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Why parking permits are not the answer

The Brooklyn Paper
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There is no question that parking is a problem in residential neighborhoods around Downtown Brooklyn.

There have been many proposals for fixing the problem, but one idea keeps coming back: charging residents for permits that would allow holders the exclusive right to seek a parking space in their neighborhoods.

Boosters say that a small street-parking fee would free up spaces for residents. But it would not.

Support for permits is based on a belief that the root cause of the parking crunch is an influx of out-of-neighborhood residents who drive from further-flung portions of the borough to Park Slope or Carroll Gardens, and then take the subway into the city from there.

But this simplistic assessment misses larger truths about parking — and runs the risk of driving public policy towards a simplistic response. Here’s why:

• The number of “outer-Brooklyn” drivers who “half-commute” by car and then finish with a short subway ride is not what is tipping the essential balance here. Studies have repeatedly shown that neighborhood car-owners alone would still not have enough spaces for their cars even if other drivers weren’t even in the mix.

• Residential parking permits, which typically cost $100 per year in other cities, do not reflect the market value of the parking spaces themselves.

Only a true market system would create enough revenue to make a parking permit system actually worthwhile while also serving the larger public policy goal: discouraging residents of Brooklyn Heights, Park Slope, Carroll Gardens and Fort Greene — neighborhoods with the best subway service in Brooklyn — from owning cars in the first place.

If people in those neighborhoods still choose to own a car, they should stop complaining about limited parking.

• There will always be flaws that render such a system useless. Cops, fire fighters, city officials and others have access to placards that allow them to park anywhere with virtual impunity. And drivers who show no compunction about registering their cars out of state to reap insurance or tax benefits would certainly lie about their address to secure a parking permit.

• Owning a car means assuming the responsibility for that vehicle. The city is under no obligation to ensure a parking space — an entitlement with a market value in the thousands of dollars — for a resident who insists on owning a car.

With so many flaws, it’s hard to see how residential parking permits solves the problem.

Updated 4:50 pm, May 21, 2009: Think parking permits are the answer? Think again.
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Reader Feedback

Rhywun from Bay Ridge says:
Spot on--agree 100%. It's a simple matter of supply and demand.
May 21, 2009, 8:05 pm
MrLomez from Park Slope says:
Wow! Someone who actually gets it. The city gives away its scarce land for car storage free of charge, and drivers wonder why there isn't enough parking.

Annual permits should be sold through a dutch auction to all residents who can show a brooklyn registration and proof of insurance. Some permits should be reserved for day users with appropriate day charges.

Presumably neighborhood residents will value permits more than non-neighborhood residents driving the price for half-commuters up to unattractive levels.

The auction would generate tens of millions of dollars annually. The proceeds of the permit auction could be used to develop transit infrastructure for underserved areas.
May 22, 2009, 9:35 am
Boris from Bay Ridge says:
Amazingly right. And I agree with MrLomez- some kind of auction system that will price parking spots at close to market value is needed. It will generate lots of revenue that will go to the city.

Ideally this money should benefit the place where it is collected, but since transit provides two-way service it's hard to fairly connect a paying neighborhood with a non-paying neighborhood. Maybe revenue from visitor parking and meters should go to the local business district, while resident parking revenue to NYC Transit (to benefit NYC, not the suburbs).

Unfortunately any such commonsense plan needs to be approved by the state legislature, which means it has the same chance of succeeding as congestion pricing or any other plan that would increase the quality of life in NYC.
May 22, 2009, 10:47 am
Eric McClure from Park Slope says:
So, Brooklyn Paper, what then do you propose?

Implementing an RPP system would at least improve the situation marginally, no? And I'm not sure why you believe people would be able to "lie" about out-of-state registrations; it's a sure bet that an RPP system would require documentation, not scouts' honor. Making people register their vehicles locally in order to obtain a permit might actually encourage some people to give them up.

You're correct that an RPP system should be priced more aggressively, and that the city is under no obligation to guarantee a space. But pricing could be worked on, and an RPP plan would serve only as a "hunting license," not a sure thing.

A residential parking permit system is certainly not a cure-all. A more robust and easily accessible transit system (hear that, Albany?!), more car-share programs, and continuously improving bike infrastructure are all badly needed, too. But doing nothing fixes nothing. Let's hear solutions, not nay-saying!
May 22, 2009, 11:04 am
Mario Andretti from Italy says:
"Boosters say that a small street-parking fee would free up spaces for residents." Actually, I am not sure that is what they are saying. RPP would merely preference local residents whose cars are registered here, not quarantee them anything.

And here's some interesting logic, courtesy of the folks at the Brooklyn Paper: if you live in a neighborhood with good public transportation, you waive some of your rights to own a car.
May 22, 2009, 12:22 pm
Lex from Park Slope says:
"Only a true market system would create enough revenue to make a parking permit system actually worthwhile while also serving the larger public policy goal: discouraging residents of Brooklyn Heights, Park Slope, Carroll Gardens and Fort Greene — neighborhoods with the best subway service in Brooklyn — from owning cars in the first place."

Tell me something - when did discouraging people from owning cars become official city policy? Was there a referendum on this one? Did Bloomberg run on a No Car Ownership platform? Is there ANY elected official who endorses this? (Appointed bureaucrats like Bike Queen Sadik-Khan don't count. I'm talking about people who actually have to answer to the public.)

First of all were talking about *parked* cars. Their owners take the subway to work buts that not good enough for the Brooklyn Paper. No, we're going take their cars away anyway.

Sorry, but this is a pipe dream. It ain't gonna happen.
May 22, 2009, 2:25 pm
noparkingpermits! from BKLYN says:
Jersey City has this system; and it is a nuisance. At 1st i didnt even know this system exisited,(being born and raised in Brooklyn) I got ticketed and booted my first day of the lease! After paying and getting a permit i still would circled the blocks for hours to find a parking spot @ night coming home late from work or out with a few friends. It drove you crazy were you had to be home by "curfew" ( usually 8 pm) or you'll never find a spot. And worst of all you can drive a few blocks and be in a different zone and your not allowed to park there (I was in Zone 2). Anyhow in the end the permits did nothing but give them another excuse to ticket, boot and tow your car.
Also if you have guest come over and s/he parks over two hours it could cost them over $400 to get their car back remove the boot and pay for the ticket! (and all this had to be done prior to 5 pm when they close or your car spends the night in JC) Not so friendly if you ask me, their answer ( when this happen to my friend who came over to help me paint ; an all day thing) was i was suppose to get a "24 hour guest permit" for him and pay $5 for the day. After that i moved back to brooklyn as soon as my lease expired. And it soo good to be back, but hearing about the idea to do the same here puts butterflies in my tummy. I hope this ideas dies with this great editorial piece; Thank you Brooklyn Paper for setting the record straight!
May 22, 2009, 5:20 pm
billy from clinton says:
drivers who show no compunction about registering their cars out of state to reap insurance or tax benefits would certainly lie about their address to secure a parking permit.

no no no

evrybody knows that the insurance cost for cars registrert in brooklyn is highest rate in the country
May 24, 2009, 11:57 am
Lex from Park Slope says:
"drivers who show no compunction about registering their cars out of state to reap insurance or tax benefits would certainly lie about their address to secure a parking permit."

Here's a tip - if someone who lives in Brooklyn and registers their car in Vermont to get lower rates there's an easy way to spot them - the car has Vermont plates. It's not a mystery.
May 24, 2009, 4:26 pm
wily coyote from bikeopolis says:
Don't you serfs get it? You are no longer permitted to own cars, you need a car, go rent a zip. Car ownership is so 20th century, get over it.
Oct. 19, 2010, 10:17 am
Scottilla from Midwood says:
Way to drive paying customers of your businesses to other areas.

And nobody says you can't own a car, but why do you expect to be able to leave your stuff outside on a public street?
Oct. 19, 2010, 1:44 pm
Sid from Boerum Hill says:
Its always nice to hear from people who already have special permits. Newspapers get special permits. Please turn yours in.
That's right push the middle class further out of the city. Almost every major city has a form of residential parking permits. Is it perfect? of course not but your non-solution will add 6000 cars 200 days a year to an already burdened downtown area.
Even with zip car you still need to park somewhere.
In fact this will open more spaces for businesses as parking in the area for all day parkers becomes more scarce.
Nov. 3, 2011, 9:43 am
Bernard Tillman from Midwood says:
If you have an accident with your car and are looking for a car while yours is being fixed, that is called an insurance replacement vehicle. This is what www.25dollarcarrental.com in Brooklny NY specializes in. they have really low prices.
Nov. 3, 2011, 9:47 pm
Alvin from Windsor Park says:
If you rented a car in the morning and returned it the same evening from a local company like http://25dollarcarrental.com/ you would not have overnight parking difficulties.
They also have very cheap car rental rates.
Nov. 4, 2011, 10:27 am

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