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Study Quantifies the Frustrations of Parking

March 15, 2008. New York Times. [ source ]

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It's official: There really is nowhere to park in Lower Manhattan.

A long-awaited city study has found that the area is so choked with vehicles using government-issued parking placards that there is little if any room for those without placards -- in other words, most drivers -- to park.

In the financial district alone, the study found that on a typical workday, there were three times as many cars without placards trying to park as there were on-street spaces for them.

Over all in Lower Manhattan, the number of private vehicles exceeded the legal spaces by almost 30 percent, and many drivers, bypassing costly garages, were taking their chances by parking illegally. The study was released Friday by the city's Transportation Department.

In the area it covered, largely the area south of Canal Street, there were only 1,105 metered parking spaces and 871 unregulated spaces available to the drivers without placards, for a total of 1,976 spaces -- far fewer than the number of cars pouring into Lower Manhattan every day. In the financial district and the South Street Seaport area, there were only 138 parking spots for the general public. Battery Park City had 201, and TriBeCa had 326.

By contrast, there were about 11,000 spaces in Lower Manhattan available for drivers with placards, including spots designated for authorized vehicles, loading zones, no-parking zones, and all the metered and unregulated spaces open to the public. Many placards allow free parking in metered spaces.

''It's one of the worst neighborhoods you could park in,'' said Mike Singh, 52, a contractor from Queens who parked his sport utility vehicle on Friday by a fire hydrant near Hudson and Harrison Streets in TriBeCa. ''It's beyond everything. You're going all over, looking, and you see nothing.''

Mr. Singh said he often parks illegally and pays someone to sit in his truck all day and to move it if a parking agent appears.

Nearby, Guillermo Berra, 26, was double-parked on Harrison Street, waiting to pick up his wife from her job.

''I go around in circles,'' he said, describing the search for a spot.

While the study paints a dire picture of the fierce game of parking-space musical chairs downtown, officials said that a 20 percent reduction in government placards, ordered in January by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, would bring improvement. A separate survey of placards found that at least 142,000 were in circulation. City Hall said the reduction would be completed by September.

''We can see from the study that a 20 percent reduction will have a big impact on the parking situation in Lower Manhattan,'' said Bruce Schaller, deputy commissioner for planning and sustainability at the Transportation Department, which had paid a consultant $570,000 for the study released Friday. He said other steps would be taken, like increasing enforcement.

The study illustrated the lengths that drivers will go to when faced with an acute parking shortage. The study found that a quarter of all vehicles in Lower Manhattan were parked illegally: either blocking crosswalks, fire hydrants or bus stops, or parking in no-standing or no-stopping areas (neither private vehicles nor vehicles with official placards may park that way).

In Battery Park City, fully half of all vehicles were parked illegally during the 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. period covered by the survey.

The biggest contributors to the parking crunch were vehicles with law enforcement placards, which made up 25 percent of all vehicles in the area. Additionally, they outnumbered the on-street spaces designated exclusively for law enforcement parking by more than two to one.

That means there is a significant spillover by these vehicles into metered and unmetered spots, which could otherwise be used by the public. Many drivers with law enforcement placards also park in loading zones, which causes trucks to double-park, further tangling traffic on the street.

Vehicles with law enforcement placards are also the most likely to park in an unsafe way, according to the study. Among the nearly 700 vehicles with placards that were spotted parked in crosswalks or at hydrants, double-parked or parked in other hazardous ways, more than half belonged to law enforcement.

The study also found many fake placards. They accounted for 9 percent of all placard parking during the study period.

The data for the study was collected in fall 2006 and consisted of a census of all parked cars on the street from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Community groups in the area have long complained about excessive placard use and had been impatiently awaiting the study's release.

Colin Moynihan contributed reporting.


Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

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