New York City: curb your damn UPS trucks

Walking downtown to meet the missus today. This was just in Little Italy, but I went via Prince St/Broadway to go to Best Buy. This is only to explain how I came to be at this intersection (click for the large version):

google street view

The corner of Spring and Crosby, to get coffee (there’s a Starbucks franchise under the scaffolding). Now to the problem. Sadly, this picture was not taken this afternoon because, this afternoon, the part of Crosby St directly in front of this street view contained the following. On our left, two UPS trucks: one right on the corner (nearer to the corner than where you currently also see a truck), one directly behind it (parked, curbside, on deliveries). On our right, a third freaking UPS truck, also parked curbside. Between these was another truck, trying to get any sort of visibility whatsover – i.e. sticking its idiot front out into the traffic on Spring Street itself. Unbelievable.

Back in 1986, the New York Times had a story about UPS owing the city USD1.2m in fines (story behind the wall). More recently (thank you, Lexis Nexis) the Washington Times reminds us that the practice hasn’t changed (also behind a wall):

… records obtained through the DMV’s Office of General Counsel showed that on a typical day earlier this year, UPS owed $28,755 on 471 open tickets.

That’s second only to its competitor FedEx Corp., which had 493 open tickets for $30,630. Each company had more than 100 vehicles ticketed. The only other company with more than $10,000 in open tickets was Verizon, owing $10,430 on 289 tickets.

A UPS spokesman said the company encourages its drivers not to get tickets, but added the tickets are sometimes an unavoidable cost of doing business.

“We train our drivers to try to avoid tickets, but we have to provide service to our customers,” said spokesman Malcolm Berkley.

Mr. Berkley also said UPS has enrolled in parking-adjudication programs in other cities such as San Francisco and New York City. “It’s a vehicle that allows us to manage the tickets we do receive,” he said.

It’s commonly-known that UPS treats parking fines as an ordinary cost of doing business as UPS. Back in 2006 the NY Daily News covered the complaint specifically with regard to this city:

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly blasted a city policy that allows FedEx, UPS and other delivery companies to defy parking rules without punishment – while average New Yorkers get socked with tickets.

Kelly said guidelines that permit delivery giants to clog streets by double parking without punishment for up to three hours should be reined in.

“Does that make sense? Is that common sense living in this 8.1 million-population city?” Kelly asked the City Council.

“You can double-park and unload a commercial vehicle for three hours and that’s considered expeditious parking.”

Kelly’s words resonated on the city’s crowded streets, where many New Yorkers slammed the three-hour grace period crafted by the city Finance Department.

“They park out here all day,” said Manhattan handyman Mike Pau, pointing to trucks double-parked along 47th St. near Fifth Ave. “It’s like their office.”

Kelly said the grace period should be shrunk to 30 minutes – and only if there are no legit spots nearby.

The delivery outfits get the grace period on top of another city perk that allows them to avoid paying full price for all their parking tickets. Since July 2004, City Hall has offered companies a chance to pay reduced fines in exchange for dropping their right to go before a judge.

“It’s not fair,” said Mark Carbone, 55, a precious-metal buyer. “I’m here two minutes and I get a ticket.”

But jeweler Leon Garadet, 25, saw wisdom in the perks. “They deliver millions of dollars of merchandise,” he said. “It’s important for the economy.”

That last line is ridiculous: M. Garadet might be reminded that everybody living and working in New York City is responsible for billions of dollars of merchandise – but they all get their cars towed or clamped. So what we have here is the twin system: preventive taxation for ordinary individuals (or small businesses), but mere revenue-raising off the backs of bigger companies like UPS and FedEx.

Seriously, though, the situation this afternoon was just moronic. For a start, why can’t UPS figure out how to use only one truck for deliveries in a single set of city blocks in lower Manhattan? Thus, the question: how to figure out a system by which to make UPS bloody-well behave? The administrators at/of Long Beach figured out that day-trippers were treating the parking fine as an ordinary cost of the day at the beach – so they jacked up the fines (significantly).

Would the same work with UPS? No. The costs would simply be passed along to consumers (more than not), while businesses would hammer the City over the policies. The Washington Times article, for example, specifically discusses the use of fleet-adjudication programmes to pay fines in toto, per month. Escalation? Good luck towing a UPS truck (and, probably, sorting out the lawsuits from people who needed the things that had been inside). Same for clamping them.

My plan!

Part 1: a stated hierarchy of violations. The one I saw this afternoon, for example: Class 1. Random double-parking can be, say, Class 3. Doing so in narrow mid-town cross-streets can be Class 2. You get the idea. If you’re the third UPS truck and you block up a street by parking next to two others, you should absolutely be hammered for it.

Part 2: Come the end of the month, businesses should attract a progressive rate of taxation on parking violations, case-mix-adjusted. UPS pay fines at an increasing marginal rate, the more violations they collect. If UPS breach pre-specified thresholds (too many overall, too many Class 1’s, etc.) they cop real punishment: punitive levels of taxation, limits to the number of trucks they can operate in the city. Something.

That’s my plan. If UPS wants to treat every street like a potential parking-space, fine – but we can, very easily, produce the incentives required to at least have them do it in a manner that minimises our inconvenience or endangerment.

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2 comments so far

  1. UTK on

    Hi there! We’re requesting input from those who may be interested.

    The Usable Toolkit, a brand new project that just started at usable.pbwiki.com essentially selects the best tools helpful to everyone. Delivery services, like UPS, is one section. At the moment, we’re basically jotting down ideas, pros, cons, lists, for this important project towards the public good that has lasting value.

    Whatever you decide, please let us know: eretcenter0000 (at] gmail {.} com / If no, let us know why so we can find ways to improve the project. Better yet – yes – and we can give you an invite key so you can edit it whenever you like.

    So that viewers can be aware of the project and its need for help, please leave the post and tell others about it – like how the Firefox project grew because it was spread.

  2. Polo on

    Great Article


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