How Can New York City More Efficiently Manage its Parking to Meet Diverse Community Needs?

Testimony by Julia Kite, Policy and Research Manager, Transportation Alternatives

***SUPPORT***

Thank you for convening this hearing. I am Julia Kite, Policy and Research Manager of Transportation Alternatives. We are a 43-year-old membership-based advocacy organization with more than 150,000 New Yorkers in our network, dedicated to biking, walking, and public transportation as city-friendly alternatives to private automobile use in New York City. We advocate on behalf of all of New York City’s pedestrians, cyclists, and transit users for safer and more livable streets.

The topic of today’s hearing is very timely, because the parking systems currently in place in New York City are unsustainable, inequitable, and an impractical use of public space. For too long, parking policies have privileged the free or low-cost storage of private property, in the form of cars, on huge swathes of city streets, while pedestrians and public transit users are forced to compete for whatever space they can get. New York City can proudly claim to be the only large city in the United States where more than half of residents commute by public transit. More than half of households do not even own a car. Why, then, does parking privilege owners of private cars at the expense of everybody else - while causing congestion, more fatal crashes and poor health outcomes?

Intros. 267 & 873 - SUPPORT

Intros 267 and 873 are a step forward in encouraging car share over private car ownership, which will reduce demand for parking as well as congestion on our streets.  

  • Having reserved parking spaces for car-share across the city will make car-share more convenient, and help more New Yorkers access this practical alternative to car ownership.
  • These bills address both parking garages and street spaces, which will ensure fairness and widespread availability
  • We see these bills as an effective way to incentivize a mode of car usage that is far less destructive to the environment and less conducive to congestion than private car ownership.

OVERSIGHT - How Can New York City More Efficiently Manage its Parking to Meet Diverse Community Needs?

At the heart of our city’s problems with parking is a fundamental unfairness: All taxpayers fund city streets, but only those with cars get to use it to store their private property for free or at below-market meter rates. This is an inefficient use of public resources, and a waste of valuable space that could be better apportioned to the public good.

  • Professor Donald Shoup, former director of the Institute of Transportation Studies, has found that free parking greatly encourages driving, which worsens congestion and air pollution.
  • A study by Schaller Consulting and Transportation Alternatives found that in 2007, on-street parking in New York was one-fourteenth the cost of parking in lots. Since then, the difference has become even greater, as lot prices increase faster than meter rates.
  • Furthermore, near-100% occupation of metered parking spaces means drivers have to spend time cruising for spaces, which negatively impacts local businesses.

To reduce the congestion plaguing much of our city and reduce the waste inherent in public subsidy of private car storage, we suggest the following actions:

  • Curbside parking rates should be raised in order to meet a goal of 15% vacancy, following the recommendations of Dr. Shoup.
  • The DOT’s PARK Smart program, which raises meter rates at peak hours in select neighborhoods, should be expanded citywide.

In addition, we cannot divorce the issue of parking from that of street design. For too long, our arterial roads have prioritized the parking of private vehicles in spaces that would be better used for improvements that would benefit all New Yorkers, such as creating dedicated bus lanes and commercial loading zones, adding protected bike lanes that have an overall traffic calming effect that benefits pedestrians as well, and the installation of parklets that beautify the public realm and encourage a more active street life.

  • We urge the DOT to never delay or weaken a safe street redesign project due to complaints about loss of street parking. Space for cars should never be allowed to take priority over street design elements that save lives. That would be anathema to Vision Zero.

The issue of parking placard abuse must also be addressed. Transportation Alternatives has long chronicled their misuse: Our 2011 report, “Totally Bogus,” found that 57% of permits in five New York City neighborhoods were either completely fraudulent or were being used to park illegally. The City has yet to adequately address this issue.

  • We urge the City Council to pass Council Member Garodnick’s Intro 326, introduced in 2014, which would require bar codes on placards to ensure they are legitimate.
  • Furthermore, we urge the city to reduce the overall number of parking permits it issues, with the aim of phasing out the placard system altogether.
  • Other than emergency first responders and disabled people with mobility limitations, there is no reason for anybody to receive special privileges for parking based on where they work. Individual convenience should never outweigh public safety.
  • The extent of fraud is so massive, and has been going on for so long, that it is clear city agencies cannot contain it.
  • By eliminating placards, the city can encourage usage of public transit, which will ease congestion.
  • Agencies are free to reimburse employees for parking as they see fit, and they can do this without the permit system.
  • We also call upon the NYPD to increase enforcement against illegal and fraudulent placards.
  • We urge the NYPD and DOT to report annually on the number of permits issued and the number of violations issued, so that the public can be made aware of the problem and agencies can track progress on eliminating this fraud.

As we take stock of 2016, a year in which the number of cyclist and pedestrian fatalities has increased over 2015’s totals, the City must rededicate itself to Vision Zero and the fundamental belief that loss of parking should never be considered more troublesome than the loss of life. This must be proven through action, not words. We urge the Department of Transportation to take bold action and stand firm in its dedication to safer streets that are meant first and foremost for people, not for cars.

Secondary Title
Oversight Hearing, City Council Committee on Transportation