Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Phantom Space (or Public Advocate Helps Fight Tickets).

Angry about school closings? Even angrier about the school parking restrictions that linger on, long after the students have been shuffled elsewhere, like the wandering shade of a Schools Chancellor who couldn’t commit? Join the congregation.
Tired of passing that huge space on both sides of a rusted, hollowed out fire hydrant that hasn’t worked for years but is menacingly haunted by the ticket agents of firefighting past? You too can be saved.
Are you a victim of last year’s DOT ticket writing strategy for parking in bus stops where buses no longer exist? The bus service, those routes, were killed but the rattle of their engines could be heard at all hours of the night in the DOT front office as the tickets kept coming in and we were supposed to keep paying until the news media publicly embarrassed the DOT and their Finance Department agreed to forgive any of those tickets if you were lucky enough to have not already paid [post].
Well now, contrary to what you may have read in this blog a few weeks ago, we have another way to fight off these malicious spirits, to exorcise those parking spaces held in limbo by the DOT and ransomed by you and me, and even help your fellow New Yorkers along the way. Bill de Blasio (our public advocate for the city of New York) has created a web page to speed the update of parking signs in areas where the reasons for a parking prohibition no longer exist and to even help victims of those improperly marked parking restrictions beat those tickets (call his office at 212-669-7250 and “we'll work to get your tickets dismissed.”)
What with those agents writing tickets with their sixth sense and parking taxes as steep as they are, even the ghost of a space is important.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

San Francisco Parking App

San Francisco has a parking App. Last month the city launched an IPhone App that shows real time parking space availability. They installed almost 20,000 sensors around the city, 7000 sensors into metered parking spots and 12,250 into spots in city garages. NY Times article. The App shows when these spaces are vacated. I had heard Speaker Christine Quinn in February calling for such a system here but she was also announcing her reelection campaign, so I wasn’t sure she was serious. To begin with there were several obvious questions like could it even work here, how much would such a plan cost and how would it become available to everyone, even people who don’t have an IPhone. Anyway this ambitious $20 million system is born from the high hopes of the SF Dept of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration that it will ease traffic congestion and driver frustration, not to mention help them regulate pricing at meters and garages based on demand and competition.
Is it just the parking map competitor in me or does this way too casually spend very scarce tax dollars on a project that sounds as much like science as fiction. The obvious question I have is so what if a car pulls out of a space across town. I can’t get down the block in my neighborhood before one car leaves a space and another swoops in, or backs maniacally down the street or tries a sudden U-Turn, sometimes all at the same time for that space. Can SF really be much better? For $20 million I'd like to know the space will still be available when I get there. In fact, wouldn't this App alert thousands of people and make it more likely that the spaces you first headed for will not be available, but that, meanwhile, others will have become available? Kind of like musical chairs or parking in major urban centers.
There is all kinds of anecdotal thinking about how this App will lessen traffic, driver anxiety and car related pollution, but then something as obvious as an App that requires people to access their phones while negotiating traffic and pedestrians and, most importantly, while competing with other drivers using the same App seems to have left them unconcerned. When the App starts up there is a warning not to use the system when driving. That’ll do it, right?
Instead, I propose a parking map that shows at a glance how much legal parking is allowed in a particular neighborhood just by recognizing the time sweeps on a few clocks and the frequency and color of those of those clocks. This map could be available online and in print and through a Web Mobile App that downloads the book version to your smartphone. Been there. Done that.

Sunday, May 1, 2011


A recent trip to Montreal offered many remarkable sights: