Friday, May 02, 2008

An Alternative Alliance

During the prolonged policy debate over congestion pricing, we really got into it with the folks over at Transportation Alternatives. So it may come as some surprise that we finally may have hit on an issue where the Alliance and TA can find common ground. The Issue? Parking ticket deals for truck fleets.

The other day there was a debate over Intro 637. Here's how the NY Sun describes it: "The bill would make permanent an existing voluntary program that allows businesses to waive the right to contest parking tickets in exchange for having some fines reduced or eliminated. Proponents of the bill say the reductions are based on the percentage of tickets that businesses on average successfully get dismissed, meaning that the city collects the same amount of revenue as it would have anyway but with less strain on the traffic court and on businesses."

Transportation Alternatives take issue with this view, and we agree. Here's how TA describes the legislation on the Streetsblog web site: "The DOF Stipulated Fine Program, started in 2004, includes a secret fine schedule for participants which eliminates fines for many parking violations, including double parking and parking at expired meters. (In other words, truckers in the program can park forever at an expired meter.) It also reduces fines for dangerous parking activity like blocking a fire hydrant, parking in a traffic lane, parking on the sidewalk, blocking a crosswalk, and parking in a bike lane."

Sounds a bit different when described in this way; and one commenter is even harsher in his assessment of the program's utility: "This program is "evil." You don't solve a problem by creating another problem. DOF's "Stipulated Fine" reduces fines to zero for truckers who double park, overstay expired meters, park in taxi stands, park in blue zones and park during street cleaning. That is a big deal. Yes trucks should have priority for curb space. Yes, meter rates and regs should be designed to give trucks curb access. But it is wrong, short-sighted and weak willed for the city to "legalize" dangerous double parking and other parking violations while it does nothing about the fundamental problem, which is grossly underpriced curb space."

What's funny to us is that it appears that there's real dissension between various mayoral agencies over this policy, another example of the one hand doesn't know what the other hand's doing among the Bloombergistas. It also shows just how much the vaunted congestion pricing debate may be seen as a fad for the mayor-underscoring that he's less than serious about a comprehensive traffic reduction plan for the city.

Still, the hearing on Wednesday raised some very serious reservations about the DOF scheme. As the Sun points out: "At a hearing yesterday, Glen Bolofsky, the president of, a company that charges members to contest parking tickets on their behalf, testified that the proposal would increase traffic by encouraging more parking violations and confer an unfair advantage on businesses."

And many council members are in apparent agreement, so the Intro was laid over and its fate is very much in doubt. Legislators are concerned that ticket agents are being forced to waste precious time and money for ticketing that will never be acknowledged in revenue producing ways. Stay tuned on this one-and watch how this could come back to hurt David Yassky, the bill's sponsor, next year. No one who's seen as a defender of traffic ticketing methodologies will be seen as a popular favorite in a city wide election.