Congestion Pricing Foes Make Parking Play

The lobbying group opposing congestion pricing is considering ways to reform curbside parking as one alternative to the Mayor’s plan to charge drivers $8 to enter core areas of Manhattan.

The group, Keep NYC Congestion Tax Free (which now has a Web site), even approached Donald Shoup, a parking guru at the University of California at Los Angeles who advocates for higher metered rates, to commission a study. But the lobbying group seems to have dropped the idea after Mr. Shoup wrote back with an ambivalent answer.

“They asked me and I wrote back,” Mr. Shoup told The Observer via telephone recently. “I told them I’m a great fan of congestion pricing.”

Still, Mr. Shoup said raising metered rates makes a good deal of sense, and would be a necessary prerequisite for congestion pricing. His theory is that rates should be raised high enough to discourage idle trips. That would free up one or two spots on every block, creating a so-called “Goldilocks effect” that would reduce the number of cars trolling for spaces.

“I think that [New York City] has done everything wrong in terms of getting something done soon,” Mr. Shoup said. “It doesn’t make sense to introduce this very expensive congestion pricing system and keep curb parking free. It is easy to charge a parked car. It is hard to charge a moving car.”

Walter McCaffrey, the lobbyist for the anti-congestion pricing group, could not confirm that his team had reached out to Mr. Shoup, but said that it was looking at parking policy.

“In some places, you could end up having an ability to remove meters to allow for a better flow of traffic depending on the width of the street, or you could temporarily remove the meters on a street where there is construction going on,” Mr. McCaffrey said.

Keep NYC Congestion Tax Free is supported in part by parking garage owners who would logically see underpriced on-street parking as unfair competition.

New York City has gradually introduced muni-meters, which provide parkers with receipts to put on their dashboards and which cut down on dead space between meters. The Bloomberg administration has also considered reforms such as limiting parking placards and has occasionally increased metered rates, although they have not received as much attention as congestion pricing.

Mr. Shoup said he did not know how much a parking space should be worth in Manhattan. Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives, said that it should probably cost between $4 and $5 an hour.

“If you look at on-street parking today, it is free to $1.50, in some cases as high as [to] $3 an hour,” Mr. White said. “Still, it’s the most valuable real estate in the world and that’s a pittance.”

Transportation Alternatives has conducted studies that have found that 28 percent of the traffic in SoHo (PDF), and 45 percent of the traffic in Park Slope, Brooklyn (PDF), is caused by drivers trolling for a vacant parking space. While the nonprofit advocacy group has been pushing for congestion pricing, Mr. White said that parking reform is also a top priority.

“We are saying that congestion pricing and parking reform together are necessary,” Mr. White said. “Parking reforms will reduce some cruising traffic in some neighborhoods but it is not going to have an impact on the total number of cars coming into the city.”

Congestion Pricing Foes Make Parking Play