What's up with the Albany parking permit system?

A totally unofficial estimate of the area to be covered by the parking permit system.

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.

Comments

It didn't work the first time in the 1980's.

Provisions for car sharing should be included in the parking permitting system. Many center square residents use their vehicle minimally for short trips to the grocery store or for some of the many day trips listed on AOA.

Car sharing could save residents an estimated $150-$500 (based on car share users in cities such as Portland and Philadelphia)

While there is only Connect by Hertz available in Albany the city should work them or should encourage another car sharing organization to include spaces for car sharing in the parking permitting system.

But then again based on the Mayor's office previous actions this should probably wait until the comprehensive plan is adopted just like any urban agricultural plan.

Lauren- Yes, in an ideal world, the permit system would be geared toward the 5 people who will occasionally rent a car to head out to the farm to get chickens to replace the ones they just butchered after they stopped producing eggs.

Did you read this part?
"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."

Would that not cover car sharing?

Wow, I was against this resident parking thing before (as a resident), and now, knowing I'd have to pay for my permit, rather than being given one, I am REALLY against it.

This whole thing is a boondogle! As a taxpayer, and long time city resident i am very much against it !It's too bad those people in center square don't have good parking down there! But, they knew that when they bought the property! It is close to their jobs,down town businesses, and city activities.Why should we around Washington Park be punished by having to pay to park in front of our houses,and when we go to shop? This is another way for the city to make money to fill empty city coffers!

If the biggest complaint in Center Square is parking, then they've come a long way...

@ Treif

I don't believe the $10 visitor permits would include an outside organization.

Also--

The $150-$500 is estimated savings per month.

What happens to all the non-resident, commuters who currently park on these streets? Can existing parking garages and lots accomodate the influx of new cars? This isn't an excuse to put up another garage somewhere is it?

If I read this correctly, as a non-Resident my parking options are to park on Lark Street (unlikely to find a spot), or to only park for 2 hours (which will barely cover going out to eat).

Um, both of those are horrible options.

@Shannon, from what I've been told, Albany has plenty of day time parking capacity to absorb commuters from the suburbs. While the OGS lots for State workers are pretty competitive and tapped out, there are tons of private lots with ample capacity during the work day. Currently, I have a few colleques (private sector) who rather park their car on a side-street and walk the half mile than pay $4 or $6 a day to park. This permit plan would essentially push these folks and any state workers who can't get into an OGS lot into private parking or park their car on the street even farther than where they currently are.

This is a step, but I'm tentative to throw my support on it because it doesn't address one major problem: night parking. During the week, especially sunday nights after 8pm, if you haven't already parked for the night, you'll easily drive around for a half hour looking for a spot. It's gotten so bad that we don't like to go anywhere if we know we're going to come home later. I know that's part of the deal with living in center square, but I'm not sure the permit system is really going to solve any problems. I wouldn't mind paying $25 a year if I was confident it would help.
Also, what about all the church parishioners who park in front of hydrants, on the wrong side of Swan, on the sidewalk, etc...are they actually going to start getting tickets now?

@Summer

Amen to your comment on the church parishioners! Every Sunday it's an illegal parking mob at that corner.

I agree with you - I don't think the permits are going to solve the problem of parking in center square. The real problem is parking at night.


Coming from spending 5 years at college in Boston, realizing that there WEREN'T resident permits in Albany was a bit of a surprise to me. There, resident permits are for night and day, no visitors allowed either. It was resident or nothing, and it was a system I supported because it made sense. When it came time for me to do my internship in downtown Albany, I spent every day driving in and parking in a commercial lot because that was just part of having a downtown job. To me, parking on residential side streets is nothing more than exploiting those who live in the area year-round to save yourself a few bucks. You wanna work in a city? Fine, but you're going to have to park in a garage or a commercial lot. Don't like it? Tough. Get a job in the suburbs that has its own lot or suck it up, but don't exploit the natives just because you're selfish.

I'd like to hear what Albany Common Councilman Richard Conti is doing about the rapes and robberies.

Any idea how many street spots there are in Center Square in relationship to how many cars are registered to residents?

I doubt the state workers are the source of parking issues at 8pm on a Sunday night.

Although I understand the proposal has some merits, I'm concerned about the commercial streets. I constantly pop by Lark Street and the surrounding areas during the day to get coffee, event tickets at the Armory, etc.

Won't the parking permits just push residents/local employees who don't want to pay for permits to park on the "free"/commercially-zoned streets, thereby reducing the amount of parking available for non-residents who want to spend some hard-earned money in the area?

To put it simply (and here's my real concern): I don't want Crisan to suffer just because there's nowhere to park nearby when you need an espresso-gelato fix.

According to Hertz's website, there is no Connect service in the Capital Region.
Would be nice though.

I applaud Mr. Conti's efforts on this difficult issue, but if we don't address the night time parking issue, I am not sure what good it does. We need Lark Street to be successful and we need a livable neighborhood. If there aren't provisions for nightime parking, like a mixed use structure with parking, I will still have to park 4 blocks from my house like I did last night. Also consider how many people will park on commercial streets to avoid the permit system and limit parking for businesses. Lastly, if the permit system ends at 6 does that mean everyone will be vying for a spot when a lot of us are coming home from work with our kids and groceries?

Siobhan, Washington Park is already two-hour parking during business hours, and it's two blocks away from every business on Lark. I don't see how this changes much in that regard. Let's face it, Center Square is busy, and with that comes density. Traffic density, population density, it's a natural side effect. That density may be slightly annoying when we have to walk a few blocks to get to what we want, but it's also what helps make the businesses successful and what keep the area thriving as a neighborhood. It's your cake, and you can't eat it too, is what I'm saying. The alternative is strip malls, and anyone who thinks that model is sustainable 30 years out is kidding themselves.

Look, it's a pilot, it's lasting for two years. I think a lot of the criticism is well-founded, but let's see what actually happens as opposed to what folks speculate will happen. In two years, we evaluate. Is that really such a bad idea? On the other hand, the city could just install meters everywhere. You don't get a vibrant, walkable neighborhood without paying some kind of price, this isn't the suburbs.

Ryan you hit the nail on the head my friend. Just for that I'll let you park in front of my house on Hamilton.

@ EM

http://www.connectbyhertz.com/UniversityAtAlbany/Reservation/Index

They are on the SUNY campus but not exclusive to SUNY students.

Siobhan- with parking limited to 2 hours during the day for non-residents, I think there will be plenty of parking during the day in that area. Residents will not take all the parking during the day. Those of us who have to drive to work will free up space for you.

Thanks, Treif and B., for reminding me about the 2-hour parking limits in Washington Park--I'd forgotten about that. (Although when I lived on State St. across from the park a few years ago, those laws were NEVER enforced, thank god--I'd still be paying off the parking tickets.)

I want you to understand that my comment was out of concern for the local businesses, not out of personal laziness (I'm defintiely lazy, but that's not why I commented on this). The businesses in that area are excellent, but I've seen too many go under even when there weren't issues like a permit parking system that could negatively impact their business. I love the walkable, fun nature of Lark Street and don't want to see businesses I love close or move because it's too difficult to draw in customers in that area.

B., you make a good point by saying this is a pilot program, and that it will be re-evaluated in two years. I hope that the final plan will include an ongoing evaluation system for residents and businesses so that issues can be addressed in a timely fashion, rather than waiting two years to begin addressing problems.

Siobhan- no I'm not talking about Washington Park. All the parking spaces that will be affected will have 2-hour parking for those without permits. Given that, I think there will be MORE parking in the area during the day, not less. This should actually be good for businesses on Lark Street.

"+ 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."

This looks like a step in the right direction. Ultimately, we'll need to have permitted over-night parking as well.

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