StreetsPAC Testifies at City Council Oversight Hearing on Parking Systems

We delivered the following testimony today at the New York City Council's Committee on Transportation Oversight hearing on upgrading city parking systems for greater efficiency, safety, and reliability:

Implementing the right parking policies in New York City could be tremendously helpful in improving mobility, reducing congestion, making housing more affordable, lowering emissions, reducing dependency on automobiles, and moving us closer to achieving Vision Zero, among other benefits.

However, our views on parking aren’t keeping up with innovations in other areas of transportation policy, and we hope that today’s hearing is just the first of many devoted to tackling this thorny issue.  The City Council should be providing leadership on citywide parking policy when DOT isn’t acting aggressively enough.

Free and below-market-rate parking provides a huge subsidy to private vehicle owners at the expense of everyone else.  It encourages driving, and should be phased out, especially in the more densely populated areas of the city.

Curbside space should be managed according to a hierarchy of parking uses that prioritizes commercial parking and loading over the parking of private vehicles, and shorter-term parking given priority over long-term car storage.

The Department of Finance’s Stipulated Fine Program, which allows chronic parking offenders like FedEx, UPS and Fresh Direct to pay a small fraction of the fines they accrue for double-parking violations – in effect legalizing double-parking for a fee that is well below market rates – adds a tremendous cost in traffic congestion, and creates safety risks borne by vulnerable street users.

Transferring curbside uses from long-term private-vehicle parking to commercial loading and short-term parking will significantly reduce double-parking, congestion, and crashes, and will discourage unnecessary vehicle trips.

New York City DOT began taking some positive steps toward rationalizing parking policy in 2008 with the PARK Smart pilot program, increasing metered parking rates slightly in commercial districts in Greenwich Village and a handful of other neighborhoods.  But despite PARK Smart’s effectiveness in meeting its objectives, the program has languished.  It’s time not only to greatly expand this effort throughout the city, but to begin adopting dynamic, market-based parking rates, and implementing 21st century technology like pavement sensors and Pay-by-Phone.

San Francisco’s pilot study using this newer technology led to a 50% drop in cruising for parking spaces, a 30% reduction in overall driving, fewer violations and less double-parking.  Those are significant results – and if San Francisco can do it, so can New York.

Int. No. 966 – Purchase of Street Parking Time by Mobile App or Text (Support)

We strongly support Intro 966, which would require New York City DOT to implement mobile-app and text-message-based parking-payment systems.  Such systems will make metered parking more efficient, and allow more nuanced control over the hierarchy and priority of curbside uses, including different rates for commercial and private vehicles, and will help facilitate the eventual implementation of demand-based pricing.  In addition, an app-based payment system makes life easier for drivers by sending expiring-meter reminders and allowing for the remote addition of time, and should enable the city to move toward automated enforcement of meter violations.

Int. No. 999 – Mobile App Enabling Exchange of Unused Muni-Meter Time (Support) 

We also support Intro 999 for many of the same reasons.  While we believe that parking rates should be increased, it’s also fair that people should only have to pay for the time they use, and this, in combination with automated reminders about expiring meters, will go a long way toward eliminating “gotcha” complaints about parking regulations.  Perhaps it will even let us do away, rightfully, with grace periods, and broadly expand the use of Muni-Meters.

Int. No. 326 – Requiring Barcodes on Parking Placards (Support)

We strongly support Intro 326, which would require that government-issued parking placards include a scannable barcode that would allow traffic-enforcement agents to verify their authenticity.  Placard abuse is a major contributor to illegal parking and one more form of subsidized free parking for private vehicles, and the existence of counterfeit placards adds to congestion.  We’d also urge that the city continue efforts to significantly reduce the number of placards it issues to employees.

We encourage the Council and the Department of Transportation to think big on parking policy.  Paris is eliminating more than 50,000 parking spaces per year, and if we’re going to achieve the Council’s laudable goal of reducing private vehicle ownership in New York City to one million cars by 2030, progressive parking policies will have to play a key role.

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