Circling blocks over and over to find a parking spot is a painful but familiar ritual for New York City drivers. City Council lawmakers want to ease the pain — and reduce traffic congestion — by reserving most spaces in certain neighborhoods for residents.
"Commuters from other parts of the region do not have a god-given right to park for free on our residential streets," Councilman Mark Levine (D-Manhattan) said.
A bill Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez introduced Wednesday would require the Department of Transportation to set up a citywide residential parking permit program that would reserve up to 80 percent the spaces in participating neighborhoods for people who live there.
Residents would pay a small annual fee for a permit that would give them priority for those spaces, said Rodriguez, a Manhattan Democrat who chairs the Transportation Committee. The city would designate neighborhoods as permit zones based on requests from community boards, he said.
Other big cities such as Boston, San Francisco and Chicago have similar programs, lawmakers said.
The program wouldn't change rules for spaces with meters or those located in commercial areas. But it would prevent drivers from neighboring states or suburbs from dropping their cars on city streets, Levine said.
That problem is especially acute in Upper Manhattan, where commuters coming off the George Washington Bridge regularly snatch vacant spaces, Levine said. That's why he and three other Council members introduced a separate bill to create a permit program in the borough north of 60th Street.
Those drivers also clog the city's streets at a time when traffic congestion is worse than ever, said Paul Steely White of Transportation Alternatives, a transit advocacy group. Studies have shown up to a quarter of all cars parking curbside come from out of state, he said.
"Why are New Jersey drivers, Pennsylvania drivers, getting the same access to our curb as residents?" White said.
Lawmakers and New Yorkers have pushed for a permit program for years. The Council passed a resolution in 2011 asking the state Legislature to authorize one, but the proposal never went anywhere in Albany, according to news reports from the time.
But the Council is now confident it could create one on its own, Rodriguez said, but members are discussing the proposal with state lawmakers as a "backup plan."
"This is not something new," Rodriguez said. "If we asked any resident, people would say, 'Bring it in, we need it now.'"
The Department of Transportation questioned the idea in a 2012 study, saying a permit program would be complicated to administer and wouldn't benefit residents much.