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.