Mayor Bloomberg Rightly Says We’re Part of the Problem
I confess: We are alternate side parkers. To make way for “Mechanical Brooms,” New York City prohibits parking for 1.5 hours on one side of the street on Mondays and Thursdays and the other side on Tuesdays and Fridays. Just like tens (hundreds?) of thousands of other New Yorkers, we exploit the system. That is, come Monday morning, we (1) cruise until the Mechanical Broom passes through, (2) seize a spot on the empty, freshly swept street and (3) idle until the no parking period ends. The spot then belongs to us until Wednesday, when the routine starts anew.
All this takes time, wears down our car and increases our gas bills. (It also pollutes the air and reduces the number of available parking spaces.) But these costs to us pale in comparison to the cost — $400 a month or more — of paying for parking at a local garage. Absurd as it sounds, on weeks when we keep our car in the city, we park on alternate sides. To pay for parking would be unthinkable!
Now the City Council wants to eliminate step 3. Under a bill before the City Council, traffic cops could not issue parking tickets after the Mechanical Broom has swept through. Drivers would be liberated from their cars as soon as they claimed spot. For our own sakes, I hope the bill passes. It would save us many hours that we would otherwise spend confined to our car.
Alas, for the good of the public, Mayor Bloomberg has promised to veto the bill, albeit for all the wrong reasons. Hizzoner claims that allowing parking after the Broom passes would interfere with street cleaning. Allegedly, you see, the Brooms sometimes need to sweep the same street twice. Hogwash. I have lived in Manhattan for over 30 years have never seen it happen. (Not that I was paying attention, but you can depend upon it that unionized municipal workers are not going to drive through the same street twice out of some zeal to get the job done right.)
No, the real reason Bloomberg opposes the bill – or the reason he should oppose the bill – is that alternate side parkers consume nearly all the parking in the City, even though they need it the least. Keeping a car in New York is a luxury. I should know: most of the year, we manage without one. But offered “free” parking or a week at the cost of a few hours of maneuvering, we’ll take it every now and then, even if doing so means depriving visitors to our neighborhood (who would pay a lot more for temporary parking than we would) of an additional space. If the City Council gets its way, New Yorkers who currently don’t bother will decide that moving their cars twice a week is worth the inconvenience if they can walk away from their cars as soon as the Mechanical Broom lumbers by.
Now, there is one argument in favor the City Council’s proposal, namely, that it will by definition open up more parking space. Spaces where parking is now prohibited two hours a week would become available sooner. But under the current rules, those “free” spaces fill up already with alternate side parkers who just sit in their cars until the 1.5 hrs are up. Officially freeing those spaces would not make them any more available to drivers who need them. It would just increase the free parking subsidy.*
Ideally, the City would not offer so-called “free” parking at all. In the meantime, the City should not make it any easier than necessary.
* I should admit that, though the Council bill may not free parking spaces, it will free alternate side parkers to do something else with their time. But come on: Is anyone who spends weekday mornings parking their cars going to do anything else more productive with that time if given the opportunity? In most cases, the answer is no.