Motorists Dominate UES Parking Workshop

Streetsblog commenter BicyclesOnly attended last night’s DOT neighborhood parking workshop at Temple Israel on E. 75th St. Here is his account (originally posted here):

I think I was the only one present (some young and idealistic-looking DoT staff excepted) who did not own a car. I heard so many bad arguments for bad policy that I’m sure I have forgotten some, but here are the highlights:

  • Diminishing free on-street parking discriminates against working class people in favor of the very rich.
  • Residential parking permits will encourage residents to drive more because they will be assured of free parking spaces. The current system is best because it gives on-street free parkers a motive to use their car less.
  • It is an "insult" and to ask residents to pay even a $125 administrative fee a year for a residential parking permit "to park on their own block."
  • There should be an elaborate ranking of permits, with residents ranking the highest, employees of certain local businesses beneath that, employees of other local businesses below that, etc.

One of the most irritating things about the process was the consultants’ materials and questionnaires. There were set up from the motorists’ perspective; there was no attempt to ask participants how parking policy affected non-motorists. One CB8 member at my table hard a hard time getting her brain around the idea that there were important uses to which curbside spaces could be put other than free parking, and there was certainly nothing in the consultants’ materials or spiel to suggest that there might be. (I mentioned BRT lanes, increased commercial parking for local deliveries, and sidewalk widening in response and stressed that these served the non-car-owning majority of residents. The response was that the city should first implement BRT, and once it’s in place then all the traffic will go away of its own accord without congestion pricing or changes in parking policy. Dream on!)

The materials and presentation assumed that park-and-ride would be a major problem in the neighborhoods adjacent to the congestion zone. There was almost no discussion of the possibility of expanding or prioritizing commercial and metered parking. The goal of the exercise seems to be to obtain feedback on four very similar variations of the same residential parking permit proposal. And there was no attempt to gather information about the participants themselves. Folks at my table were rattling off the facts regarding their multiple cars and where they were registered. I’m sure the consultants have no idea how many members of the non-car-owning majority have participated in these workshops.

On the plus side, there was unanimous universal disapproval of parking permit abuses. And I think I may have convinced some people that even though I didn’t have a car, as a taxpayer and resident I should have an equal say in how curbside spaces should be managed (something I expect some would have disagreed with at the beginning of the session). Although the majority of attendees were staffers or appointees of electeds (another gross bias in the population whose opinion was being "sampled"), I did appreciate the workshop format, which is far more open than the public hearings where the pols monopolize every minute.