Last Updated on February 3, 2018 by Lawrence Berezin
What is the DOT’s Park Smart Program?
PARK Smart is a program to make parking easier while reducing congestion and improving safety. NYC DOT is conducting six-month pilots in neighborhoods across the City to evaluate how the program works in different settings.
PARK Smart aims to increase the number of available metered parking spaces by encouraging motorists to park no longer than necessary. The meter rate is higher when demand for parking is greatest and decreases when demand is lower.
Goals of PARK Smart NYC
- Increase the availability of parking spaces
- Increase safety
- Reduce double-parking
- Reduce pollution
- Reduce congestion from circling vehicles” (1)
The Park Slope Pilot Program
In Park Slope, the only Park Smart pilot area outside Manhattan so far, meter rates went up 75 cents per hour along parts of Fifth and Seventh Avenues between noon and 4 p.m. (when curb spaces are scarce and traffic is intense), bringing the total to $1.50 per hour. The goal is to increase parking turnover, freeing up spaces sooner so motorists spend less time searching for a spot.
The Park Slope changes took effect in April 2009, so for an apples-to-apples comparison, DOT set out this April to measure the changes in the neighborhood’s main commercial corridors.
As intended, during the peak period, the average amount of time that drivers parked in the pilot area decreased significantly, according to DOT’s analysis. On Fifth Avenue, the average time that a car occupied a given spot dropped from about an hour and ten minutes to 58 minutes: a 17 percent drop. On Seventh, the drop was even larger: 23 percent. (It’s worth noting, though, that you’re only allowed to stay in these spaces for an hour; changes in enforcement could be a reason in addition to price.)
Higher turnover means more customers for the shops and restaurants that line each of those corridors. DOT surveyors counted a 17 percent increase in the number of unique vehicles parked along Fifth and an 18 percent increase along Seventh. With more cars using the spaces for shorter times, the overall occupancy of parking spaces along each corridor remained essentially unchanged.
In neighborhoods like Park Slope, where a Transportation Alternatives study found that more than half of all traffic consists of endless cruising for a free space, Park Smart also serves as a congestion killer. During the peak period, traffic volumes dropped by five percent on Fifth and nine percent on Seventh. Traffic is down even as more people are able to reach Park Slope by car, a rare combination.” (2)
Congestion, pollution, and endless cruising for on-street parking spaces have become the price for big city driving. Demand pricing for parking is an innovative solution to relieving these driving evils. Add a pinch of obsessive NYC parking ticket enforcement, and you have a practical way to eliminate or reduce these three driving nightmares.
Merchants complain that demand pricing drives away customers; but, data proves otherwise. Potential customers gravitate to the area because parking is easier rather than more difficult to find.
On-demand pricing is transformative and necessary. The pilot programs are a start in changing the driving/parking culture. A successful outcome will benefit all the stakeholders in the fight for a safer, less congested, less polluted, shopper-friendly, on-street parking friendlier NYC.
Here’s a terrific blog on parking policy, which will help you understand parking policy choices. A must read to understand the changes you will be faced with for years to come. Reinventing Parking.
(2) Streetsblog, “Park Smart Pilot Has Cut Traffic in Park Slope, DOT Finds”
Change is in the wind. Are you dressed for a change? What do you think about on-demand pricing for parking spaces? Will it work to reduce the three evils? Please comment. We care about what you have to say!