Guest Op-Ed: Park Smart is a smart idea

July 11, 2013 Editorial Staff
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Anyone who regularly drives down Third or Fifth Avenue in Bay Ridge knows that both are frequently congested at peak hours and even late into the evening by double-parking, not just by delivery trucks, but by passenger cars.

This traffic congestion wastes time spent cruising for a curbside parking spot, wastes fuel, increases air pollution and increases collisions. It also leads to frustration, with drivers frequently executing the infamous “Bay Ridge U-turn” in order to snag a spot on the other side of the street before another driver gets there first.

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The usual reaction to this problem is to assert that we don’t have enough parking for all the cars that want to come to our neighborhood. Curbside parking is a fixed commodity however. Meanwhile, the municipal lot at 85th and Fifth sits nearly vacant at most times of day.

For each individual driver, it makes sense to cruise for a free spot on the street, or even a metered spot, because this is cheaper than parking in a garage.  Collectively however, this policy is irrational, as it results in an epidemic of cruising and double-parking.

Studies have shown that up to 50 percent of cars driving through the streets of Brooklyn are not actually going anywhere. They have already arrived at their destination and are merely circling the block, looking for parking.

Economists point out that if a fixed commodity regularly sells out, the solution is to raise the price, reducing demand until it matches the supply. I can hear the cries of outrage from motorists who will recoil at charging more for curbside parking, but let’s think about how we provide parking now.

The city government spends an enormous amount of money each year to pave and maintain our public streets. It then gives away approximately 30 percent of this valuable public resource to any motorist lucky enough to get there first.

The Department of Transportation’s Park Smart program has been very successful at reducing traffic congestion and increasing turnover at curbside spaces in Park Slope and other select neighborhoods around the city.

This program raises the cost of curbside parking during peak hours and reduces it during off-peak times. The result is better traffic management and an increase in customers visiting local stores. This program, while it does not solve the double parking problem completely, is a big step in the right direction. It should be extended citywide at the earliest opportunity.


Robert HuDock is a practicing architect and urban planner and a member of Community Board 10 where he is chair of the Environmental Committee and a member of the Transportation Committee. He is currently at work on a book entitled Car Wars: Reclaiming Our City Streets for Pedestrians.

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