Over the past few years, I’ve often touched upon the idea that New York City is essentially giving away space for free. Despite wallet-busting rents, obscenely high taxes and a cost of living nearly unrivaled elsewhere in the country, the city has no problem turning over valuable street space to empty parked cars. It’s an ugly inefficient use of space.
The topic reared its ugly head earlier this week when David Greenfield, a Brooklyn Democrat who hasn’t met a car he doesn’t love, proposed a few “solutions” that would open up more parking spaces. He wants to allow parking at broken fire hydrants, paint lines on the ground to delineate the space around hydrants and allow pregnant women to park anywhere as long as they have a note from their doctor. The zaniness abounds.
In response, Streetsblog broke out the data. As the city looks to privatize its parking, there are essentially 81,875 paid parking spaces in New York City. Thanks to the onslaught of muni-meters, that number has grown from 72,010 five years ago.
Now, those numbers may seem high, but a few years ago, Rachel Weinberger attempted to estimate how many paring spaces exist throughout the city. She determined that there are around 3.3-4.4 million on-street spaces, and Noah Kazis offered up a take on these figures:
Using those numbers, only 1.9 to 2.4 percent of all on-street spaces have a meter. Everywhere else, drivers can store their private vehicles on valuable public property at no cost, moving them only when alternate side parking rolls around. That’s an enormous giveaway of public space, and it also makes it harder for drivers to find parking. As long as there’s no price on so much scarce curb space, the search for an open spot is going to be pretty tough in a lot of neighborhoods.
As Infrastructurist notes, this glut of free parking leaves us with problems ranging from ” urban congestion to the environmental impact of building America’s vast parking infrastructure.” Yet, there is a very easy solution that can help the city recoup transportation money while potentially freeing up some space.
The answer: residential parking permits. In cities across the country, residents are not permitted to park for free. Because on-street space is so scarce, cities force drivers to fork over some dough for a precious sticker. In Boston, for instance, the permits are free, but residents must register their cars in Massachusetts. In DC, the parking permit costs a whopping $15 a year, and in Philadelphia, the permits cost $35 and also require Pennsylvania plates.
Walking through Brooklyn, I see cars from everywhere. I can walk the five minutes from my house to the subway and see plates from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, California, New Hampshire, Maine and North Carolina. These cars aren’t going anywhere. Rather, they take up valuable space, and New York recoups no registration fees, license plate charges or parking levies.
The money of course would go to a good cause. NYC DOT could use it to fix the streets; our aging infrastructure could use the infusion of funds as well; the parking revenues could be bonded out for capital projects; or the MTA could always take the dollars. Those who own cars could afford the de minimis fees, and the city would be better off for it.