Good News! DOT Moves to Get Placard Perps Out of Loading Zones

Here's what happens when there's no loading zone — double-parking. File photos: Gersh Kuntzman
Here's what happens when there's no loading zone — double-parking. File photos: Gersh Kuntzman

The city Department of Transportation is about to begin a quiet assault on the placard class thanks to an obscure rule change.

On Feb. 7, the agency will host a public hearing on a measure that will tweak the language on — and, indeed, define — what a loading zone actually is and who can park in one (no one). The changes are two-fold:

  • The DOT will establish for the first time, a new kind of sign, “Loading only,” to join existing loading zones such as “Truck loading only” and “flea market loading only.” Believe it or not, there’s no “loading only” signs currently in the city.
  • Most important, the rules would add the new “loading only” zones to the list of areas of the city where holders of parking placards cannot legally park — joining such areas as “no stopping” zones, fire hydrants and bus stops.

Of course, those zones already bar parking by members of the placard class unless the car is “on official business,” according to the NYPD. Yet a recent placard census of Lower Manhattan showed that placard users often park all day in existing truck loading zones, no standing zones and other areas where they are barred, evidence that any ban on placard parking is only as good as the enforcement effort against it.

Still, having the rule in place is key for the agency, which said it installed roughly 1,800 loading zones across the city last year, though many are merely marked with “no parking” signs rather than a more aggressive, purpose-driven sign such as “Truck loading only.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Many of the city's loading zones are merely marked with "no parking" signs. File photo: Gersh Kuntzman
Many of the city’s loading zones are merely marked with “no parking” signs. File photo: Gersh Kuntzman

An agency spokesperson said the language change is necessary because there currently is no specific “loading zone” signage definition in the city’s rules.

And the larger goal of the ban on placard users from the new loading zones is to keep those areas clear and reduce double-parking, the spokesperson said, citing a study that showed that double-parking decreased by 70 percent on blocks with a neighborhood loading zone.

So, if passed, the new subdivision (c) of Section 4-08 of Chapter 4 of Title 34 of the Rules of the City of New York will get a new paragraph that reads: “Loading only zone. During the time specified on the posted authorized sign, no person shall stand or park a vehicle in such zone, except for the purpose of expeditiously receiving or discharging passengers or actively engaging in loading or unloading goods for the purpose of making pickups or deliveries to or from the curb.”

Advocates are pleased at the baby step — but cautioned that it has to be worth more than the paper (or metal signs) on which it will be printed.

“So much of the infamous chaos on our streets comes from double-parked cars and trucks. Loading zones and pick-up/drop-off zones are so important for solving this problem, so it’s great to see DOT focused on expanding this program,” said Sara Lind, chief strategy officer of Open Plans. “But we need real enforcement to create the culture and actually change behavior. And placard holders are no exception: placards are not a golden ticket to park anywhere, anytime. We wholeheartedly support this rule change and applaud the DOT’s commitment to prohibiting placard holders from parking in loading zones.”

Of course, this is New York, so some observers of the current laissez-faire treatment of the placard elite are not very impressed.

“It has always been illegal to park at fire hydrants, on sidewalks, and in “No Standing” zones with a placard — yet we see that every day,” said the keeper of the essential Placard Abuse Twitter account, who requests anonymity because of prior harassment from NYPD officers. “Tightening the rule won’t have much effect when the placard perps know they can keep parking there anyway.”

Stay tuned.

Virtual public hearing on loading zone rules, Feb. 7, 10 a.m. on Zoom. Click here to join the meeting. To join by phone, call (929) 205-6099 and enter the meeting ID (957 2139 4822) and password (649782). You can also submit comments to DOT by clicking here or by emailing or simply mailing comments to Charles Ukegbu, Assistant Commissioner of Regional & Strategic Planning, New York City Department of Transportation, 55 Water St., Sixth Floor, New York, NY 10041.