Free Parking: Is it the Secret Ingredient in NYC’s Traffic Problem? (War on Cars Watch)

After floundering for more than a decade, it seems 2019 may finally be the year New York approves a congestion pricing plan. Not only is the governor behind it, but a growing number of state lawmakers say they support charging drivers a fee to enter Manhattan’s business district, spurred by worsening gridlock on city streets and a cash-strapped public transit system in crisis.

But one element in the great traffic debate has gotten less attention: parking policy. If it makes sense to charge cars to drive on the city’s busiest streets, thereby discouraging auto use and speeding up traffic, wouldn’t it make sense to do something similar for parking? Many transit experts say yes, arguing that New York’s parking spaces are grossly underpriced in a city so pressed for space.

While about 85,000 of the city’s parking spots in commercial areas require drivers to feed the meter, a much larger number—about 97 percent of the city’s on-street parking spaces, experts say —are free, a fact that Jemilah Magnusson, communications director at the Institute for Transportation & Development Policy, calls “fairly ridiculous” considering the cost of land and availability of other transit options in New York.

“You are causing more congestion, you are adding to the emissions, you’re taking up valuable space in a city that doesn’t have a lot of space, and that needs to be priced,” she says.