Home Public Transit Policy Residential parking permits could fund MTA

Residential parking permits could fund MTA

by Benjamin Kabak

David Yassky, center, and Mayor Bloomberg, left, announcing a residential parking plan in 2008. (Photo via flickr user cmyassky)

During the debate over the Ravitch Plan, New York City drivers and their advocates often acting as though free East River Bridges were a constitutional — or at least a God-given — right. How could transit advocates even think of tolling the East River bridges, that bastion of “free” roads? Never mind the tolls on bridges into and out of Staten Island or various points between Manhattan and Queens and the Bronx.

In a similar way, the debate over free on-street parking features much of the same themes. While other cities — Philadelphia, D.C. — have implemented residential parking permit programs, New Yorkers have been loathe to adopt one for dubious grounds. Generally, these programs allow municipalities to charge a rate closer to the market price for convenient parking while filling their coffers for much-needed transit, sidewalk or road improvement projects.

In New York, though, anti-RPPers find interesting and creative ways around the idea. When a program was proposed around three years ago as a way to combat a lack of space, a Brooklyn business association determined that, in Brooklyn Heights, an area saturated with subway lines, there was less than one space for every four registered vehicles. On to the shelf the program went.

Now, though, three New York politicians — Councilman David Yassky, Assembly member Joan Millman and State Senator Daniel Squadron — are at it again. The three Brooklyn Democrats are pushing for another residential parking permit program. This one help fund the MTA while also ensuring drivers a spot close to home. Veronika Belenkaya has more:

If the bill passes, the city and individual neighborhoods would decide whether they want the residential permits, which wouldn’t be allowed on commercial strips and would cover 80% of residential neighborhood streets…

“It’s a real hardship. Anyone who lives here and has a car can’t find parking,” said Brooklyn Heights Association President Judy Stanton.

The current plan, in which the permits would have to be purchased and the revenue would go to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to fund city buses and subways, got a more positive review from the partnership. “If the idea here is to connect drivers and supporting mass transit, that is an interesting approach . . . but the devil is in the details,” said the [Downtown Brooklyn] Partnership’s director, Michael Burke.

While the politicians seem to like this plan for the money it brings in and for the congestion-curing possibilities, the policy wonks don’t agree. Department of Transportation officials feel that an RPP plan can cure congestion only with the help of a congestion fee as well. Without such a plan, we don’t believe this bill will actually solve neighborhood parking problem,” Seth Solomonow, a department spokesman, said.

My only issue with the plan is the projected price point. According to NY1 News, the permits would cost around $50. Considering the true market value of a parking space, the city could charge far more for it. If this plan though can generate more money for the MTA and more money for the city’s transportation coffers, only fear of challenging the free driving mindset will prevent it from becoming a reality.

Update 9:45 a.m.: For a more robust look at Squandron, Millman and Yassky’s efforts than the one presented by the Daily News, browse on over to this Brooklyn Paper article. Mike McLaughlin crunched some numbers from prior reports and notes how, currently, some Brooklyn areas have nearly 700 more cars than spaces.

Any RPP plan also has an added benefit I originally neglected to mention: By requiring permits, the city can make sure that its residents have registered their vehicles in New York City. Right now, due to price discrepancies many short-term New Yorkers keep their registrations active in their native states. It is, as always, all about paying for the resources one uses.

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rhywun May 19, 2009 - 8:22 am

They could achieve the same amount of money–or more–by ditching the “permit” idea and just charging a realistic rate for parking everywhere. The rate could vary by demand, and it would eliminate the misconception that the driving public is “guaranteed” a space.

Benjamin Kabak May 19, 2009 - 8:32 am

But the benefits of a permit program make it worthwhile. It eases residents’ concerns over finding a spot in the neighborhood. If you have a Zone 3 permit and live in Zone 3, you can find a spot not too far from your home.

rhywun May 19, 2009 - 9:10 am

People are going to expect a guaranteed spot, and when they find out that in most cases it won’t make any difference in finding a spot, they’ll complain, loudly.

Scott E May 19, 2009 - 8:43 am

The problem here is that individual neighborhoods would decide whether or not to implement the program, but the money would go to the MTA that serves (or neglects) all neighborhoods. It would be a matter of one neighborhood bailing out another, which is inequitable. Either the permit program should be citywide (or at least borough-wide), or it should fund something more local to the neighborhood. Just my opinion.

Tyler May 19, 2009 - 10:37 am

The city could mandate what neighborhoods enforce the program. Manhattan’s neighborhoods don’t make their own laws.

I think the permit program should be city wide. Sounds like a good idea to me.

petey May 19, 2009 - 10:39 am

“drivers and their advocates often acting as though free East River Bridges were a constitutional — or at least a God-given — right”

so constitutional is higher than god-given?!?!

skunky May 19, 2009 - 1:20 pm

people dispute what the constitution says much less frequently and bitterly than they do with what god says.

petey May 19, 2009 - 1:26 pm


Gary Reilly May 19, 2009 - 10:42 am

Brooklyn Heights Blog has a picture from last Friday’s press conference. I am behind Dan Squadron on the left (his right) side.

RPP makes sense for a number of reasons, foremost of which for me is pricing street parking and using the proceeds to fund improved transit, which will reduce reliance on cars. As policy, it makes sense.

1. Price “free” street parking in a convenient fashion (pay once/year)
2. Fund transit infrastructure improvement/expansion
3. Remove an incentive to drivers (less convenient to choose car vs. other transport)
4. Reduce traffic congestion, thus reduce pollution, horn use, other societal irritants

And that’s before you even address the reason many proponents back it: greater likelihood of parking in their own neighborhood.

Gary Reilly May 19, 2009 - 10:43 am Reply
Boris May 19, 2009 - 11:00 am

Although it seems that parking goes from free to $50/year, for many people who don’t have good transit alternatives it goes from free to potentially several hundred dollars a week in tickets. I’m OK with paying a bridge toll, knowing that eventually transit will improve and I will no longer need to drive. But if I drive, park, and get a ticket under the new rules, I have no alternative, in the short run (or the long run, because how much transit can you fund with $50/year fees?). Of course I’m assuming that resident permits won’t be accompanied by a better (close to market rate) visitor parking arrangement. Otherwise I can always expect to find a legal visitor spot.

Also, how can a spot in Midtown Manhattan, with a market price of $300/month, be equal in price to a spot in the boondocks of Staten Island, with a market price of $5/year? The flat yearly fee makes no sense. It should be tied to demand, average neighborhood income, or something similar. Or the permits should be auctioned off.

W. K. Lis May 19, 2009 - 11:01 am

Increase the property taxes on parking spaces, on a escalating basis. 1 space would be the lowest, 2 a bit more, 3 and more the most, so that shopping centres and office parks have to pay more than they do now for their “free” parking spaces.
You may have noticed that the typical parking space has more square feet than a typical office cubicle?

skunky May 19, 2009 - 1:19 pm

I have always remarked on the absurdity of seeing almost half of the cars (ok maybe that’s an exaggeration) on a given block with out-of-state license plates, typically N. Carolina or some such place. I know insurance is expensive, but it’s gotta suck to drive to NC to get your car inspected.

This is a brilliant, easy-to-implement idea that will have legs. Most NYCers don’t have cars, so are happy to burden those who do. I own a car and pay for a garage, so I’m happy with it too. Maybe I can think about parking on the street now. I just never liked the idea of spending half my evening looking for/worrying about parking.

Ariel May 19, 2009 - 2:47 pm

This is definitely a great idea. Together with some of the other environmentally friendly initiatives, it would go along way to improve mass transit and raise the quality of life in the city. The best way to fund the MTA and promote sustainability would be

1. Residential parking permits
2. Bridge and highway tolls coupled with a congestion pricing rate
3. Car registration fee
4. Personal property tax on cars
5. Commuter tax rate of 2.5%

With this funding mechanism, Albany could then eliminate the payroll tax, taxi surcharge, high license fee and rental car fee that does nothing to promote sustainability and affects residents who choose not to own a car.

Rhywun May 19, 2009 - 6:06 pm

You’ll have an easier time getting it past the voters by framing it as a market issue (and therefore the rates would be variable–and closer to reality) than as a punishment for driving.

The Secret Conductor May 19, 2009 - 6:17 pm

I think this could work, but it has to be tied to neighborhood demand and mean (not average) icome such that for every 3 people who earn 40G don’t get hosed because 1 guy earns 400G of which would skew the average higher.

I do think that these neighborhoods who do this permit thing should have decent transit possibilities if the money is going to go to transit. Or at least something should be put on the table so that that neighborhood gets bus service.

Adam May 19, 2009 - 6:46 pm

That’s actually a very good idea. The idea of purchasing a specific space in front of your house from the city is an even better idea because people will pay more for that (and thus the MTA gets its money and we carless people who actually walk the walk get our transit).

skunky May 19, 2009 - 8:54 pm

and those people who live in apartment buildings should pile their cars on top of each other? hm.

Alon Levy May 20, 2009 - 12:49 am

No, they’d bid up the price.

You Down With RPP? (The Brian Lehrer Show: Monday, 08 June 2009) | Scott’s Voice June 8, 2009 - 2:17 am

[…] Read about the plan to bring residential parking permits to New York in the Brooklyn Paper and Second Avenue Sagas. […]

Brooklyn Heights Blog » Squadron Supports Residential Parking Permits June 8, 2009 - 11:17 am

[…] about the plan to bring residential parking permits to New York in the Brooklyn Paper and Second Avenue Sagas. Related […]


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