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Be Jealous of São Paulo’s Precedent-Setting New Parking Policy

São Paulo has moved to entirely eliminate minimum parking requirements. Photo: ITDP

São Paulo has moved to entirely eliminate minimum parking requirements. Photo: ITDP

It may not be much consolation after yesterday’s World Cup defeat to Germany, but Brazil should feel at least a twinge of national pride over the groundbreaking new parking policies its largest city has adopted.

Late last month, leaders in Sao Paulo approved a strategic master plan that will go a long way toward making the city more walkable and transit-oriented. The plan includes what may be the most progressive parking policy of any city in the developing world and would vault Sao Paulo well ahead of any U.S. city.

The plan eliminates minimum parking requirements citywide and imposes parking maximums — one space per residence — along transit corridors. Getting rid of parking minimums is expected to reduce traffic and make housing more affordable.

Sao Paulo is the first “megacity in the developing world” to entirely eliminate parking minimums, according to the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy. Many major U.S. cities have dropped parking minimums in their downtown areas, but so far none has applied this smart policy reform citywide.

“By reducing parking around transit corridors, São Paulo will start reducing traffic, improving street life, and encouraging the use of public transit,” writes ITDP. “Though parking minimums have long fallen out of favor in many American and European cities, São Paulo is leading the way for cities in developing countries to pass major parking reform, making the city more transit and pedestrian friendly.”

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Chin Asks de Blasio to Choose Affordable Housing Over Cheap Parking

Council Member Margaret Chin has set up a simple choice for Mayor Bill de Blasio: Which is the higher priority, affordable housing or cheap parking?

DOT owns 39 parking lots and garages in all five boroughs. Many of them could be affordable housing sites, if Mayor de Blasio follows through on his plan. Image: DOT

DOT owns 39 parking lots and garages in all five boroughs. Many of them could be affordable housing, if Mayor de Blasio decides to prioritize housing over car storage. Image: DOT

In a letter to Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg first reported by the Wall Street Journal [PDF], Chin urged the de Blasio administration to redevelop the city-owned parking garage on Ludlow Street in the Lower East Side, calling it a “great opportunity for the development of affordable housing” in an area with “an urgent need for more.”

According to an analysis by the City Council’s land use division, it could accommodate 89 housing units under current zoning.

Chin’s request comes two months after de Blasio released his affordable housing plan, which singled out municipal parking lots as a type of city-owned property ripe for affordable housing development.

The Department of Housing Preservation and Development is charged with coming up with a list of suitable city-owned properties. Last month, an HPD spokesperson said the effort was in the early stages and it was still reaching out to other agencies. The department offered a similar line today.

After an event in May, I asked Trottenberg whether DOT would get out of the parking lot business to help the mayor achieve the his affordable housing goals. “It’s too soon to say,” she said. “I can’t pre-judge that now.” Trottenberg would only say that DOT is “ready to do whatever we can to help,” including creating an inventory of its developable properties.

DOT has not replied to questions today about Chin’s proposal to redevelop the Ludlow Street garage, but did tell the Journal that it “serves a significant community need for parking” and is undergoing a $5.8 million renovation.

The garage is is one of 39 DOT-managed garages and lots, accounting for more than 8,100 spaces citywide. Many of those municipal lots offer cheap parking well below the going rate. The Ludlow Street garage, for example, charges $4.50 for the first hour and $2 for each additional hour. Nearby garages start at $10 for the first hour.

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The Unintended Consequences of Trimming Alt-Side Parking Hours

I remember alternate side of the street parking. It was 1974, and I was underemployed and living on West 22nd Street. My tiny Renault and I were regular participants in the twice-a-week “slide” that Matt Flegenheimer described in his Monday Times story on Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez’s bill to bar police from ticketing alternate-side-parked cars once the street sweepers have passed.

The parking was free, but my loss of time and focus on Mondays and Thursdays (or was it Tuesdays and Fridays?) definitely was not. I soon switched to paid parking at Pier 40, with my bike as a shuttle. As I got more comfortable with city cycling I used the car less and less. Before the year was out, I sold it.

This long-ago moment came to mind when I saw Flegenheimer’s story, particularly the headline: “Council Aims to Ease a Parking Burden.” Forty years ago it was I who eased my neighbors’ parking burden when the alternate-side hassle motivated me to bail. But what if, back then, my 11 a.m. — 2 p.m. tour of duty had been trimmed by an hour, or two? With a lower “time cost,” would I have hung on to free parking?

Maybe. And you can bet that if the Rodriguez bill passes, some present-day car-owning and car-storage decisions will be tipped toward street parking. Why pay a garage if the time cost of free street parking has been cut in half? Why rely on Zipcars or stick to destinations served by public transit if the city has made it easier to store your own vehicle on the street?

The problem is that it wouldn’t take a slew of such decisions to cancel the intended time savings that have car owners salivating over the Rodriguez bill. I don’t know the number, but I imagine NYC DOT does. And maybe Bruce Schaller, who just returned to the private sector after seven sterling years running DOT’s analytics, can figure out how many more New Yorkers will elect to store a car on the street if the bill becomes law.

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A Handful of Car Spaces, or a 27-Dock Citi Bike Station?

Parking for 27 bikes has replaced parking for four or five cars, and complaints abound. Photo: Stephen Miller

Parking for up to 27 public bikes replaced parking for approximately four cars. But will it last? Photo: Stephen Miller

Because a construction site is blocking the sidewalk on Kent Avenue in Williamsburg, a Citi Bike station was taken off the sidewalk in mid-April and re-installed along the protected bike lane on the other side of South 11th Street a couple of weeks ago, replacing a handful of parking spaces. The new site was the only space near the Schaefer Landing ferry dock that could accommodate the Citi Bike station within the city’s siting guidelines, according to a source familiar with the situation.

Cue the parking complainers.

Congressmember Nydia Velazquez, a major backer of the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway, has reportedly contacted DOT on behalf of constituents who want those free parking spaces back. Streetsblog checked in with local elected officials, and Council Member Steve Levin and Assembly Member Joe Lentol reported receiving complaints about the loss of parking.

“We have received a couple complaints and have reached out to DOT,” said Lentol spokesperson Edward Baker. “DOT is looking at ways to free up some additional parking in the immediate area to offset the spaces lost to the bike-share station.”

DOT and Citi Bike have not responded to questions about what changes, if any, they are considering. But it’s possible that the station might be removed — or re-sited too far from the ferry dock for people to make convenient bike-share-to-ferry connections — because people who care about free parking are very good at contacting their elected officials.

The people who benefit from the bike-share station may not be making phone calls about it, but they’re out there. In fact, many more people can use those 27 Citi Bike docks than the four or so car parking spaces they replaced.

Monika Drelich, 38, lives nearby. She uses the station several times each week and was upset when it was removed in April. “I know that people complain about the parking,” she said, “but it wasn’t convenient for me.”

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City Council: Drivers With Free On-Street Parking Have Suffered Enough

It may be the Vision Zero era, but some things never change. If you’re looking for cost-free, consequence-free storage of your private automobile in public space, the City Council still has your back.

The bill under consideration today by the City Council’s transportation committee, to nibble away at alternate side parking restrictions, may not be as egregious as previous council ideas like free time at unpaid meters or changing city law to mandate parking permits for teachers. But it did offer an opportunity for council members to inveigh on behalf of put-upon “real New Yorkers” who store their cars on the street for free.

Although the average car owner in New York City has a much higher income than a car-free counterpart, that didn’t stop council members from constantly referring to parking tickets as a tax on the middle and working class.

“It’s the anger of real New Yorkers who feel that the city is using them as a piggy bank and that the middle class is being squeezed by unnecessary tickets,” said Council Member Costa Constantinides of Astoria, who signed on to the legislation after seeing illegally-parked drivers on a swept street get tickets before the parking restriction ended. ”It felt as if it was just for revenue,” he said.

The bill would allow drivers to park during prohibited hours so long as they are “in the vehicle and ready to move” when the street sweeper comes through. ”We should not be going after the working class or middle class,” said Transportation Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriguez, who has pushed the legislation for years. ”[It's] a struggle New Yorkers are all too familiar with.”

The city’s sanitation and police departments testified today in opposition to the bill. ”The signs are put up there for a reason,” said NYPD Inspector Dennis Fulton. “The streets need to be cleaned.”

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Proposal to Turn Car Storage Into Human Housing Hits Brooklyn CB6 Tonight

This garage and its curb cuts could be transformed into housing, retail, and uninterrupted space for walking.

Just a reminder that today at 6 p.m., Brooklyn Community Board 6 will hold a public hearing about the conversion of a 230-car garage on Union Street into a mixed-use building with housing and retail.

While traffic on Union Street is bound to improve without all that car storage generating car trips, some nearby residents are mobilizing against the project by feeding fears of neighborhood-scale carmaggedon. The opponents even got the Park Slope Food Coop to help drum up turnout against the conversion.

Approval for this project ultimately rests with the Board of Standards and Appeals, not the Community Board, but if you believe that it’s better to use scarce city land to house people instead of cars, it will help to speak up at the meeting today.

Here’s where to go:

Prospect Park YMCA
357 9th Street, 7th Floor
(between 5th/6th Avenues)

6:00 p.m.

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Titans of Click-Bait: The Park Slope Food Co-op Meets the “War on Cars”

co-op_meets_waroncars

In a rational world, the Park Slope Food Co-op opposing the conversion of an enormous garage into car-free mixed-use development would be as likely as Halliburton sponsoring every bike-share system in the country.

We don’t live in a rational world.

Everyone’s favorite symbol of eco-conscious Brooklyn (disclosure: my wife and I are card-carrying Co-op members — love the cheap organic produce!), has published what can only be described as a confused screed by local resident Jon Derow, arguing against turning a nearby 230-car garage into a car-free, residential-plus-retail development. The piece ran yesterday in the Co-op’s in-house newspaper, The Linewaiter’s Gazette.

foodcooptweet

The Food Co-op Twitter account posted this call to arms yesterday before deleting the tweet.

Now, the Co-op itself hasn’t taken an official position on the project, and it’s completely unremarkable for the Gazette to print a ludicrous opinion by one of the Co-op’s 16,000 members. But this particular publication decision is unusual because the piece comes with a preface from Co-op co-founder and General Manager Joe Holtz implicitly endorsing Derow’s perspective and urging members to attend an upcoming Community Board 6 meeting where the project will be discussed:

The International Principles of Cooperation call for cooperatives to have “Concern for Community” and for cooperatives to “work for the sustainable development of their communities.” In addition, our Mission Statement calls for us to be a responsible neighbor. In the coming weeks the General Coordinators will be discussing what our Coop’s response might be to the issue our neighbor Jon Derow has alerted us to. Please read Jon’s letter below, printed here with his permission, and please consider attending the Community Board 6 Land Use Committee meeting. —Joe Holtz, General Coordinator/General Manager

How might the transition from car storage to human housing affect the “sustainable development” of the Co-op’s community? Well, Derow predicts that turning the garage into 28 apartments and 7,000 square feet of retail will cause more drivers to circle for parking and lead to new headaches with double-parked delivery trucks. Because the garage houses 13 Zipcars, which have been shown to help curb car ownership, Derow says the conversion signals the impending arrival of “195 additional privately owned cars on our streets.”

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There Is Now Scientific Evidence That Parking Makes People Crazy

pfb logo 100x22Michael Andersen blogs for The Green Lane Project, a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets. Fifth in a series.

All this week, we’ve been unpacking the nuances of the first major study of protected bike lanes in the United States. Today, we’re wrapping things up by taking a moment for perhaps the most amusing finding in the 179-page report.

Even when a protected bike lane project creates on-street parking spaces where none existed before, 30 percent of nearby residents think the project made parking worse.

The project in question was Multnomah Street in Portland, where the city removed one travel lane in each direction in order to add buffers for the bike lanes and, at some midblock locations, 21 new parking spaces. Of 492 nearby residents who returned surveys about the project, 30 percent said that the changes had made it harder to park on the street.

At projects that actually removed parking spaces in order to add protected bike lanes, 49 percent of residents said they made it harder to park.

Could it be that when people who oppose bike projects complain about the loss of on-street parking, this issue is often not actually their primary concern?

As scientists sometimes say, the answer to this question is left as an exercise for the reader.

You can follow The Green Lane Project on Twitter or Facebook or sign up for its weekly news digest about protected bike lanes.

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How a DOT Parking Rule Change Made NYC Streets Less Safe

Photo: Brad Aaron

Prompted by Council Member Vincent Gentile, in 2009 DOT made it legal to park in unmarked crosswalks, satiating demand for free on-street parking once and for all. Photo: Brad Aaron

I violated a traffic rule on the day I moved to New York City.

I parked a minivan, rented for the move, in this spot on Seaman Avenue. I locked up the van and was headed to my apartment when a passerby informed me that I would get ticketed, if not towed, if I left it there. I didn’t notice the pedestrian ramp, which leads to Payson Avenue across the street, and I’d blocked the crossing.

As noted recently on Urban Residue, in 2009 DOT adopted a rule change that allows drivers to park at T intersections. The change was prompted by Council Member Vincent Gentile, who had introduced a bill to make it legal to park in unmarked crosswalks across the city.

According to a Brooklyn Eagle report, Gentile wanted “to open up more parking spaces” — and, of course, keep pedestrians from putting themselves in harm’s way.

Sloped curb cuts where vehicles are now permitted to park, Gentile explained, are “unfit for safe pedestrian crossing” because they there are no traffic signals or stop signs to slow down oncoming traffic. And there are no crosswalk lines marking where pedestrians should cross, he added.

You’ll recall that in the days before Vision Zero, as far as transportation policy was concerned, the City Council was focused on little else besides making it easier to park. With Speaker Christine Quinn and transpo committee chairs John Liu and Jimmy Vacca trying to score points by addressing one car owner gripe after another, Gentile’s bill might have passed even if DOT hadn’t beaten him to the punch.

We don’t know how many parking spaces were created by this rule change, but one thing’s for sure: The headaches for NYC car owners aren’t going away as long as curbside parking is totally free.

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Parking Craters: Scourge of American Downtowns

Streetsblog’s Angie Schmitt popularized the term ”parking crater,” and she explains it simply: A parking crater is “a depression in the middle of an urban area formed by the absence of buildings.”

Different types of “meteors” left behind parking craters in the 20th Century — sprawl subsidies, the erosion of manufacturing, highway building. Whatever the cause, parking craters absolutely destroy sections of downtowns and make the environment more inhospitable and unattractive for people. In these areas, there is virtually no street life. In warm weather the asphalt makes the air more oppressive. It’s hell on earth. It’s a parking crater.

In this Streetfilm we talk to advocates in Cleveland, Dallas, Hartford, and Houston about the parking craters in their downtowns – several of which have been contenders in Streetsblog’s annual Parking Madness tournament – and why these cities have such bad craters.

A final note: If this Streetfilm is well received, we intend to do a follow-up film looking at the flip side – cities that have undone their parking craters by adopting better policy.