FedEx in Your Bike Lane? City Hall Backs Down on Stiffer Fines

Double-parking like this will likely continue under changes to the Stipulated Fine Program, but at least the city will start charging trucking companies for doing it. Photo: Stephen Miller
Double-parking like this will likely continue under changes to the Stipulated Fine Program, but at least the city will start charging trucking companies for doing it. Photo: Stephen Miller

Updated | The city has whittled down some teeth in its battle against trucking companies that illegally park — specifically reducing fees for blocking bus stops, bike lanes, crosswalks and sidewalks and backing down from stiff hikes for some other violations.

The new fee schedule, which will go into effect in December, is the first substantive changes in the city’s 15-year-old “Stipulated Fine Program,” which reduces the cost of summonses against companies such as FedEx and Fresh Direct so that the companies won’t fight every single ticket and tie up the city in court.

Opponents have long argued that the program’s low fees — many categories of tickets were reduced to $0 — give delivery companies carte blanche to illegally park. As a result, the Department of Finance proposed substantial increases in fines in May — but ended up relenting in many categories after the industry pushed back, as Streetsblog reported in August.

The city did hold the line in some areas: Blocking an intersection in Manhattan above 96th Street or in the boroughs will now be subject to the full $115 fine, up from the $105 that is currently charged. Trucks that get a ticket for an expired meter ticket or blocking street cleaning (typically $65 in Manhattan and $35 elsewhere) will have to pay $25 instead of the current $0. Blocking a fire hydrant will incur the full $115 fee instead of the current reduced fee of $105. And standing or parking in some Midtown zones will no longer get just a $40 ticket, but will rise to $100.

But the new fee schedule — which one source said would now only raise about 20 percent more for the city instead of 40 percent sought in the May draft — also includes some changes that will be viewed by street safety advocates as major setbacks:

Stand in a bus line or bus stop in Manhattan below 96th Street? The ticket is supposed to be $115, but the city currently charges $105. That fine will drop to $100 in December. And double-parking in Manhattan — currently subject to a $115 ticket — will only cost $35. Of course, that’s an improvement because currently the city is charging $0, but the city had originally planned to raise the fine to $60 until the industry mini-revolt.

stip fine changes

And, most important, blockers of bike lanes, crosswalks and sidewalks will pay $5 less per violation, or $100 instead of the current $105 on the $115 ticket.

“It’s not a big change, but why go in the wrong direction on a basic safety issue?” asked a trucking industry source who is sympathetic to cyclists and pedestrians. “I’m surprised the city would risk a bikelash on those categories.”

Indeed, Transportation Alternatives came out against the changes.

“It’s insulting to see the city actually rolling back the cost of potentially deadly infractions like double-parking and blocking bike lanes,” said the group’s spokesperson, Joe Cutrufo. “But even if these types of fines were increased, they wouldn’t address the root of the problem: the way we allocate the curb. If we didn’t reserve the vast majority of our curbside space for free, unlimited, long-term car storage, then we’d have more room for commercial loading zones. That means less illegal parking, and safer streets.”

Some no-standing violations also got watered down from the May draft proposal. Standing in a truck loading zone, a $95 ticket for companies not in the stipulated find program, will still be reduced to $0, down from the $25 sought in May.

The same May draft would have charged companies $60 for a standing in a commercial meter zone — a $115 violation that currently gets billed at $0. The city settled on $35.

Back in August, lobbyists for UPS, FedEx and other companies said delivery companies are the “economic life-blood” of New York City, and said any changes in the stipulated fine program would destroy the city’s health.

“Today as the parking infrastructure has diminished and daily obstacles exist as never before, there are those that have targeted this program and our companies unfairly and threaten one of the most successful cooperative agreements in the history of the city between government and private sector,” stated the lobbyists’ talking points, obtained by Streetsblog.

It is unclear whether the slightly higher fees will cause companies to abandon the program and return to fighting thousands and thousands of tickets.

After publication of the first draft of history, the Department of Finance responded with the answers to the following questions:

Q: Why did the city reduce fines (albeit by $5) in the categories above?

We took into account several factors in constructing a new payment schedule including the current hearing dismissal rate for companies that choose to contest their summonses, creating a single payment schedule for both the stipulated fine and commercial abatement programs, and streamlining the payment scheduling by having a narrower range of different payment amounts.

Q: Why did the city “back down” from its stiffer proposed fines back in May in the top three categories above?

Much of the feedback we received from the industry focuses on the double parking and commercial meter violations. Upon further review, we realized that the initial $60 proposal relied too heavily on higher charges in the commercial abatement program, which is much smaller than the stipulated fine program. We determined that $35 was fairer to participants in both programs. With regard to the third violation, it pertains to standing in a truck unloading zone. Most vehicles in the programs are trucks and should not be receiving this type of violation.

Q: How many “zeroes” are there currently, and how many will there be after Dec. 3?

It is declining from 19 to 2. The only ones remaining are the truck unloading zones and a violation for vehicles failing to properly identify themselves. For the latter category, the businesses operating the vehicles are identifying them via their participation in the programs. Also, may participants have national logos that clearly identify the business owner even if they do not conform to the stricter requirements of the parking rule.

Q: How much additional revenue does the city hope to take in as a result of the final changes?

More than $12 million annually. Since we are going live in December, the FY19 figure will be slightly more than half of that.

Q: Has industry signed off on the changes (i.e. and will remain in the program or are there defectors)?

We have not formally heard back from program participants. We will be monitoring very closely between now and 12/3 to see if any participants leave the program to contest tickets on a one by one basis.