It's been just about a year since the state legislature passed a bill allowing the city of Albany to set up a residential parking permit system near the Empire State Plaza. So, where's all that at now?
Albany Common Councilman Richard Conti is heading up the task force in charge of developing the system. We had a chance to talk with him last week about how the system is potentially shaping up...
A quick note: Conti says the task force hasn't finished the draft of the system, yet, so some of these details could still change.
+ The state law limits the system to a 3/4 mile radius of the ESP. Conti says the proposed center point of that circle is close to the intersection of Hamilton and Swan. He says that point was picked because it allowed the circle to cover areas around Washington Park (and didn't include parts of the Hudson River).
+ The system only covers residential streets. Streets zoned for commercial will not be included -- so, for example, Lark Street will not be affected.
+ The state law limits the system to 2,750 spaces. Conti says some of those will probably be held back initially in order to deal with implementation issues.
+ The system would be in effect Monday-Friday (except holidays), from 8 am to 6 pm.
+ Streets designated for permit parking would become two-hour parking for people without permits. Conti says the two-hour span was chosen with consideration for visitors and customers for local businesses.
+ The permits would cost $25/year. Eligibility will be determined by residency, and a permit will be associated with a license plate. Permit holders will automatically get a visitor permit.
+ Visitor permits are still being worked out. The task force is trying to figure out a way to make them user-friendly, but also keep them from being easily abused. Conti say an earlier proposed version of the visitor permit system involved having to submit a license plate the day before so it could be loaded into the parking enforcement system for the next day (not exactly user-friendly). That seems to be off the table now. Conti says they think it's possible to create visitor placards that can't be counterfeited.
+ If you're a resident, but don't have a car or didn't purchase a permit, you'd be able to buy a visitor permit for $10/year.
+ Two people, with two cars, living in the same apartment, would each be able to get a permit.
+ There will be a provision for non-resident property owners/small business owners to get permits. Conti says the task force has also been looking at a way of opening permits up to employees of small businesses who can demonstrate their work hours substantially fall within the covered time.
+ Resident permits would not be allowed to be sold.
+ Conti says there's been some discussion of selling excess permits at a "market-based rate," and then using revenue from those permits to help subsidize administration of the system. He says the current provision would allow an assessment of available space after the system's taken effect, and the council could make a decision whether or not to allow permits to be sold based on that assessment (the council would also determine the price).
+ Conti says the system is intended to be revenue neutral, and the permit fee is supposed to only cover the cost of administering the system. He says the city will have to figure out what the upfront costs of launching the system will be (signs, stickers, staffing to handle a surge in applications), along with the ongoing costs of keeping it running (more frequent parking enforcement sweeps).
+ Conti says the goal is to get the system together "as soon as possible" -- he hopes this year. The task force still needs to finish its draft of the system, then the mayor gives his recommendation, an ordinance needs to be introduced, then there's a public hearing before the Common Council, and then it can be voted on.
+ Actual implementation of the system could be sometime later next year, allowing enough time to set everything up and educate people about how it works.
+ Conti says there's a focus on getting the system working as well as possible from the start because the state law only allows it to run as a two-year pilot. That clock starts when the system is officially implemented. "We don't want it to have problems up front that might be held against us later if we go back in two years to get another authorization [from the state legislature]."
It will be interesting to see the actual draft of the proposed system when it's ready. People are bound to have a lot of questions about the details, and having the document posted online would allow the public to start sorting through those.
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