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Right Pricing for Street Parking

New York, NY | Population: 8,398,748 (2018)

New York City suffers from a commercial district congestion parking problem. It is one of the largest cities in the world, yet its parking meter rates are significantly lower than those in other larger cities across the world. Until recently, only a small percentage of NYC streets are metered, and all were in commercial districts in Manhattan’s dense Central Business District. Because of this lack of metering, NYC dealt with higher rates of double parking, circling traffic, parking-related congestion, and shortages of commercial parking.

Prior to the NYC Commercial Congestion Parking Program, commercial parking was regulated by a three-hour parking time limit and complex rules around the time of day. In 2000, the NYC Department of Transportation started metering commercial parking in Manhattan’s CBD, with consistently increasing hourly rates and multi-space Muni-meters.” Rates for commercial vehicles increased from $2 for the first hour to $3 for the second, and $4 for the third hour. By 2009, the program included about 8,000 curbside parking spaces in a two- by one-half- mile swath of Manhattan from 60th Street to 14th Street, available only to commercial vehicles.

Park Smart

To further increase curbside availability and reduce circling and double parking, the NYC DoT introduced the Park Smart program, which programs meters to allow a maximum of one paid hour, which prevents all-day meter feeding and encourages more available parking. The DoT made Park Smart an opt-in program to gain more community support for right pricing for parking, approaching community planning boards and asking for their participation rather than enforcing it. In 2008, they started the first pilot in Greenwich Village, a transit and pedestrian-oriented neighborhood Manhattan. In the six-month trial period, meters rates were raised from $1 to $2 an hour during the peak 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. period.

In 2009, they expanded the pilot to the Park Slope neighborhood’s commercial district in Brooklyn, and in June 2010, the Upper East Side. Six more neighborhoods followed in 2014, and now, two neighborhoods in Queens also participate.

In order to gain more stakeholder and community support, the NYC DoT has prioritized community engagement, creating local advisor Community Board made up or business and property owners and resident groups. The Community Boards act as liaisons between the DoT and their community members, serve as advocates for neighborhood needs, and disseminate information about the program, such as data findings.

And overall, Park Smart has been a success. NYC DoT internal studies show that commercial parking availability has increased and double parking and overall traffic congestion has decreased. Excitingly, the reduction circling traffic and double parking has given more space for pedestrians and cyclists, creating the potential for protected bike lanes and upgraded pedestrian-oriented infrastructure.

In Greenwich Village, occupied parking decreased by 6%, and the number of vehicles parked for one hour or less increased from 48% to 60%. The community viewed it as such a success that it has supported several rate increases for peak and off-peak pricing.

In Park Slope’s commercial corridor, the average parking duration decreased by 20% during peak hours, and there was an increase in the number of unique vehicles parked. Park Slope’s community residents supported doubling the size of the original pilot area and making the peak period longer.

Park Smart At-a-Glance

NYC Metered Spots: 75,900 Commercial Spots + ParkSmart Spots: 9,500
Meter Revenue: $127 million
Fine Revenue: $596 million

Sources: