View Full Version : The Zen of Alternate Side Parking

October 26th, 2003, 01:18 PM
October 26, 2003

The Zen of Alternate-Side Parking


FORGET squeegee men, careering cabbies or vandals who scratch your car with a key to ruin a perfect paint job. First prize for most persistent annoyance among New York City drivers usually goes to alternate-side-of-the-street parking.

Since 1950, the regulation, which prohibits parking on the side of the street scheduled for cleaning, has forced urban drivers to:

Vacate a perfectly good parking spot at, say, 11 a.m. on the north side of the street or face a $55 fine.

Seek temporary refuge at a meter or in a lane of double-parked cars on the opposite side of the street, awaiting the chance to reclaim a spot once the street sweepers brush by.

Remain with your car until, say, 2 p.m., or whenever the no-parking period expires, or risk a summons from a by-the-book officer.

But one New Yorker's annoyance is another's pleasure. An informal survey of Manhattan drivers on a recent morning turned up a number who said they welcomed the bustle-free period (of one and a half to three hours) required for the ritual of moving their cars from side to side. Like the hero of Calvin Trillin's parking novel, "Tepper Isn't Going Out," they see the quest for a free legal space as an opportunity for fulfillment of one sort or another.

(Tepper became a behind-the-wheel sage. Mr. Trillin, a veteran of many alternate-side campaigns - in the early days of the law, he said, "it was like being in the Marines compared now to some sort of cushy National Guard unit" - no longer parks on the street, but he said in a telephone interview that if he did, he would use the time to learn a language, probably Arabic.)

Plenty of motorists read, enjoy an undisturbed smoke or sleep - a reporter recently witnessed a fellow napping on 22nd Street in the darkness provided by a pup tent pitched inside his vehicle.

Taking a break from cleaning the windows of his gleaming Range Rover, Greg Lichman, who works in film production, admitted that he relished spending Tuesdays and Fridays from 9 to 10:30 a.m. kibitzing with parking pals on East 11th Street between Fifth Avenue and University Place.

"It's semimedicinal," said Mr. Lichman, who chats about politics and autocratic meter maids with his "gang": Ricky, a doorman who works around the corner; a Puerto Rican woman whose name he forgets; and a Swiss guy with a German shepherd that is said to understand 200 commands.

"My wife tells me I talk too much, so when I go outside people aren't exposed to me too long so they don't think I talk too much," Mr. Lichman said. He said he and his friends enforced local parking etiquette, confronting "creeps" who try to cut into the line of cars by trailing behind street sweepers and sneaking into spots that offer a few days of free parking.

Sheri Bruder, a Web site designer in Chelsea, extols alternate-side parking - not for the potential social opportunities, but for the privacy. The seclusion of her silver Subaru Forester allows Ms. Bruder to nurse her baby daughter, Libby, while her husband looks after the couple's 2-year-old son at home. "People don't pay that much attention when you're in your car," she said, gently placing Libby into her stroller. "I get time to myself, and I'm up anyway."

On West 12th Street near Fifth Avenue, the renowned jazz guitarist Jim Hall recalled composing "Down From Antigua" in his 1987 Subaru. "You can hear stuff in your head," said Mr. Hall, who also transcribes music during parking sessions. Not every driver tries to be productive while parking. For Hillary Morehouse, moving her white Chrysler PT Cruiser to either side of West 22nd Street is a trip to the movies. She cranks up the air-conditioning, plugs her Apple iBook into the car's lighter and watches DVD's. Ms. Morehouse, a location scout for films, gave a thumbs up to "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days" and was looking forward to "Adaptation."

This generally keeps her content. But occasionally, the quest for a space proves maddening, she said. She begins to think the unthinkable.

"New Jersey, over there in the black car," she said, pointing at an S.U.V. with New Jersey plates, "didn't know the drill and took up a space and a half. We had words. Then sanitation got in our business. It was a bad alternate-side parking day. I'm ready to call the garage on 20th Street and make a deal."

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

April 30th, 2004, 11:45 AM
April 30, 2004


Alternate Side of Reality Parking Rules


LET us suppose you have a chest of drawers that you sorely need for storage space but cannot fit into your small apartment. What to do?

Here is one thought: Why not put it on wheels and leave it curbside in front of your building? Naturally, you accept a theft risk and an obligation to move the chest across the street every few days to comply with alternate-side parking rules.

Absurd, right? You can't just leave personal property on the street.

But what if we call that thing on wheels, oh, a car? Suddenly, it becomes O.K. to gobble up precious public space for your own benefit. Not only that, but on most streets you also need not pay a dime for this storage area.

For a city ill-suited for the internal-combustion engine, New York may be said to be more than generous about certain parking privileges.

The City Council has a special gift for finding new days to suspend alternate-side parking regulations, which exist so streets can be swept. In bursts of me-tooism, one ethnic or religious group after another demands to be accorded New York's ultimate expression of cultural respect: the right to park all day on both sides of the street. Merrily, the politicians have gone along.

As a consequence, normal parking rules will be suspended a total of 43 days in 2004; that does not include unexpected snow days. Even if you discount holidays that fall on weekends, the equivalent of more than a month will go by this year with streets uncleaned because parked cars are allowed to stay put.

Year round, few benefit more than the wealthy and the uniformed.

In Midtown and in the financial district, you can see lines of black cars outside the offices of big law firms and brokerage houses. Typically, they sit beneath signs that say, "No standing anytime." All the same, they linger for hours, unmolested and unticketed.

Then there are the thousands of police officers who deem it their inalienable right to drop off their family cars wherever they wish on streets near their station houses. Many New Yorkers have a sense of authority being abused. Just this week, newspapers carried articles about resentment over officers' questionable parking habits in Chinatown and at Shea Stadium.

Once in a while, tensions have the air of a schoolyard fight. Come to think of it, an actual schoolyard fight has been under way for months in the East Village.

At Avenue B and East Sixth Street sits a building with 800 students in three separate schools - Public School 64, Tompkins Square Middle School and the Earth School. Years ago, there was only P.S. 64. But by the 1980's, its enrollment had declined to the point that the building was underused. Might as well put the offices of the school safety division there, the authorities decided. In short order, the P.S. 64 schoolyard became the division's motor pool.

But nothing stays the same, not in this city.

With the addition of the two other schools, the building is bustling. So are the students. They need room to exercise outdoors during recess, their parents say.

There is a small play area with two jungle gyms, but it is barely adequate, even for the younger children. In the middle school, "there's just no place for these big kids to get some of their energy out," said Tessa Huxley, the mother of a seventh grader. "The space is just too tight."

WHY not use the old schoolyard?

Can't. It remains the safety unit's motor pool, even though the division itself skipped off to Brooklyn last fall. The people may have left, but their cars and trucks stayed.

Let's see, cars or kids? Whose needs should come first?

You might call this one a no-brainer. Parents at the school do. So do elected officials who support them, like the public advocate, Betsy Gotbaum, and the local councilwoman, Margarita López.

In fairness, so do officials at the Education Department. A solution to move the cars is being worked out, they promise. "By September, the folks will have their schoolyard back," Deputy Mayor Dennis M. Walcott, City Hall's point man on education, said yesterday.

For Lisa Donlan, another middle school parent active on the issue, his remark qualified as a breakthrough. "September is at least a time frame," she said. But after a pause, she added, "If it actually happens."

Hers was a caution born of a simple fact: the cars have long been winning.

As usual.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

March 24th, 2005, 11:01 AM

Residential Permit Program Study Planned for Brooklyn Neighborhoods

BY CHRISTINA ROGERS - Special to the Sun
March 24, 2005
URL: http://www.nysun.com/article/11046

The days of drivers endlessly circling the block looking for a parking space may be numbered in neighborhoods surrounding downtown Brooklyn.

Next month, the Department of Transportation will launch a feasibility study in Brooklyn for establishing the city's first residential parking permit program, an initiative that could become a model for other high-density parking areas throughout the boroughs.

"A lot of people will be looking at this study and its results to see if it is viable as a program for the city," executive director of the Downtown Brooklyn Council, Michael Burke, said. The council is working with the DOT and Economic Development Corporation on the $75,000 study for the neighborhoods of Fort Greene, Brooklyn Heights, and Boerum Hill. The study will be conducted from April through the fall, officials said.

Downtown Brooklyn is already the city's third largest business district, a major transportation hub, and attracts more than 100,000 workers each day - 36% of whom drive to work - said David Woloch, deputy commissioner of external affairs for the DOT.

Under the permit system, residents of a defined neighborhood would get a windshield decal that allows them to park on specific streets near their homes. Nonresident drivers who park in those areas would be ticketed or towed.

The study will determine parking density and patterns in the neighborhoods, and the number of cars owned by residents compared to car-ownership statistics from other parts of the city or state, Mr. Burke said.

Main thoroughfares, such as Atlantic Avenue and those flanking downtown Brooklyn's core district, will not be included in the study. Rather, the study plans to focus strictly on streets considered residential.

Council Member David Yassky first introduced the proposed residential parking permit system three years ago after residents complained about the lack of parking available near their homes.

"We'd see people from outer boroughs and other states circling our blocks every day taking our spots," the president of the Boerum Hill Association, Susan Wolf, said. "It has been so successful in other cities. There is no reason we shouldn't have it in New York."

In fact, New York lags far behind other American cities in considering the permit option. Boston and Philadelphia started their programs more than 20 years ago to alleviate similar problems: people who drive in from other neighborhoods or states to access the central business districts or other transportation.

Downtown Brooklyn's major transportation hub near MetroTech and the Civic Center area attracts impatient commuters who drive into the area, park in the surrounding neighborhoods, and either walk to their jobs or to the subways to continue their commutes.

Mr. Woloch says the city has studied the issue before, twice in the 1990s, and concluded that the program would be most successful in low-density areas near major "trip generator" areas that attract motorists, such as hospitals and railways. They found the program was less successful in neighborhoods such as the East Village, where residents had wanted to see the permit system implemented.

"The problem in New York is you have such great density, much more than other cities, particularly compared to curb space," Mr. Woloch said. Initial analyses of Brooklyn Heights showed that the number of residents' cars outweigh the number of available parking spaces at a ratio of 4-to-1. "Even with the permits, residents might still have a problem finding parking," he said.

The DOT anticipates that the area's high density may be an issue - the three neighborhoods boast a combined population of 55,000 residents

- Mr. Burke said he believes it will be a worthwhile study given the future impact of the downtown Brooklyn redevelopment plan, which will create more than 4.5 million square feet of commercial space and at least 1,000 units of housing around the downtown core.

"A good impact of the plan is that it really gave us a chance to focus on the issues affecting downtown Brooklyn, such as parking and traffic," Mr. Burke said.

Among other complaints from Brooklyn residents have been the increasing number of government employee cars parked in the area. City and state employees often use special parking permits that give them access to otherwise restricted parking in the neighborhoods.

"They allow them to have permits to park on our streets when there are plenty of public parking lots. They just don't want to pay for them," Ms. Wolf said.

In 2002, the mayor attempted to address this problem by cutting the number of government parking permits by 30% citywide, but Brooklyn residents still find themselves competing with officials for parking.

A recent study conducted by the Atlantic Avenue Betterment Association and Mr. Yassky's office found that one out of every three cars parked in the neighborhoods near downtown Brooklyn had government placards.

In addition, the study found that one third of those placards were fake, expired, or photocopied versions.

August 17th, 2008, 06:43 AM
Getting Around New York Faster

Published: August 16, 2008

New York City isn’t quite as fast-paced as the clichés would have us believe. Just look around: cars, buses, trucks and bicycles snarled in traffic jams; subway riders crowded onto platforms, waiting longer and longer for trains; and more people every day jostling for sidewalk space. The Op-Ed page asked three writers how to get New Yorkers moving faster.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Op-Ed Contributor

No Parking, Ever

By Hope Cohen
Published: August 16, 2008

FOR decades, New York City’s Department of Transportation tried to make this town as friendly as possible to cars, mainly by giving them enough room to move as quickly as possible. Under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, however, the department has been encouraging alternative transportation by reassigning street space long reserved for cars and trucks to bikes, buses and pedestrians.

To accommodate all this movement, the city can no longer be as accommodating as it has been toward stationary vehicles. Before traffic reaches a standstill, as it threatens to do, the city should start phasing out curbside parking.

Not all curbside parking, of course; cars can be stored along the narrow streets of most residential neighborhoods without causing gridlock. On particularly clogged roads, though, all lanes should be reserved for moving traffic. Yet even as bike lanes are carved out and streets are “greened” (sometimes with plants, often with chartreuse paint), the department has continued to preserve parking lanes for cars and trucks.

Take, for example, the bike lane on Grand Street in Lower Manhattan, which is frequently encroached upon by vehicles, both those that drive and those that double park. The city has plans to protect the bike lane by creating both a 3-foot-wide buffer (likely with paint, possibly with a series of posts) and a parking lane.

Why preserve that parking lane? Double-parked vehicles will inevitably drift into the one travel lane that is left. The only way to keep traffic moving smoothly is to allow two travel lanes — and no parking.

Unmoving vehicles aren’t the only stationary objects slowing traffic. “Broadway Boulevard,” running from Times Square at 42nd Street to Herald Square at 34th Street, is scheduled to make its debut this month.

The Transportation Department is preparing to convert Broadway’s easternmost lanes into a bike lane and an elongated, European-style plaza outfitted with cafe tables, chairs and umbrellas.

It is certainly true that pedestrians, who can’t help spilling into the street, need wider sidewalks, and that bicyclists also deserve space. But why cafe tables at the crossroads of the world? Janette Sadik-Khan, the city’s commissioner of transportation, has assured New Yorkers that traffic will flow, but many people understandably worry about the impact on traffic of losing two moving lanes in the center of Midtown congestion.

Then there is the matter of bus bulbs. Sidewalk pavement is extended a lane’s width into the roadway at bus stops so that the bus can pick up passengers and then start up again without deviating from its path. But thanks to these bulbs, everyone else is squeezed by the loss of a lane and often stuck behind every stopped bus.

Even with gas selling at roughly $4 a gallon, which lessens the number of cars on city streets, these intrusions into the city’s thoroughfares are slowing traffic. Imagine how much heavier traffic would be if pumps offered $2-a-gallon gas.

The city has been grappling with its curbside parking policy since at least 1950, when it introduced alternate-side-of-the-street parking to get New Yorkers to move their cars long enough to clean underneath them. Then in 1951 the city started installing meters to collect some rent on its valuable street real estate.

In the ’80s, new commercial parking garages were then banned from some of the city’s most heavily trafficked neighborhoods in an attempt to discourage people from driving into the city. But this ban only worsened our traffic woes, with increased numbers of cars cruising around looking for spaces. To alleviate demand for curbside spaces and to speed up traffic, the city is going to have to allow more public garages.

It is vital that vehicles move smoothly and quickly through New York City’s streets, delivering people and goods to their destinations. Making room for vehicles that are not moving should be a far lower priority. While the Bloomberg administration is right to reserve paths for pedestrians and cyclists, there’s no need for the Department of Transportation to become the Parking Department.

Hope Cohen is the deputy director of the Manhattan Institute’s Center for Rethinking Development.


Copyright 2008 (http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html) The New York Times Company (http://www.nytco.com/)

August 18th, 2008, 09:02 AM
I agree.

Better to have no legal parking and one row of double parked delivery trucks than the permanent row of work vans/livery cabs/box trucks with a second layer of the same.

And those bulbs are silly.

Optimus Prime
August 18th, 2008, 09:21 AM
It has taken traffic and urban planners a long time to realize this, but parked cars are friends of the pedestrian. Parked cars are good.

Parked car lanes should only be eliminated where there is a bus lane and/or a bike lane buffering the sidewalks from high speed car traffic.

Ticketing double parkers more aggressively (except possibly during alternate side times) would be a better plan.

August 18th, 2008, 01:28 PM
Another aspect of city policy is at cross-purposes with traffic reducing initiatives. Off-street parking.

Push To Limit Parking May Slow Development

By BENJAMIN SARLIN, Special to the Sun | August 18, 2008

Critics are warning that a push by environmental groups to limit residential parking in New York could depress property values and slow development.

A report released yesterday by a coalition of environmental and urban planning advocates, including Transportation Alternatives, the New York League of Conservation Voters, and the Environmental Defense Fund, suggests that Mayor Bloomberg's PlaNYC 2030 initiative could be weakened by zoning laws that are seen to encourage car ownership.

"As the pace of residential development is growing and accelerating, their increase in the parking supply will unleash a torrent of unnecessary car ownership," the executive director of Transportation Alternatives, Paul Steely White, said yesterday at a press conference, warning that an increase in cars would "largely erase" reductions in carbon from other city environmental initiatives.

The report predicts that car ownership will grow significantly during the city's building boom: Car-owning residents of new developments will add 170,000 new vehicles to the city's roads by 2030 and produce 431,000 tons of carbon dioxide a year.

One proposed policy to reduce the increase in vehicles is to do away with zoning regulations that require new developments to contain a minimum number of built-in parking spots, ranging from 0.4 to one car a housing unit. Instead, the city would replace the requirements with a maximum limit on the number of parking spots based on how close the building is to bus and subway stops.

While proponents of the move say it would encourage tenants to ditch their vehicles, some are arguing that a cap on parking spots would be a drag on the city's housing market and tax base.

The CEO of the Partnership for New York City, Kathryn Wylde, said enacting a limit on parking would make it more difficult to attract tenants to developments in the boroughs other than Manhattan, where mass transit is sometimes scarce. Manhattan already has parking limits in place in most areas.

"It would definitely have an effect on marketability and property values," Ms. Wylde said in an interview yesterday. "Apartments without a parking space are considerably less valuable than ones that offer a space."

Ms. Wylde predicted that limiting parking would not reduce the number of vehicles in the city, as car owners in the other boroughs would park their cars in the street or outside garages.

"Limiting the number of parking spaces in residential developments does not necessarily result in fewer cars on the street or fewer vehicle miles traveled," she said. "It just presents the potential for an inconvenience."

In addition to limits on parking, the environmental groups behind the study are also calling for developers to separate the price of parking from the sale price of housing, for the city to establish fees on developers who add new parking spaces, and for encouraging neighborhood car-sharing services.

Full report from Transportation Alternatives (http://www.transalt.org/files/newsroom/reports/suburbanizing_the_city.pdf)

August 18th, 2008, 02:46 PM
I think, so long as streetside parking is limited further and further, that requiring buildings to provide more parking is a great idea.

This makes it LESS likely that there would be a tremendous backlash from the further restriction of free (or metered) street parking. You have nowhere to put the cars, you will get a lot of angry people.

Maybe the new development area should prohibit parking during construction, then never allow it again once it is finished? There has got to be some way to make cars a TRUE mode of here-to-there and not just a personal urban luxury.