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On the Media… coverage of free parking

November 21, 2019

From James Barron’s recent piece in the Times on the possibility of eliminating free street parking:

“For drivers, finding a parking spot in New York City is already hard enough. There are so many regulations. So many hydrants. So many loading zones. And so few empty spaces. Now a local transportation committee in Manhattan has broached the unthinkable: eliminating free street parking altogether.”

Barron is connecting two very different ideas that don’t, at least in his version of things, have anything to do with each other: The lack of enough physical space for all the cars and the new (to New York, at least) idea of paying for the space that’s available. “Eliminating free street parking” is not the same as “eliminating parking.” If there’s still street parking but one has to pay for it, that would make it easier for drivers to find a spot. A city that charged for street parking could find that economic sweet spot that encourages people who don’t really need their cars to give them up, leaves enough space so that the people who do need their cars could always find a place to store their vehicle, and take whatever is left and put them to higher uses such as bus lanes, bike lanes, bike share stations, loading zones, parklets and more. Was Barron’s graf edited or checked by anyone for logical consistency before it went to print?

Speaking of higher uses, it’s worth calling out how selfish it is for drivers to constantly complain about “so many hydrants” making it difficult to find parking. It should go without saying, but hydrants exist so that if a building is burning down the fire department can put out the blaze, stop it from spreading and save lives. It’s quite literally the highest social benefit curbside space can have. We often let bellyaching about hydrants pass as just one of those things, as innocuous as someone complaining about the heat in summer, but if you stop and think about for even a second there’s probably no better example of motorist entitlement.

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