Thursday’s Headlines: Howard Yaruss is An American Treasure Edition

Howard Yaruss
Howard Yaruss

Howard Yaruss, a bold thinker who has been the driving force behind Manhattan Community Board 7’s discussion of parking, did humanity a huge service with a Daily News op-ed yesterday that clarified why free storage of privately owned cars in the public right of way (aka “parking”) is killing our city.

To summarize:

  • 97 percent of all curbside space in this city is given away so that car owners can store their property in public. This is not a birthright, but a change made in the 1950s to accommodate car owners, who previously had to pay to store their vehicles somewhere out of the public right-of-way.
  • If all of today’s free spots were metered, it would raise enough revenue to make the subway and buses free.
  • Free transit is a much greater public good than free parking.

He concludes with a one-two punch: “If we are going to make the most of our precious public space, we need to envision how best to use our streets. Specifically, we need to decide whether giving so much public space away for free for the purpose of private car storage still makes the most sense. Since the 1950s, almost every other service has been rethought and revised countless times. Free parking should be no exception.”

There. Done. That was easy. (One quibble with Yaruss’s piece: By linking parking to MTA finances, he’s diluting the single most important point, namely, that parking is bad in and of itself. It causes congestion. It encourages driving. It inhibits city officials from more creative uses of public space. And it’s a subsidy to car owners, who are generally wealthier than transit users. So let’s never forget: We can and should get rid of free parking — with or without any sweeteners.)

Here’s the rest of yesterday’s news:

  • The pro-car New York Times has done it again: The Paper of Wrecking found a way to exonerate drivers and blame pedestrians for the 50-percent rise in fatalities among walkers since 2009. The story by Brian X. Chen occasionally played lip service to the truth (see our coverage here), but how did this sentence get past an editor: “Last year, pedestrian deaths in the United States were at their highest point since 1990, with distracted drivers and bigger vehicles the chief culprits. So being fixated on a screen while walking can’t be safe.” Seems to us that distracted drivers and bigger vehicles are the things that can’t be safe, Brian!
  • While the Times was pulling an O.J., Peter Flax in Bicycling did a much deeper analysis on why cyclist and pedestrian deaths are up nationally. Among his many villains: bigger SUVs, more driver distractions and, frankly, more driving.
  • The latest on overaggressive response to the minor problem of fare evasion: New Jersey Transit’s “fix” for the problem is a clear violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act (James Sinclair, via Twitter). Later, NJ Transit relented (NY Post).
  • Good news: Citi Bike expanded to its easternmost point by offering service in East New York. (Gothamist)
  • When Gov. Cuomo says we need 500 more cops in the subway, someone should remind him what cops actually do in the subway — namely, harass and rough up people of color (Rebecca Kavanaugh via Twitter). Meanwhile, the groundswell of opposition to Cuomo’s underground muscle continued on Wednesday (Streetsblog). And churistas and their supporters held another rally (NYDN) — even as a new video of overpolicing emerged (NY Post).
  • After we reported that several New York Rangers rode the subway, their teammate Artemiy Panarin apparently didn’t want to be outdone. (Panarin via Twitter)
  • The MTA hired a French Canadian executioner. (Politico)
  • The City covered the Staten Island bike share announcement and emphasized the new company’s lack of e-bikes, which we had also mentioned.
  • And, finally, we sent reporter Julianne Cuba by bike to Manhattan Criminal Court on Wednesday and she was forced to check her helmet the way one would have to check a gun or a Taser. Oh the irony: Mayor de Blasio says a helmet is a safety accessory — even as the court system considers it a deadly weapon. (Cuba via Twitter)