Over the years, I’ve often returned to the idea of parking permits for New York City. From reducing congestion to generating revenue that can be invested into numerous projects, the benefits are obvious, and the rationale for not charging is not immediately evident. Considering how much people are willing to pay for private space in New York, why should the city simply hand over public space for free so that idle cars have a place to sleep? A good number of cities have figured out how to solve the parking problem through a residential permit system. Washington, DC, charges a modest fee and requires DC plates which allows them to capture registration fees and local insurance dollars. Philadelphia and Boston, where transit is worse and parking is even tighter than in New York, have instituted permit systems as well. In exchange for a better chance to find a nearby on-street space, residents have to pay. It’s not a bad deal.
Now, parking permits aren’t something New York City seems to be considering. An attempt at bringing them to the Brooklyn neighborhoods surrounding the Barclays Center failed, and now that area suffers through idling limos during concerts and games. I do like Cap’n Transit’s 2012 idea to use parking permit revenue to fix sidewalks as that fiscal obligation currently rests, for some reason, with the city’s property owners and not DOT. Plus, as I walk around Brownstone Brooklyn, it’s obvious which transplants haven’t re-registered their cars in New York, and a permit system could solve that problem.When I first started advocating for residential parking permits in Brooklyn around six years ago, the neighbors I talked to on my block were torn between putting me in a straitjacket or running me out of town on a rail. In the last year, however, I've noticed a real change. People that used to find it anathema are now asking for RPP. The reason, of course, is that the parking situation has gotten progressively worse. And it doesn't take a genius to see it's not going to get better on it's own.
But even as opposition is always loudest from those with the most to lose, I wonder if entrenched opinions have changed enough to make a go of it. With the right messaging and the right trade-offs, the city could turn precious public space into a potential net gain with drivers enjoying easier access to parking spaces and the city finding some resources to fix up the streets and sidewalks. If anything, there’s no reason to simply give the land away.
Street space is a valuable commodity. Let's monetize it and put the money to work on our streets and sidewalks to improve walkability.