From The Mayor's Desk ...
State leaders are putting the turmoil of the past week behind them, and turning to the big issues they face. One of the biggest that needs their attention is the congestion pricing plan we've proposed for driving into the busiest parts of Manhattan during the busiest work week hours - a plan that would clean our air, green our environment, and upgrade our mass transit.
An independent public opinion survey last week showed that New Yorkers in every borough support congestion pricing to finance mass transit improvements, as our plan does.
But during months of public meetings across the city, we've also heard concerns that congestion pricing could increase parking pressures in communities near the congestion pricing zone.
There's apprehension that out-of-neighborhood commuters might avoid paying congestion pricing fees by leaving cars in scarce parking spaces in those communities.
Well, we're not going to let that happen. As part of our congestion pricing plan, we're also proposing a system for creating "residential parking permit" zones that would protect neighborhood residents as well as local businesses. Here's how it would work.
A community's residents would propose where and when parking restrictions would apply. After their proposal is reviewed and approved by local officials and the City Department of Transportation, parking permits would be issued to vehicles registered to addresses in the residential parking zone. That would give them - and only them - the right to park where and when restrictions are in effect.
Such restrictions could be strictly time-limited and still achieve their purpose. Say, for instance, that they were in force from just 10 until 11:30 on weekday mornings.
Doing that would effectively prevent almost all commuters from using the restricted spaces, because they'd have to move their cars during those hours or be ticketed. But the restrictions would be so brief that they wouldn't unreasonably inconvenience drivers coming into the parking permit zone to shop or do business.
That's one example of how the parking permit program could be tailored to suit local businesses and their customers, as well as neighborhood residents. And it could also be adapted for areas with other parking problems.
We're already relieving parking pressure and traffic congestion by a number of other means. For example, we're eliminating about 30,000 free on-street City parking placards. Residential parking permits - enacted as part of a congestion pricing plan - would also help create a fair and environmentally sound transportation system for our growing city.
That plan requires legislative action - and soon. The City Council and state leaders need to approve congestion pricing by March 31st - that's less than two weeks away - or else New York City will forfeit $354 million in Federal aid that would fund immediate transit improvements. That's serious money - the kind New Yorkers see all too rarely from Washington.
And there's never been a better time than now for our elected leaders to show that they're serious about taking care of the people's business. Congestion pricing - coupled with our residential parking plan - ought to be at the top of their "to do" list.