable housing and spaces for jobs” and recommended that “any potential rezoning should eliminate minimum parking requirements.”

New York City’s minimum parking requirements drive up the cost of housing by requiring developers to build parking spots that otherwise wouldn’t get built. This adds to construction costs and constrains the supply of new housing.

On Tuesday, representatives from the Department of City Planning previewed the rezoning at Community Board 11’s monthly meeting. All areas that would get upzoned in the plan will also have parking requirements eliminated.

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Streetsblog USA
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White House: Make Cities Affordable By Building for Walkability, Not Parking

The Obama administration is taking on the crisis of rising rents in American cities, releasing a series of recommendations today to spur the construction of more affordable housing. Among the many ideas the White House endorses: allowing more multi-family housing near transit and getting rid of parking minimums.

Rising rents are putting pressure on American families. Graph: White House

Rising rents and stagnant incomes are putting pressure on American families. Graph: White House

Since 1960, the share of renters paying more than 30 percent of their income for housing — the baseline for what is considered “affordable” — has risen from 24 percent to 49 percent, the White House reports in its new Housing Development Toolkit [PDF]. There are now 7.7 million severely rent-burdened households, defined as those paying more than 50 percent of their income for rent — an increase of about 2.5 million in just the past 10 years.

In the toolkit, the Obama administration acknowledges the links between housing and transportation, saying that “smart housing regulation optimizes transportation system use, reduces commute times, and increases use of public transit, biking and walking.”

The toolkit is full of policy recommendations to make it easier to build multi-family housing, incentivize the construction of subsidized housing, and shift away from the single-family/large lot development paradigm.

The document is merely advisory — federal officials don’t have the power to supersede most local zoning laws. But the White House does say that U.S. DOT will evaluate cities’ approaches to new housing development when it considers awarding major grants for new transit projects.

Here are a few of the highlights from the recommendations.

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Take a Stand Against Affordable Housing By Saving This Parking Garage

A developer wants to build affordable housing on the sites of three parking garages between Amsterdam Avenue and Columbus Avenue on West 108th Street. Photo: Google Maps

An affordable housing developer wants to expand the Valley Lodge transitional homeless shelter and build new apartments on the sites of three parking garages between Amsterdam Avenue and Columbus Avenue on West 108th Street. Photo: Google Maps

In NYC’s current affordable housing shortage, every square foot counts. With that in mind, the city announced plans earlier this year to relinquish three parking garages it owns on West 108th Street to make way for 280 units of new housing, all of which would be reserved for people earning less than the average income in the area. Naturally, hysteria ensued.

Since the plans were announced, a group of residents organized under the banner “Save Manhattan Valley” to fight the development. “This Street Parking Space Will Disappear Soon If You Don’t Act,” its fliers read. “In addition to the toxic noise and air caused by construction, you can expect added pollution from idling cars, double parking, honking, stress and accidents.”

Gasp! Photo: @lpolgreen

Gasp! Photo: @lpolgreen

This is the Upper West Side, served by no fewer than three subway lines (more if you count expresses), several bus routes, Citi Bike, and car-sharing services like Zipcar and Car2Go. All those transit options make owning a car an avoidable expense for Upper West Side households, so nearly 80 percent of them choose not to.

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DOT’s 5-Year Plan: Faster Buses, Smarter Parking, 5-Boro Citi Bike, Lots More

NYC DOT published a new strategic plan yesterday [PDF], marking the first time the agency has refreshed its guiding document under Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Polly Trottenberg.

stratplanIn addition to synthesizing a lot of work that DOT has previously announced (pedestrian safety plans, Select Bus Service routes, a wider Brooklyn Bridge promenade), the update includes several new projects and initiatives. The big headline-grabber is a center-running two-way protected bike lane on Delancey Street connecting the Williamsburg Bridge and Allen Street, slated for next year.

Advocates have been calling to complete that missing link in the bike network for ages. With the L train shutdown coming up in 2019, time is of the essence to get a safe, high-capacity bikeway on Delancey to handle the swarms of people on bikes who’ll come over the bridge. The Delancey project is one of four bridge access projects DOT aims to complete in the next two years. Though DOT doesn’t name the other bridges in the plan, it says the projects in its Harlem River bridges initiative will be a priority.

There’s a mountain of other stuff in the strategic plan. While some of the goals should be more ambitious (10 miles of protected bike lanes per year isn’t enough in the Vision Zero era) and the benchmarks for success could be more specific (most timetables call for hitting key milestones either by 2017 or by 2021, the last year of a hypothetical second term for de Blasio), the ideas are solid.

In a way the document underscores the urgency of securing more funds and political backing from City Hall for DOT’s initiatives — given sufficient resources, DOT is going to put them to good use.

Here’s my compilation of new ideas and goals from DOT that I think Streetsblog readers will find especially interesting.

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Illegally-Parked and Abandoned Cars Plague Queensbridge Houses, Greenway

NYC Parks said it is aware that this segment of the Queensbridge Park Greenway has become a haven for illegal parking. Photo: David Meyer

The Parks Department knows the Queensbridge Park Greenway has become a haven for illegal parking, but drivers continue to park there. Photo: David Meyer

A bicycle and pedestrian greenway that connects protected bike paths on the waterfront to Queens Plaza and Queens Boulevard has become a parking lot, with private and government-placarded cars lining its southern curb for months.

The Parks Department knows about the vehicles parked in the path and “has been ticketing when they are observed,” according agency spokesperson Meghan Lalor. But that hasn’t deterred people from leaving their cars on the greenway.

The greenway, which is technically part of Queensbridge Park, runs for two blocks from Vernon Boulevard at the East River waterfront to 21st Street, between NYCHA’s Queensbridge Houses and the Queensboro Bridge.

On Vernon Boulevard, motorists continue to park illegally under the bridge, blocking pedestrian access to the sidewalk on the west side of the street. Streetsblog reported last October that Con Edison employees were parking their personal cars there while making repairs to the bridge.

I visited the location twice this week and found the greenway filled with parked cars. Some of them had Parks Department placards. In others, drivers displayed orange safety vests (at least one had the word “contractor” on it). Some of the cars had out of state plates.

“[It’s] a new phenomenon. Cars were not parking there until a few months ago,” said Ray Normandeau, a longtime Queensbridge resident. “We’ve seen people park a car, then walk to the subway.”

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Streetsblog USA
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Carless Renters Forced to Pay $440 Million a Year for Parking They Don’t Use

Many residents of American cities can’t escape the high cost of parking, even if they don’t own cars. Thanks to policies like mandatory parking requirements and the practice of “bundling” parking with housing, carless renters pay $440 million each year for parking they don’t use, according to a new study by C.J. Gabbe and Gregory Pierce in the journal Housing Policy Debate.

Photo: Wikipedia

Photo: Wikipedia

The financial burden works out to an average of $621 annually per household, or a 13 percent rent premium — and it is concentrated among households that can least afford it. “Minimum parking standards create a major equity problem for carless households,” said Gabbe. “71 percent of renters without a car live in housing with at least one parking space included in their rent.”

Parking is typically bundled with rent, making the cost of residential parking opaque. So Gabbe and Pierce set out to estimate how much people are actually paying for the parking that comes with their apartments.

Crunching Census data from a representative sample of more than 38,000 rental units in American urban areas, they isolated the relationship between parking provision and housing prices. They determined that on average, a garaged parking space adds about $1,700 per year in rent — a 17 percent premium.

Looking only at carless households, the average cost is $621 per year and the premium is 13 percent. On average these households earn about $24,000 annually, compared to $44,000 for the whole sample, and they get no value whatsoever out of the parking spaces bundled with their rent.

Gabbe and Pierce estimate that nationwide there are 708,000 households without a car renting an apartment with a garaged parking space, for a total cost burden of about $440 million per year due to unused parking.

So how can parking policy create fairer housing prices?

Gabbe and Pierce say cities should eliminate minimum parking requirements to make housing more affordable. Cities can also help by allowing and encouraging landlords to “unbundle” the cost of parking from the cost of rent — so people who don’t have cars aren’t forced to pay for parking spaces they don’t use.

Streetsblog USA
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Park & Rides Lose Money and Waste Land — But Agencies Keep Building Them

Transit agencies shell out big bucks to build and operate parking facilities. But how much do we really know about what they get for their money?

branchave

The surface parking lot at WMATA’s Branch Avenue station. Photo: TRB

Researchers Lisa Jacobson and Rachel Weinberger surveyed 37 American transit agencies about park-and-ride facilities. They found that despite the expense of park-and-rides and the fact that many spaces go unused, most of the 32 agencies that manage parking are still planning to build more of it.

Here are six big take-aways from their recent report, published by the Transportation Research Board [PDF].

1. Most transit passengers don’t park and ride

People who park at stations account for about 22 percent of total ridership across the 32 agencies that offer park-and-ride facilities. Even looking only at commuter rail and express bus service — the two modes closely associated with park-and-rides — most passengers don’t use parking. For commuter rail, 41 percent of passengers park and ride, and for express buses the figure is 30 percent.

2. Many park-and-ride lots don’t come close to filling up even at peak hours

Even during weekdays, park-and-ride lots are, on average, only 65 percent full. The author say this “would be considered underutilized based on parking industry standards,” meaning a private company with so much empty parking stalls would consider doing something else with the land.

“On average, this sample of transit agencies has approximately 155,000 unused parking spaces on any given day,” the report states. That’s about a square mile of empty parking.

Read more…

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Eyes on the Street: Cops With Placards Turn Ninth Avenue Into Parking Lot

Well, this is a pretty brazen display of entitlement from the placarded class.

Parking watchdog @placardabuse tweeted these photos of private vehicles parked in a turn lane on Ninth Avenue at 34th Street, creating a left-hook hazard for people riding in the bike lane.

At least one of the cars has a Midtown South/14th Precinct placard. The station house is just up the block, at Ninth Avenue and 35th Street.

Parking placards don’t confer the legal right to store your car in a turning lane, but for all intents and purposes that’s how they function, since enforcement agents are loathe to ticket vehicles with placards. Making matters worse, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton has scaled back NYPD’s internal monitoring and enforcement of placard abuse.

The officer who answered the phone at the precinct did not know there were staff vehicles parked on Ninth Avenue. “We’ll look into it,” she said.