The Department of Transportation wants to run a one-year pilot program in Jackson Heights that would hike meter fees, elongate parking durations and keep some meters on until 10 p.m. to enable more people to use the spots.
It may seem counterintuitive, but the Smart Park program has proven its merit, DOT Assistant Commissioner Thomas Maguire said, at a Community Board 3 meeting on Thursday night. The board, although only advisory to the DOT such as in the case of the department’s plaza program, did not vote on accepting the pilot plan at the meeting, but will revisit the proposal at a later meeting.
The Smart Park program was enacted in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Monitoring of the parking meters there showed that more expensive fares caused people to use the spots for less time in one sitting, which allowed 25 percent more vehicles to get to the curb, Maguire said.
CB 3 meeting attendees questioned the similarities between Jackson Heights and Park Slope, but DOT spokesmen said the two areas have similar amounts of cars driving through and taking up parking spots.
In Park Slope the program reduced double parking as well — an ongoing issue in Jackson Heights.
Separate from Smart Park, the DOT plans to roll out paid commercial parking with the hopes to stop double parked delivery trucks from clogging up streets for extended periods of time. The program consists of two components: early morning delivery zones and paid commercial parking. The early morning delivery zone would provide free commercial parking between the end of the street cleaning regulations and 10 am. The paid commercial parking areas will provide metered loading space between 10 am and when the meter turns off in the evening, typically at 7 p.m. The fees would be the same as the proposed Smart Park program.
“It’s all about managing the current supply of spots,” Maguire said.
The pay structure would not change for drivers parking for 30 minutes and less. However, those people parking for more time could see what the DOT calls a progressive rate. Instead of fares being a consistent 25 cents per 15 minutes, between 30 to 60 minutes the cost will be $1 instead of 50 cents. Between 60 and 90 minutes rates will rise another dollar, and between 90 and 120 minutes fares will increase another $1.50. Therefore, with the progressive rate a two-hour stay would cost $4.
The progressive rate is being suggested for 37th Avenue between 73rd and 82nd streets; 74th Street between 37th Avenue and Broadway; Broadway from about 72nd Street to Baxter Avenue; and 82nd Street from 37th Avenue to Baxter Avenue.
A value rate is being proposed on 37th Road from 74th Street to 76th Street; and Roosevelt Avenue from 74th Street to 82nd Street. If the pilot program is approved, drivers could park on those roadways for two hours instead of just for one. Unlike the progressive rate, the cost of 25 cents per 15 minute would be extended for the whole time period. A two-hour stay would cost $2.
“Currently, you can’t park for more than one hour in Jackson Heights,” Maguire noted.
Smart Park won’t help rotate people in and out of parking spots if certain business owners continue to hog all the spots, Board member Jose Rodriguez said.
“It’s always the same guys holding the spot,” he said, adding shopkeepers will park outside their businesses and feed the meters all day.
The DOT will work with the police to enforce the maximum stay laws, which are posted on parking signs, Maguire said in response.
Price increases and longer stays were not met by any opposition at the meeting, but people were worried about meters staying on until 10 p.m.
“People are out there for hours trying to find parking,” Rodriguez said.
“I think there will be a problem, because people look for those spots at 7 p.m.,” board member Lynda McDougald said.
The DOT reminded the board that the 10 p.m. cut off time is only proposed for the one-block stretch of 74th Street between 37th Avenue and 37th Road. Rodriguez, however, said that enough people live on that block that it still could be an issue.
The pilot program was initiated by data collected in the 2009 Jackson Heights traffic study of the area between 41st and 37th avenues and between 73rd and 82nd streets, which CB 3 accepted at its last meeting in the spring. The study has prompted wider crosswalks, one-way streets and the controversial 78th St. plaza.