Busting the Myths of Residential Parking Permits

Separating fact from fantasy on a proposal with the potential to make a big dent in arena traffic.

More than any other demand management strategy, residential parking permits have the potential to meaningfully reduce the impact of traffic from Barclays Center patrons. The overwhelming support from a standing-room-only crowd at a recent City Council committee hearing on residential parking permits, the near-unanimous vote of the committee to send a “home rule message” to the State legislature, and its subsequent , all indicate that residential permit parking in New York City is an idea whose time has come. Even before parking permits have been authorized by the State, DOT has begun to study implementation around “trip generators” like Yankee Stadium and Barclays.

But a proposal with broad support from City legislators and residents in communities overrun with cars can still have a few detractors. The problem is that the myths being advanced against residential parking permits have more to do with stirring up fear and resentment than adding to an informed public dialogue. And some of the people making them, like State Senator Marty Golden of Bay Ridge, are to block State authorization of the programs, holding New Yorkers hostage to score some cheap political points.

Myth #1: Parking permits are nothing more than a new kind of tax that the City will use to boost revenues.

Reality: There is no place in the United States where a municipality has built a significant revenue stream around residential parking permit fees. In Washington, DC, the fee is $35 ($25 for seniors). In Chicago and New Haven, the fee is $20. In Boston, the program is free. Under the Squadron bill that the City Council voted to support, fees collected from residential parking permits go to New York City Transit for improvements to subway and bus service, not to the City’s general fund. And any parking permit program enacted in New York would require public hearings and approval by the City Council. Neighborhoods that don’t want parking permits won’t get them.

Myth #2: Nobody should have the right to reserve a parking space on the street in front of his house.

Reality: Under residential parking permit programs, no one will. Parking permits don’t guarantee the holder a parking space. The permit simply enables the holder to avoid a ticket for parking his car on a local street during specified hours.

Myth #3: Parking permits will turn neighborhoods into gated communities, and make it impossible for others to drive there.

Reality: Residential parking permits won’t apply to commercial avenues, or any space where a parking meter is in operation. And permits are generally not in effect 24/7. Instead, residential parking restrictions are enforced when out-of-zone parking expected to be highest. For example, Atlantic Yards’ environmental impact statement (EIS) projects that an estimated 2,500 arena patrons will arrive at arena events by car. It’s true that requiring parking permits during arena events would also make it difficult for other drivers to park in the surrounding communities at those times. But without parking permits, it would have been nearly impossible for those drivers to park near the arena on event nights, anyway, as the EIS also says arena patrons will take up almost all available on-street parking. So either way, motorists will want to avoid surrounding streets during arena events.

Myth #4: The parking situation is already so bad in brownstone Brooklyn neighborhoods, it’s too late for residential permits to do any good.

Reality: Like all catch-22’s, this one (which was floated by DOT Deputy Commissioner of External Affairs David Woloch at the November 2 City Council hearing) doesn’t ring true. For instance, a 2007 Transportation Alternatives study of traffic in Park Slope found that as much as 45% of drivers were cruising local streets in search of parking. During the Bloomberg administration’s 2008 push for congestion pricing in Manhattan, the administration proposed parking permits for Brooklyn neighborhoods close to transit hubs to discourage commuter parking. And a 2006 study by the Downtown Brooklyn Council found that one third of parking on the streets in Brooklyn Heights, Boerum Hill and Fort Greene was taken by cars registered outside of New York City, and one fifth were registered outside of New York State. There’s obviously a huge potential for parking permits to significantly reduce traffic in these neighborhoods.

The myths of residential parking permits give opportunistic politicians and press commentators fertile ground for all sorts of populist pronouncements about taxes and exclusionary policies. It’s especially galling to hear local legislators mislead the public at the expense of residents of neighborhoods outside their districts. Don’t fall for it. With more and more cars on the streets of New York City, it’s time to follow the example of successful programs in other cities, and give communities the choice to reduce traffic through implementing parking permits.

The clock counting down to the September 2012 Barclays Center opening is ticking. A gathering storm of traffic ready to bear down on neighborhoods around the arena is on the horizon. The State legislature has only the spring session left to authorize residential parking permits for New York City to avert traffic chaos in central Brooklyn. Let’s remind the State Senate Republicans that democracy requires enabling, not preventing, the public’s right to make choices.

Editor's Note: Do you want to see residential parking permits come to your neighborhood? Let us know in our

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Steve Mona December 27, 2011 at 11:01 PM
As for Myth #1 there are a lot of "fees" the city imposes that started off well meaning but became revenue streams. Red Light Cameras are one example. They started out as a safety issue but have now become major income generators. Towing has become another. Towing used to only occur for cars creating a safety hazard (i.e. fire hydrants and bus stops) but I have seen cars towed from alternate side spots. Tell me what safety hazard is created there? All that aside I do believe that something needs to be done, I live in a section of Brooklyn notoriously bad for parking but I have some unanswered questions. I'd like someone to explain how I will be affected by the fact that my vehicle is registered to the company I work for. How do I get a residential parking permit with a vehicle which I drive only, that's registered in Long Island? Where does my mother park when she visits me? She's 72 and can't walk far. How about my daughter-in-law with my grandchildren in tow? Do I pay for a garage during those times? At $30 a day I'm being penialized far more than the "paltry $20-35." And don't bother mentioning Boston's free permits, that won't happen here. It's all about the money for the city. They created the Barclay's center nightmare and now they get to kick money to the MTA from the very people they inconvenienced.
Steve Mona December 27, 2011 at 11:06 PM
By the way Mr. Murphy, parking by NYPD officers in and around police facilities is a negotiated benefit between the city and the unions the main reason of which is vandalism to the officer's vehicles.
Steve Mona December 27, 2011 at 11:12 PM
I take the train when I go to Bay Ridge, there's no parking there ever...
Gib Veconi January 07, 2012 at 03:22 PM
First, let me point out the fees you cite are for violations of traffic laws, not for issuance of permits. As you mention, in many neighborhoods, parking issues already exist and something needs to be done. Residential parking permits are a way to accomplish that. But RPP is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. The type of program that will be effective in discouraging arena patrons to travel to events by car may not have the same rules as the one that will limit commuter parking in another neighborhood (for example). Permit programs must be tailored for parking issues experienced in specific neighborhoods in a way that is responsive to community concerns, including the ones you mention.
Nia Zaki January 10, 2012 at 08:58 PM
Don't hate on unions because by the time the 1% get through you or your kids are gonna WISH you had the voice of a union to speak up for you. Though I agree with you 100% about the city and how fees, costs of permits and a whole heap of other things get implemented under the guise of safety or bettering a community and it turns into a profitable commodity for the city and we who live here wind up paying more than it was worth. Ask yourself what's REALLY up the city's sleeve? You can bet your bottom dollar that they are way ahead of us, already planning of ways to milk this situation. You'll see. We better get everything in writing because down the road they're GONNA tweak it.


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