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Opinion Piece Mulls On-Street Parking Permits

Editor's note: A recent opinion piece on the Op-Ed page of the New York Times ponders residential permit parking in the Big Apple. The commentary by John Rosenthal, who is executive editor of The New York Times Almanac, is excerpted below, along with some correspondence that The Times received in response to it.

There is a special spot in parking hell reserved for New York City residents. While other cities have tried to make parking easier for their citizens, New York's response has been to shrug and say, "You can't park it here; you can't park it anywhere."
What have other big American cities with limited street parking done? Many have put in place a system of residential parking permits. Under this system, residents of clearly defined neighborhoods get a windshield sticker that allows them to park on the streets near their homes. People who drive in from other neighborhoods, other cities or other states can't park in these residential areas.
By most accounts, residential parking permits are a hit.
In Washington, the impetus for residential parking permits grew out of impatience with commuters from Maryland and Virginia who parked in outlying neighborhoods of the capital and took public transportation the rest of the way in. As a result, neighborhood residents found few places to park their own cars.
Boston started issuing residential parking permits for much the same reason in the early 1970s. But since then, the program has been expanded to neighborhoods in every part of the city. Boston's 16 different parking stickers have the additional benefit of discouraging people from driving from one neighborhood to another, reducing traffic congestion, because there's no place to park.
Philadelphia began resident parking in the early 1980s as a way to give residents of busy neighborhoods like South Philadelphia a leg up on out-of-towners. "Residential parking permits don't guarantee a space, but they increase the odds for people who live there," said Linda Miller, director of operations for the Philadelphia Parking Authority.
"Residential parking may be difficult to implement, because of the lack of curb space," said Tom Cocola, a spokesman for New York City's Department of Transportation. "There are many other cities that don't have the unique configuration of New York City." It's hard to believe that rectilinear New York has a quirkier layout than Washington, with its diagonal streets intersecting the grid at complicated traffic circles every few blocks.
But wouldn't a parking plan at least give New Yorkers an edge in their own neighborhoods? Distribution would be no more unbalanced than it is in Boston, where there are four cars for every residential parking space.
Residential parking could be a financial boon to the city too. New Yorkers who now register their cars in other states to save money would have to move their registration to New York to get a parking sticker. What's more, resident parking would generate parking tickets for nonresidents who park in residential zones. In Boston, for example, the city collected $5.8 million in fines for residential parking violations in 2002. From November 2002 to October 2003, Washington collected $3.6 million.
Finally, there is the fee the city could charge for issuing the stickers. Boston gives the stickers away; Washington charges $15 annually and Philadelphia charges $35. New York City could easily charge $50 -- a small price to pay for the possibility of more time at home and less time circling the block.

And the comments ...
From one in favor:
Bravo to Mr. Rosenthal for advocating residential parking permits. My block is littered with out-of-state license plates. Everything is expensive in New York, except parking, which the city gives away free-of-charge.
A street-level studio on my block would cost more than $300,000. A slightly smaller space just a few yards away: nothing. Commuters are no longer taxed for using city services. Why are we giving them free parking?
From one against:
While it may be nice for people not to have to hunt for a parking spot at night, what about those who drive to work in the morning? They, too, need to park! Would they get a permit as well? Would they have two permits, to park at home and at work?
And if there are 60 potential spots to park on a block but 100 car owners, who gets priority? Nice idea, but very messy. And beneficial only to the car owner around his or her abode. Take the car anywhere else, and you are in
trouble!
From one with some variation on the theme:
I live in Chicago, which has a residential parking permit system. The effect of this system is both to discourage residents from buying parking spaces and to encourage residents to buy cars. New York needs just the opposite.
We live in a time when public spaces are constantly being given away for private use. Residents do not own the streets outside their homes. These streets belong to all of us. Perhaps a better solution would be for New Yorkers to secure proof of off-street parking before they can buy a car.
And more in favor, plus a suggestion:
Here's another idea: Paint lines on side streets to help cars park equitably and not leave empty half-car lengths that, added up, would add considerably to available parking space. (Actually, it works the other way: Without lines, there are more cars parked in a curb length than fewer -- PT.)
I lived in Manhattan for 22 years, but owned a car for only three months of that time. I gave it up quickly when I realized that I spent more time parking my VW than
driving it.

Article Abstract from February, 2004




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