Skip to content

Posts from the "Parking" Category

25 Comments

Chinatown Biz Group Fed Up With Placard Parkers Hogging Spaces All Day

Imagine if your neighborhood’s streets were used as an employee parking lot for a nearby office building, and the people in charge of enforcing the rules turned a blind eye, day in and day out, as they ticketed members of the public but ignored lawbreaking by their colleagues.

Well, there’s no need to imagine: That’s how parking works in Chinatown, and leaders from the Chinatown Partnership Local Development Corporation are fed up after years of abuse.

Wellington Chen of the Chinatown Partnership LDC points to a placard parker who left his car on the street all day. Photo: Stephen Miller

Wellington Chen of the Chinatown Partnership LDC points to a placard parker who left his car on the street all day. Photo: Stephen Miller

The Partnership inventoried the neighborhood’s parking supply in August, looking at regulations and conditions for the approximately 3,000 on-street parking spaces within the BID’s service area, which is roughly bounded by Broome Street, Broadway, Worth Street, and Allen Street [PDF]. During the peak of summer vacation, the BID found that 24.4 percent of all on-street parking spots in that area were taken up by cars with government placards.

In recent years, the city and state have reduced the total number of placards available, but the streets of Chinatown continue to fill with private cars displaying government placards, sitting by the curb all day like it’s an employee parking lot. The Partnership isn’t the first to document this longstanding problem. A 2006 study by Transportation Alternatives showed only 12 percent of permits in the southern section of Chinatown were being used legally [PDF]. A survey for an NYPD environmental impact statement in 2006 found more than 1,100 cars illegally using placards near One Police Plaza [PDF].

The problem is most pervasive in the neighborhood’s southern end, which is full of courts and government offices. On a midday walk near the Partnership’s Chatham Square headquarters, more than half the parking spots were occupied by placard holders. “Chinatown’s largest population are government workers,” said Wellington Chen, the Partnership’s executive director. “We are far and above the single most affected community.”

Read more…

Streetsblog USA No Comments

The Parking Tax Benefit: A $7.3 Billion Subsidy for Traffic Congestion

Graph: TransitCenter/Frontier Group

Not only does the parking tax benefit pay people to drive during the most congested times of day, the whole system of commuter benefits functions as a gigantic transfer from poor workers to affluent workers, who have greater access to subsidized travel to work. Graph: TransitCenter/Frontier Group

The federal government spends billions of dollars a year on tax subsidies that make traffic congestion worse, according to a first-of-its-kind analysis by TransitCenter and the Frontier Group. The culprit is the parking commuter tax benefit, which costs taxpayers $7.3 billion in foregone revenue each year, all while adding more than 800,000 cars to rush-hour traffic on the nation’s roads each workday, the authors estimate.

The parking tax benefit allows people to claim up to $250 in parking expenses as tax-free income per month. It originated in the late 1970s, when, in the name of fairness, Congress prevented the IRS from taxing the free parking perks that employers gave their workers, without any thought to the effect on transportation. The new report shows that not only does the parking tax benefit have a disastrous effect on traffic, it’s not even fair to car commuters — amounting to a gigantic transfer to the most affluent drivers.

Most advocacy efforts centered on commuter tax subsidies attempt to raise the transit benefit — currently capped at $130 per month. Last week, for instance, two members of Congress pledged to fight for an equal commuter benefit for transit and parking. TransitCenter and the Frontier Group argue that this is the bare minimum to strive for. The real impact lies in simply getting rid of the parking benefit.

The transit benefit, they write, is a “relatively inefficient tool for motivating changes in transportation behavior” and “only weakly counteracts the negative impact of the parking tax benefit” — and should be thrown out, as it were, with the bathwater. If commuter benefits are retained, however, they recommend some key reforms: equalizing the transit benefit, and mandating that employers who offer parking benefits also provide the option of receiving a cash equivalent instead.

TransitCenter and Frontier Group estimate that while most people don’t change their commuting behavior based on the incentives created by these tax benefits, about 2 percent do — and that 2 percent drives 4.6 billion additional miles per year.

To make matters worse, they do that extra driving at peak hours, in crowded downtown areas, worsening congestion that the country’s transportation policy is supposedly oriented toward fixing.

Read more…

4 Comments

Motorist With NYC Disability Placard Blocks Curb Ramp With Car — Legally

NYC drivers with disability permits can park just about anywhere, even in the way of others with disabilities. Photos: Brad Aaron

NYC drivers with disability permits can park just about anywhere, even if they create obstructions for others with disabilities. Photos: Brad Aaron

I’ve taken up the early morning walk habit, and my route takes me through the intersection of Seaman Avenue and W. 214th Street, in Inwood. It’s a T intersection with an unmarked crosswalk and curb cuts.

I wrote a few months back about how DOT basically did away with a lot of unmarked crosswalks by allowing motorists to park in them. This isn’t one of those. But despite clear signage prohibiting drivers from parking there, for the past three mornings the curb cut on the east side of Seaman has been partially or completely blocked by vehicles.

On Tuesday and Wednesday it was an Acura with a bogus-looking attempt at an NYPD placard and, for good measure, a reflective vest with “NYPD” printed on it, left on the dashboard.

Today it was a different car. Behind the windshield was a laminated card with the “NYC” logo and a wheelchair symbol — an apparently legitimate city parking permit for people with disabilities. Ironically, this driver had completely obstructed the sidewalk ramp, prohibiting anyone using a wheelchair, stroller, or grocery cart from crossing or accessing the sidewalk from the street, and impeding visibility for all pedestrians and motorists.

Read more…

7 Comments

Car2Go Launches in Brooklyn — Users Will Have to Pay at Parking Meters

Point-to-point car-share service Car2Go will launch next month across the western third of Brooklyn. One of the questions hanging over the launch was whether the company would pay the city to let its customers park for free at metered spaces. Now we have an answer: DOT will not change its parking rules to accommodate Car2Go, whose customers will have to pay to use metered spaces. In areas with a high concentration of meters, the company will secure private off-street parking for its users.

Car2Go will operate on NYC's residential streets, which offer free parking. The city hasn't made a deal with the company for metered spaces. Photo: Car2Go

Car2Go will operate on NYC’s residential streets, which offer free parking. The city hasn’t made a deal with the company for metered spaces. Photo: Car2Go

On October 25, Car2Go will launch operations with 400 vehicles across a 36-square-mile zone covering much of northwest Brooklyn, as well as areas west of Coney Island Avenue and Ocean Parkway. Customers can end their trips at any legal parking space anywhere within the zone, with a few exceptions.

Parking lanes that become moving lanes during rush hour are a no-no. On streets that are swept four days a week, customers can’t park if the sweeping is less than 12 hours away. If the street is swept twice a week, customers can leave a vehicle no more than 24 hours before sweeping.

In many of the cities where it operates, Car2Go pays a fee to local governments for access to residential permit zones. Since New York gives away most of its curbside space for free, that’s not an issue for Car2Go. It’s setting up shop without coming to an agreement with DOT.

The company also usually pays local governments to let customers use metered parking for free, either to run errands or to end their journey in a metered spot.

Offering a pass on meters negates the purpose of parking prices — to ensure turnover. If a Car2Go user closes out a trip at a meter, there’s no guarantee that another customer will hop in the vehicle a short time later.

Read more…

105 Comments

Eyes on the Street: Drivers Retake the Kent Avenue Bike Lane

DOT reconfigured the southern part of the Kent Avenue bike lane this spring, but that hasn’t stopped drivers from taking over the lane and the sidewalk for personal parking.

A reader took this photo earlier today. He writes:

I bike from LIC to Clinton Hill every morning and use the Kent Ave bike path. Luckily there was an upstanding citizen already on the phone with 311. This obstruction was particularly dangerous because it was forcing bikes into oncoming traffic. It wasn’t just one car either, it was six.

Part of the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway route, this stretch of Kent Avenue was given a road diet after a hit-and-run driver killed two people at Wilson Street in March 2013. Parking in the bike lane was a chronic issue before the redesign, and drivers continued to use it after the lane was painted. Then plastic posts went in, but at this point it’s clear this problem is not going away without an upgraded physical barrier or NYPD enforcement.

This section of Kent is on the border of the 88th and 90th Precincts. We’ve asked NYPD if the department is enforcing parking laws there.

16 Comments

A Proposal for Incremental Parking Reform in NYC

There is more than 400 Image: 9x18 [PDF]

Surface parking consumes more than 467 acres of NYCHA property citywide. Map: 9×18 [PDF]

In most of New York City, zoning requirements compel new development to include a certain amount of parking. These mandates make housing more expensive while causing more traffic and pollution, but the Department of City Planning took only the most timid steps to reform them during the Bloomberg administration, and the de Blasio administration isn’t shaping up much differently. Now a small team of architects and urban designers has a strategy to make progress on parking reform, and while it’s not exactly bold, it may appeal to the conflict-averse DCP.

Spurred by Mayor de Blasio’s housing agenda, the Institute for Public Architecture kicked off an initiative on public housing in March, awarding fellowships to six architects and designers. Sagi Golan, an urban designer at the Department of City Planning (who received the fellowship as an individual and not a DCP employee) teamed up with architects Miriam Peterson and Nathan Rich, who lead design firm Peterson Rich Office and wanted to study how the city can build affordable housing on under-used sites.

They began working together in June under the name “9×18,” referring to the average size of a parking spot. The team has already presented to a panel of critics, including top DCP staff, and hope to get the ear of other city agencies.

The de Blasio administration has not made parking reform a top priority, but it has promised to catalog city-owned properties that are ripe for development and singled out parking lots as one possibility. While leaders including City Council Member Margaret Chin support the concept, the politics of replacing parking with housing can get tricky. Last year, for example, the Bloomberg administration shelved its proposal to develop apartments on parking lots at public housing in Manhattan after residents objected.

The 9×18 team picked up where that plan left off by examining surface parking at NYCHA properties citywide.

There are more than 20.3 million square feet, or 467 acres, of surface parking at NYCHA properties across the city, according to the 9×18 team. ”More often than not, the surface parking areas serve as a physical barrier between the NYCHA campuses and their surrounding communities,” the team wrote. This land could be put to better use by providing more affordable housing or much-needed community services.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA No Comments

Portland Tackled Disabled Parking Placard Abuse, and It’s Working

Disabled parking placards used to be ubiquitous in Portland. Until very recently, the city provided unlimited free street parking to placard holders, estimated at a $2,000 annual value. Many cars bearing these placards would remain in prime spots for weeks or months without moving.

New rules on disabled parking in Portland have made parking much easier. Photo: Wikipedia

New rules on disabled parking in Portland have kept scammers from gaming the system. Photo: Wikipedia

In some parts of the city, cars with placards would occupy 20 percent or more of the on-street parking. This generates traffic by causing other drivers to cruise for spots, and it makes curbside meter management less effective. Putting the right price on parking is tough when 20 percent of the spaces are free to some people.

Joseph Rose, the Oregonian’s transportation reporter, said he couldn’t help but feel like some drivers were pulling a fast one. ”After a while, you get the unshakeable feeling that a lot of able-bodied commuters are getting their hands on disabled permits and scamming a compassionate city out of millions of dollars in parking revenue each year,” he wrote recently.

All the city needed to do to solve the problem, it turns out, was to start charging disabled placard holders to park. That took effect July 1. In an informal poll by the Oregonian, 74 percent of readers said they thought the new rules had increased the number of parking spaces available.

Disabled placard holders are now charged $2.40 for 90 minutes of parking. Those who violate the rule will be given two warnings and then fined $39. As of mid-July local officials reported only about 10 such tickets had been issued, but the policy seems to be having an impact.

“We have so much more parking,” enforcement officer J.C. Udey told the Oregonian. “It just goes to show the program is working.”

Portland’s case is promising for other cities struggling with the same problem. San Francisco is considering almost exactly the same intervention: eliminating free parking privileges for disabled placard holders. Raleigh, North Carolina, recently did something similar.

15 Comments

Chin Urges Council Colleagues to Turn Parking Into Affordable Housing

Last month, Manhattan City Council Member Margaret Chin asked the de Blasio administration to prioritize affordable housing over car storage by replacing a city-owned parking garage in her district with new apartments. Acknowledging that the decision might be politically difficult, last week Chin urged her City Council colleagues to follow her lead if they want to tackle the city’s affordability problem.

Margaret Chin wants affordable housing instead of parking. Will her City Council colleagues join her? Photo: NYC Council

Margaret Chin wants affordable housing instead of parking. Will her City Council colleagues join her? Photo: NYC Council

From Chin’s op-ed in Our Town:

I understand why there’s sometimes resistance — from officials or local stakeholders — to certain proposals for new housing on city-owned lots that currently exist as parking garages or open space. It’s true that many of these lots already serve some purpose within our communities, and it can be difficult to commit to giving up a public resource in order to make way for housing. [...]

There’s almost always going to be some argument against giving up one of these city-owned lots. Some people might say, “Don’t take away my parking!” Others might say, “Don’t take away my green space!”

They all generally lead back to the same question: “Can’t you just find a different place for housing?”

But if we’re really serious about completing the mayor’s plan in a decade, the fact is that all of us — council members, community boards, residents — must make affordable housing a priority in our districts.

Earlier this year, Chin’s office identified three city-owned lots in her district that might be suitable for new housing and asked the City Council’s land use division to estimate how many new units could be built under current zoning [PDF 1, 2]. They found that a vacant lot used by a nearby business could accommodate 129 new units. Chin’s office says HPD has committed to developing the property, with a request for proposals due out soon.

There were also two parking lots that could be replaced with housing: A Department of Education lot at the corner of Eldridge and Stanton Streets could house 37 families instead of approximately 30 cars, and the site of a DOT-owned public garage could offer 89 housing units instead of 356 discounted parking spaces. (Chin staffers say they have not yet heard anything back from DOT about that site, which is undergoing a $5.8 million renovation.)

Read more…

71 Comments

Don’t Hate the Parking App Profiteers, Hate the Free Parking Game

Haystack, the latest app allowing drivers to sell access to a parking space, blazed across the Internet this month after Boston Mayor Martin Walsh threatened to ban it. Valleywag called it a “scourge.” The Awl compared it to profiteering off access to clean water. The haters have it wrong though: The apps aren’t screwing over the public — local governments are.

Following on the heels of MonkeyParkingHaystack is a recent Baltimore-based entry that borrows heavily from car service Uber for its look and feel. If you’re new to the grey market of sell-your-parking-spot apps, take a look at the promotional video. The premise is simple: A driver about to leave a parking spot can use the software to sell the space to another app-using driver cruising for parking. Haystack also has a “make me move” feature where users offer to move their vehicles for the right price, even if they hadn’t planned on going anywhere.

The video itself is a bit much. Over cheery music, a smiling young woman about to drive around Baltimore says things like, “Together, we did our part to make our neighborhood a little greener.”

Go ahead and vomit at the smugness of the marketing campaign. But putting a price on curbside parking isn’t a bad thing. It’s just that these apps are a poor substitute for real public policy that manages the curbside parking supply for the public good.

Read more…

56 Comments

Got a Parking Problem? David Greenfield’s Purported Solution Won’t Fix It

Six months ago, when Council Member David Greenfield got the chair of the land use committee, it looked like a bad sign for parking reform in New York City. Can the city eliminate costly parking minimums if the land use committee is led by an elected whose approach to every parking problem seems to be “add more”?

Greenfield’s recent response to parking issues in his district adds more cause for concern: He has joined Brooklyn Community Board 12 in pushing a developer to add as much new parking as possible to a project on Coney Island Avenue in Midwood.

Council Member David Greenfield wants more parking. Photo: NYC Council

Developer Baruch Singer is proposing a nine-story building containing mostly retail and medical offices at 1504 Coney Island Avenue, by the corner of Avenue L [PDF]. New York’s zoning code mandates 346 parking spaces for the project. Singer is planning to build an automated parking facility to squeeze as many cars as possible into an underground garage [PDF], but that still can’t fit all the required spaces.

Building to the parking mandate would require a deck at least three levels deep, and that’s not going to happen. “It is simply not possible to dig another level,” said Howard Goldman of real estate law firm Goldman Harris, representing Singer at the Board of Standards and Appeals last Tuesday. “The second level is right at the water table, so any further excavation will be into the water.”

So the developer is looking to build 74 fewer parking spaces than required. The developer says 272 spaces would still be more than enough to accommodate the peak-hour demand from the project, which it calculated at 198 spaces.

That’s not enough for Greenfield and CB 12, which see Singer’s project as the solution to parking dysfunction near the popular Pomegranate grocery store across the street. During busy shopping hours, Pomegranate’s 30-space surface lot overflows as shoppers park at on-street meters and delivery drivers double-park along Coney Island Avenue. Greenfield and CB 12 want to maximize the amount of parking at the new development. They don’t seem to be aware that adding more parking will simply induce more traffic and won’t solve the problems they want to address.

The curbside problems will persist as long as curbside parking remains underpriced, so I asked if CB 12 has ever approached DOT about adjusting parking rules. By altering meter rates and delivery hours, curbside spaces could turn over more frequently, double-parking could be reduced, and more loading zones would be freed up. “I’m not aware of any requests made to change the meter regulations,” CB 12 district manager Barry Spitzer said.

What about Greenfield?

Read more…