Spring 2003, p.9

Sensible Transportation
NYC Parking Policy is Backwards and Dangerous
Cheap on-street parking causes double parking, traffic congestion & blocked bike lanes

Cheap on-street parking leads to double parking, like these trucks making deliveries on 6th Avenue in Midtown Manhattan.

The problem of cars double parked in bike lanes is like the old song that says, "The head bone's connected to the neck bone, the neck bone to the shoulder bone, etc." Delivery trucks and service vehicles double park because on-street parking is scarce. The spots are scarce because the City does not charge enough for on-street parking. (Another big problem is city workers with parking permits-police and fire officials in particular-who take up thousands of on-street spots in the heart of Midtown and elsewhere.)

When it comes to parking policy, New York City has it backwards. In busy parts of the city, like Manhattan's central business district, it should cost far more to park in a scarce on-street spot than at a nearby parking garage. Curb-side parking is essential for delivery trucks and the service vehicles of plumbers, electricians and other skilled workers. This is especially true because NYC does not have alleys like many other major cities.

Irrationally, while it costs $10-20 an hour to park in a Midtown parking garage, the City charges just $2 an hour for nearby unrestricted on-street parking spaces. To free up parking spaces and thus reduce double parking and traffic congestion, the City should charge at least as much for on-street parking as nearby garages. By not doing so, the City is effectively subsidizing the lucky motorists who do find spots while creating traffic problems and hammering unlucky commercial drivers and others with $105 fines. These draconian penalties have not stopped double parking, but have certainly angered truck drivers and other motorists who have a real need to use curbside parking for unloading cargo.

Amazingly, it has taken the worst budget crisis in decades to get the City to raise the price of unrestricted on-street parking prices from a miniscule $1 to a paltry $2 an hour. At commercial vehicle-only parking spaces in Midtown Manhattan, from 42nd to 59th Streets between 2nd and 9th Avenues, parking is now $2 for one hour, $5 for two hours and $9 for three hours. The DOT has the right idea with its "Commercial Vehicle Congestion Pricing Program," which is said to be working well. But $9 for three hours is still a steal.

The DOT needs to do much more to free up curb space for delivery trucks and other necessary deliveries and to reduce double parking:

  • Expand the successful Commercial Vehicle Congestion Parking program to all on-street commercial parking in Manhattan and downtown Brooklyn.
  • Meter all on-street parking south of 60th Street in Manhattan.
  • Raise the on-street hourly parking rate to $8 per hour in Manhattan on all avenues and some commercial side streets south of 60th Street.
  • Allow online and phone credit card payment for parking cards. The current system of downloading a form and mailing it in with a check or certified check for amounts over $300 is primitive.

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