Home MTA Economics A parking approach to MTA funding

A parking approach to MTA funding

by Benjamin Kabak

Residential parking permits are but one way to curtail traffic and fund the MTA. (Photo courtesy of Streetsblog)

As the congestion pricing blame game swirls around New York State politics, the MTA is picking itself up, dusting itself off and starting all over again. With a while to go before 2009, the agency is looking, with the help of the state, at ways to fund its next five-year capital campaign, and I have a few not-very-groundbreaking suggestions that could bring in more money and curtail traffic in the city too.

But first, the news: Gov. David Paterson announced on Tuesday the creation of a panel to study alternate means of funding the MTA’s capital campaign. Richard Ravitch, the one-time head of the MTA who brought the agency out of the disastrous 1970s, will head the panel. The New York Times offers up a bit more information:

In a speech in Manhattan at a breakfast of the Association for a Better New York, the governor said the commission would examine ways to finance capital spending for transit that included “a broad balance of taxes for businesses and the rest of the public.”

He also said the commission would take another look at “the elements of Mayor Bloomberg’s plan that all of us like, and that perhaps we can still weave them into the process,” according to a text of the speech.

In another piece in The Times, Straphangers Campaign chief Gene Russianoff writes about alternate ways to fund the MTA. Well, gosh, that sounds familiar. I hope Mr. Ravitch invites Mr. Russianoff to his panel.

Meanwhile, I’m going to offer up my two suggestions for revenue streams, and both of them involve charging drivers. The drivers who find this site won’t like that, and they’re a feisty bunch. But in my opinion, the free parking literally has to stop.

First up are residential parking permits. Originally pushed as part of the congestion pricing package, residential parking permits are as they sound. The city marks off residential neighborhoods into zones, and the only way to park in a zone is to pony up cash and prove that you live there.

While the original plan called for a minimal outlay of $10, why not push a plan based on economics? The higher-demand zones — those closer to the Central Business Districts in each borough — and the higher-rent areas will cost more. Like tax breaks, permit fee relief is available for those who qualify, but the city should start capitalizing on its street revenue. Charge a few hundred bucks for the year and kick this money back into the MTA’s coffers. For those people who move to New York and don’t switch their registration, charge more.

A similar program has worked in DC, and the Nation’s Capital now plans to spend the permit revenue on livable-streets programs. New York could institute a similar plan throughout the five boroughs and spend the money on subways.

At the same time, the city should up the prices on the parking meters. Charging $1.50 to park for an hour is well below market rate. Garages charge up to $21 an hour depending on their location, and the city could easily charge $4 an hour or more to park at meters. This move would serve to decrease traffic while funding whatever the city wants to fund with more parking revenues.

Right now, these two moves make a lot of sense for a city leadership reeling from a congestion pricing setback. Beneficially, the city can institute these programs without approval from Albany. Of course, most politicians are unlikely to support a parking permit program that would charge all car-owning New Yorkers a fee to park, but as the city’s options were narrowed for them this week, the least desirable courses of action politically may be the way to go.

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Weasel April 10, 2008 - 4:14 am

Here’s an idea to generate revenue: How about luxury club cars? In the morning you could serve $6 breakfast sandwiches and $5 coffees. This is what Amtrak does now. On the way home you could have a $3 bag of pretzels, and wash it down with a bottle of Heineken for just $6 more. One luxury car per 10-car rush hour train to start, more if demand dictates. Riders pay an additional $10 entrance fee to board this luxury car, with TA police collecting fares and riding along a la the Train to the Plane. No overcrowding; limit people to the number of seats. The entrances to the cars (one set of doors per car) could be marked, signed, and roped off/barricaded on the platforms to avoid confusion.

The Secret Conductor April 10, 2008 - 5:32 am

I truly wonder what Albany will come up with for this multi million dollar debt we now have since congestion pricing was dropped (for reasons I still wan to know… who was against him and why).

No matter what it is, its still going to be a tax… just without the 300+ million dollars from the feds.


Streetsblog » Today’s Headlines April 10, 2008 - 9:01 am

[…] Disaster Without New Revenue (News)Sander: Lack of Capital Plan Funds Could Lead to Fare Hike (Post)2nd Ave Sagas Proposes Funding Alternatives to PricingHow the City’s Assembly Delegation Would Have Voted […]

Chris April 10, 2008 - 9:24 am

Here’s an idea: the cost for residential parking permits be based on accessibility to transit. If you park in an area that has access to multiple subway lines that offer a 15-minute ride to Midtown, you should pay more.

Geoffrey April 10, 2008 - 10:59 am

I’ve been watching with great interest the debacle in NYC over congestion pricing and after reading this post I’m quite shocked that meters in Manhattan are only $1/hour!

In Ottawa, where I live, a city of around a million in the greater metro area, meters have long been 2.50/hour and are going up to 3.00… New York must be losing millions from this backward pricing of meters. This should change ASAP.

Chris, I like your idea of charging more in better served areas.

Todd April 10, 2008 - 12:25 pm

I really like the idea of increasing meter costs. I also love the idea of charging more based on transit availability. That would totally eliminate the “some people just HAVE to drive into Manhattan” anti-congestion pricing argument.

I would add that increased traffic cop patrols would increase revenue. I know they patrol the Upper-East side like hawks and rake in cash. If they did that elsewhere, they could make quite a bit more. Also, are the red light/speeding cameras profitable? If so, why not install more of those?

Benjamin Kabak April 10, 2008 - 12:28 pm

The red-light cameras are an interesting case study in urban economics. Check out this Freakonomics post. After a while, they actually cost more to maintain than they take in. Maybe in New York, the scale is a bit different than in Dallas, and we’d still see enough violators to make it worthwhile.

The Secret Conductor April 10, 2008 - 4:44 pm

Hmmmm… I guess the city can come up with some kind of way to get the money that isn’t actually under Albany’s control to do for example raising the parking meters and such.

I still don’t see it coming anywhere near close to what congestion pricing would have gotten, but its something. I still think there will be a fare increase next year.

I have to still wonder how the actually plan on paying for all the commitments and project, some of have already started. Higher parking fees? Higher traffic tickets? More stop light cameras? Higher tolls on bridges? More taxes for city residents IRREGARDLESS of whether you own a car or not?

At the end of the day, except for higher tickets, what is so different about many of the proposed money raising incentives from congestion pricing? Its still a tax, except instead of taxing the driver who goes into lower Manhattan when they have alternatives, they are taxing all of us.

Some Sense April 10, 2008 - 8:16 pm

Meter parking is $0.25 for 10 minutes, so its actually $1.50 a minute. The city is in the process of swithcing to muni-metrs which are even more expensive (varies by n’hood)

Gotta love “Blog reporting”! Anyone with an internet connection can be taken as a news source! Please check your facts.

….and its not the parking that causes congestion, its the DOUBLE PARKING. Why trucks do not use the hydrant space to unload is beyond me… sometimes vans double park when there are spots RIGHT THERE!!

Solution: Plain and simple, charge people an annual fee for a NYCity drivers license. Even make it a 1/5th of the cost for residents. Also, make people pass an intelligence test to obtain one

VLM April 11, 2008 - 1:00 am

Some Sense: Gotta love “Blog commenting”! Anyone with an internet connection can be an obnoxious troll.

What Ben said about below-market rates for street parking stands whether he omitted 50 cents or not. Get over yourself.

Chris April 11, 2008 - 10:59 am

Some Sense: Meter parking is $0.25 for 10 minutes, so its actually $1.50 a minute. The city is in the process of swithcing to muni-metrs which are even more expensive (varies by n’hood)

Gotta love “Blog reporting”! Anyone with an internet connection can be taken as a news source! Please check your facts.

Gotta love “Blog commenting!” Anyone with an internet connection can be a critic! Please proofread.

AllWaysNY | Blog » AWNY Linkomat April 14, 2008 - 1:24 am

[…] A Parking Approach to MTA Funding (Second Avenue Sagas) […]

Edan April 15, 2008 - 3:17 am

So.. has anyone even thought about how the people who take public transit everyday to work, but still own a car for local use.


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