City Hall to Reduce Parking Placards 20% and Centralize Control

That’s the title of the post to which I’m referring (hence the “z”). Another story involving the reconciliation of incentive structures and control, from Streetsblog.

Acknowledging the dissonance between his congestion mitigation efforts and City employees’ flagrant parking abuse, Mayor Bloomberg today announced a reduction in the number of city government parking permits and new, more centralized procedures for the issuance of placards.

The problem:

Crosby Street

That’s quite near the site of my recent experience with UPS, by the by. How is a city that can’t govern how it parks supposed to administer to how private corporations do so? Uncivilservants.org, the makers of that image, also do a good turn in USPS officials:

West 83rd

Bicycles Only, a Flickr site, added to the complaint (his being that this won’t affect cyclists), citing things like actual uniform cars breaking traffic laws. In front of City Hall:

City Hall

Streetsblog points to the site NYPD Rant (which does exactly what it says on the box), whereat the following was among the responses:

if the city yanks our plaques, then the war is on. the pba can have some printed for its members, active and retired, and i will bang out every car with official plates that is illegally parked or runs a light (the offenders can explain themselves in front of an administrative judge at AAB or parking violations bureau)….JUST WAIT AND SEE

It is a message board, yes. The grammar and orthography are just atrocious. As long as they know not to shoot me, I won’t complain. They also tear up the NY Times, so. This response is, while hypocritical (since they will, in all likelihood, not enforce it against their comrades – see above image of uniformed cars parked illegally) basically correct. Most parking restrictions are based either upon revenue (meters) or safety (everything else). Having a permit inside your windscreen that says you belong somewhere in the civil service hardly makes one’s car not a safety hazard.

From the Mayor’s press release

… the NYPD will create a new enforcement unit to ensure compliance and agencies will develop enforcement procedures to prevent the abuse of placards. A multi-agency working group will implement and coordinate the various measures being taken and take additional actions, including a review of existing agency parking-space allocations and on-street parking regulations.

This is a standard regulation problem (don’t get me wrong – a 20% reduction in parking permits can only be a good thing, especially in very urban areas. Much of the problem is people who work very near a subway station anyway, and should be driving or parking in the city at all). People will speed, so long as they believe they may not be caught. People will also park wherever they please, so long as they believe that a plaque on their car will prevent them being ticketed, clamped or towed.

In this instance, there really isn’t a mechanism for incentives to be brought to bear. From what I read at NYPD Rant, putting parking permits into contracts would not work (this would be where the “war” stuff in the post above comes in), so the idea of offering incentives based upon not taking a plaque for one’s car probably won’t work, because it’s too much like making the others pay for their parking. Centralised issuing is certainly a good idea (although we shall see how equitably the new 80% of permits are allocated, with one service at the centre).

I don’t believe the City is asking for my advice (and I doubt they read this blog), but the key is administration of the system – something Bloomberg probably already understands, since it’s a technocrat’s problem (and his press release specifically mentions “smart placards”). If you’re given a plaque for a specific reason, a simple barcode-scanner should be able to tell a parking official that you’re mis-using it, parking illegally on the other side of town. And away we go. It really should not be that difficult to administer or maintain. Even the cops would like the idea, as far as I can tell.

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