Tuesday, February 5, 2008

RPP Forum Wrap-up

The Residential Parking Permits forum last night was a good opportunity for a give and take between DOT and the community. Jane McGroarty, Joanne Simons and Michael Cairl did a great job of presenting matters from the community perspective.

David Yassky, Letitia James and Bill deBlasio all had some good points to make about the need for residential permit parking. Bill de had an interesting proposal for extending the RPP out to neighborhoods along the transit lines to protect against "park and ride" behavior.

I've said from the beginning that congestion pricing is necessary to reduce traffic and raise money for transit. But to actually eliminate congestion, instead of pushing it into the neighboring communities, we need a plan (RPP) to prevent people from driving their cars to communities outside the zone and taking the subways the last mile to avoid a toll. I don't want to move traffic; I want to eliminate it.

And let me be clear - I support RPP for ALL neighborhoods that want it. I support RPP not only for Brooklyn Heights and Carroll Gardens and Park Slope; I support RPP for Windsor Terrace, for Kensington, and for every neighborhood that is facing a crisis in parking. This is a city wide issue, and it needs to be addressed that way.

At the forum last night their was a contingent from Windsor Terrace protesting against RPP. The strongest sentiment I've heard from WT is a feeling of being excluded, e.g. "Windsor Terrace would be treated as the parking lot for Park Slope". That's not the way it should be; that's not the way it will be. I look forward to working with the people of WT and Kensington to make sure that we are all getting the same protections.

The last thing I'll say for now is, the system is broken. This problem is not going away, and will only be exacerbated by the tremendous amount of development under way and on the drawing boards. Defending the status quo is indefensible. We need action, and we need action that will treat every neighborhood with respect.

I should also note here that Bruce Schaller from DOT did a good job presenting; the "new" DOT we have these days beats the hell out of the old regime.


June Reich said...

Windsor Terrace opposition to RPP comes in many forms; personally, I am not part of a "me, too" contingent and don't think that's a fair representation. I think RPP is wrong for NYC.

One objection I have is linking RPP to congestion pricing. I favor CP and think it should be implemented with significant improvements to mass transit. This would help alleviate the "park and ride" syndrome that affects neighborhoods all over the city.

RPP does nothing to help those who live in neighborhoods underserved by mass transit. There is a significant racial and economic divide between those who have easy access to transit and those who don't. If we rally for better mass transit we could unclog our streets and improve quality of life for everyone.

Mandy Harris, citizen said...

I appreciate your wrap-up, but I think some things need clarification. I was part of the contingent from Windsor Terrace. My opposition to RPP is not a self-interested one. The complexities of the issue did not get a hearing AT ALL last night. The "forum" was an info session where electeds expressed support and DOT reported back from the workshops they have been doing. I have attended one of these workshops and even there, the question asked is not "will RPP work?" but "what flavor of RPP do you want?". The questions had to be submitted in writing on index cards, but then were culled and even though I asked five different questions, not a one was addressed or read. Others from the opposition group had a similar reception.

I apologize for the long commentary, but it's necessary. Now I'll get to the meat of the issue: first off, I have to refute the idea that CP will cause park-n-ride. Simply unfounded. Even DOT admitted as much last night (Transportation Alternatives has also said this). RPP is more likely a way to control curb parking and should not be uttered in the same breath as CP. This conflation is what is gaining support for RPP. A half second of thought and you, too, will be convinced of this. Imagine you drive from Long Island to Manhattan for work (and presumably park in a garage--you wouldn't search for parking--you'd be late to work every day!). Now it will cost you $8 extra to do so. Do you instead drive to a border neighborhood, search for parking and then get on a subway?! No. You'd spend more time driving than working. You'd find another way or you would pay the $8 and be happy that now it might be less crowded in Manhattan and maybe you would find a spot on the street.

So, who does RPP target if not these phantom, evil commuters? It targets those who live a bit too far away from a convenient subway or express bus line. People who live in underserved neighborhoods. RPP only addresses the symptom (difficult curb parking) and not the cause (debatable--either commuters from within the borough or just local residents with too many cars or some combo, but certainly better transit to the outer, outer borough and INTER borough would help.)

Let's say no one cares about the logic or any actual facts. Instead, residents of a given neighborhood are sick of hunting for street parking and want commuters OUT, no matter what. Will RPP work?

Interestingly, last night, the crowd overwhelming chose Plan A, the most restrictive plan, with RPP in effect for 8-12 hours per day and no special provision for local employees (unfortunately, they took these questionnaires back and it's not available on the DOT website, so I may not have the details right on Plan A). What this tells me, though, is that residents definitely are acting in their own self interest and believe that they will get a better chance at parking with restrictive RPP.

Here's another problem with this thinking. DOT collected some good data, but they haven't processed it well. I will post again when I have a link with better study data crunching. Meanwhile, there are a few interesting facts. 1. There are more than twice the number of locally registered cars than there are on-street parking spots. 2. Overnight, 46% of cars were registered in the neighborhood. At 2pm, that number was 35%.

The first fact tells me that even with RPP you won't find a parking spot. Just as hard and you pay for the privilege.

The second fact tells me that people come home at night (duh) and that 11% of locally registered cars are driven elsewhere during the day.

What if some of those are driven to Manhattan? Would CP keep them home instead? Uh oh. Ironically, there may be more cars parked during the day than at night in that case. And guess what? They'd all have RPP permits.

Finally, let's consider the ripple effect. Neighborhood A adopts RPP. We know there aren't enough spots for everyone (twice as many locally registered cars as spots), so they have to spill over to the next neighborhood, and so on, all the way out to the furthest edge of the metro area. But what if the next neighborhood over (B) gets peeved that now their parking can only spill in one direction, so they adopt RPP too. Now neighborhood A is stuck. Can't spill to neighborhood B anymore. Gotta put the car in a garage. No garage? build another one, then. This pattern repeats all the way out until finally, in the very last edge of the borough, there is a neighborhood with some truly excellent on-street parking.

The fact is that there are too many cars in NYC. Right now, we share that burden. It is spread around. People come and go during the day. I'm sure there's some theory of fluid dynamics that can explain it, but RPP would only dam things up. The real answer to this problem is to improve public transportation. Money from Congestion Pricing is meant to do that. I doubt RPP could even pay for itself. Think about the bureaucracy and the enforcement costs.

And just in practical terms, God forbid you should have a death in the family and people come in to the funeral. You'd have to make parking arrangements on top of everything else or risk the $1000 tickets.

There are a lot of reasons to oppose RPP. You think you've got parking headaches now? Just wait.

And this 2-3 hour window for transient visitors--so you can have dinner or a movie, but not both? And forget the cocktails beforehand.

There are better ways:
1. Congestion pricing--use funds to open new express bus routes and real affordable park and ride lots on express trains in outer outer borough.
2. Progressive and expanded metering to free up spots for shoppers and short-term visitors (no meter feeding).
3. Muni-meters to allow more cars on the curb.

There's probably more. I do sort of trust that people who study transportation issues can come up with ideas that work. This RPP business, though, is being sold to people on all kinds of emotional levels--fear, greed, frustration, retribution. There is no goodness and desire to see the public better served in any of this.

Bad, bad policy. I'm shocked anyone supports it. But then again, we did vote in Bush twice. We aren't the smartest public, unfortunately. Baser instincts often prevail.

gary said...

Mandy and June, thanks for commenting.

Regardless of the RPP issue the foremost policy prescription is congestion pricing and more money for transit.

Ironically, many of our outer borough politicians have been demagoguing CP as fleecing the poor. It's utter BS, which has been very frustrating for me.

At the last CP hearing on 1/24, a pol from Brighton Beach got up to speak out against CP . . . on behalf of the 6 - 6! percent of constituents in his district who would be affected. What about the other 94%?

Mandy, progressive metering, more metering and muni-metering are all good ideas.

And ultimately, the streets are a public resource, and we need to look at pricing that resource accordingly, and funding transit and streetscape improvements with the money.