Does the city owe you a parking spot?

cars parked along new scotland curb

Right? Privilege? Bonus?

While reading the comments about the Albany parking permit system, many of them very critical, we got to wondering about whether a parking spot is some sort of right -- or something more along the lines of a privilege or bonus.

So, of course, we floated the question on Twitter. There were some interesting responses -- both practical and philosophical...

Related: There's a school of thought that parking in this country is too cheap. Economist Tyler Cowen explained the thinking in NYT a few years back:

Is this a serious economic issue? In fact, it's a classic tale of how subsidies, use restrictions, and price controls can steer an economy in wrong directions. Car owners may not want to hear this, but we have way too much free parking.
Higher charges for parking spaces would limit our trips by car. That would cut emissions, alleviate congestion and, as a side effect, improve land use.

Cowen goes on to talk about the work of Donald Shoup, a UCLA urban planning professor and the author of The High Cost of Free Parking. He continues the discussion on his excellent blog -- and responds to criticism.


To expand on the thoughts contained in my space-restricted tweets, I've made an assumption that I want to clarify.

I define "owe", in this context, as the transactional duty of a government to provide services in exchange for taxes. The city "owes" taxpayers either a viable mass transit system or a place to put their cars. I don't care what form (street, garage, underground, suspended from piano wire) the parking spot takes, but the city should make sure it's there.

That is why I don't think it's the city's job to provide free street parking to commuters. In this case, the city should work with employers to make sure the employers provide parking. (Everyone shares a hearty laugh.) No, seriously folks. That's the ideal scenario.

So, if the question is "Is there any group that the city ought to provide parking for?" then I say: yes. That group is the taxpayers that live and park on the streets they pay for.

But if the question is "Is the city obligated to provide a certain vocal demographic the spot they've been taking for granted for years?" then I say: nope.

People move to the suburbs so they have a place to park, among other things. And then they get angry at people who live in the city who expect the same. Just one of the many reasons I don't live in the suburbs. It would be fun to organize a few "Park Outs" where a bunch of city people went to various suburban neighborhoods, parked our cars in front of their houses, threw our fast food trash on their lawns and got all up in their face when they said anything. Note to suburban people who want to boycott albany because the local government is making a half hearted attempt at catering to the taxpayers who live there, please do.

I also would like to post this public service reminder for all the suburban people. Washington Park is dangerous and people get killed there every day and you should avoid it at all costs.

One other thing, this parking permit plan is a joke, it does nothing to address the real parking issues at night and for some reason it took the common council 2 years to come up with which is incomprehensible. Also, it has a sunset provision and in 2 years it will be discontinued. Save your $25.

Having lost a significant amount of its population in the past few decades, I can't imagine how this plan makes Albany more hospitable to businesses or visitors.

Nobody is owed a free parking space. Space is not an unlimited resource, so theres nothing wrong with setting a price in order to bring supply and demand into balance.

I love how the suburbanites commuting into work say "Oh our money goes into the city." What money? Lunch money? Bar money? You do not put in as much money as the actual downtown-living citizens who pay city taxes and live there 24/7. They should be the ones getting the most benefits.

Empire State Plaza was built with the intention of people commuting to work, and the parking lot they built for it doesn't even hold close to the amount of cars that commute in everyday. The problem is that the city did not accomodate the new influx of cars with municipal parking lots. So now people are parking in residential areas all day, making using a car for actual residents a real problem. Parking is so bad, I avoid driving just so I wont lose my spot.

What the the city of Albany and the capital district needs is an improved public transportation system that would efficiently eliminate the need for parking spaces in a city that was built prior to the era of the personal motor vehicle. Medellin, Colombia poses as an example of a city who looked to technologies outside of the standard public transit systems to develop an tailored system that met the financial, time, capacity, and terrain of the community. They also cut their carbon footprint by 175,000 tons.

" I can't imagine how this plan makes Albany more hospitable to businesses or visitors."

I can't either. Which is a good thing. Maybe you can come up with a plan to make your neighborhood more hospitable to business and visitors. When you do, let us know, and we will be sure to come there and impose our views on you. I'm sure you will love it.

I live in the neighborhood and I'm glad the city is addressing the commuter parking issue, but I have two concerns about this system. I keep seeing the "numbers" for the allocated parking spots, but does this mean that the neighborhoods will have actual lines painted to designate a spot? I've seen some pick up trucks in spots where two economy cars could fit easily. I'd be more upset if they did that. Also, a lot of people will leave their cars in downtown Albany when they've have one-too-many at the bars. I wouldn't want to penalize someone for getting home responsibly, but it's a valid concern. No one wants to spend $20 on a cab, only to come get your car the next day and find a $45 ticket.

Parking and the Dump are the two biggest revenue sources for the city of Albany. The city of Albany will welcome without a doubt more complex parking laws. Whereas only certain parking spots were ticketable, now every spot will be a potential revenue source.
A parking ticket should not cost that much.

I love how sububanites are to blame for everything. They're to blame for chronically failing schools (because they dare give a crap about their childs education and choose not to intentionally send them to a failing one), gun violence (because they run away from the problem instead of staying to help fix the culture) and now they're to blame for Albany's lack of parking. Now I know, if anything goes wrong in my life, I can blame the people of Guilderland.

This argument is why my off-street parking space is worth every penny I pay for it. Residents I've talked to (including me, Wash. Park) don't care about daytime parking, it's nights (when WE get home from work) and weekends when the parking is problematic. If you're going to make us pay for parking permits, make them worth the price, for pete's sake. Then have meters for day parkers. I did once work at a place with 4-hour meters outside the building. It was a pain but I fed those quarters twice a day. I survived.

I don't plan to buy into a permit system unless and until it's handling the actual problem residents face. I don't feel that the city owes me a space, which is why I'm perfectly fine with paying parking rent. Sorry commuters, I don't care about you. When I was one of you, I parked in the shuttle lot 3/4 mile away from my office and rode the shuttle halfway (and walked the rest -- even on hot days! or in the rain!), and paid for the privilege. That's as it should be! I wasn't paying for the upkeep of the city streets and sidewalks back then.

Parking during the day doesn't really help residents and it hurts commuters. I live down here and the real issue is parking after 6:00 and on the weekends. I don't know how you fix that without adding real public transportation between cities (rail, more bus) and more parking. This is just going to generate more revenue for the city which will be thrown directly into the toilet.

What are they going to do when the dump is done? Can only generate so much income off of residents and parking. The hole is massive. Yet the money goes to bar areas and other neighborhoods that don't need it as much. Nothing is going to change anytime soon either.

This is just Albany's convoluted way of generating revenue. If you live in these areas you should be outraged! You already pay taxes, why do you want to be forced to pay what is akin to a parking tax to park on a public street?!

I love how suburbanites can turn a discussion about parking into a declaration that anyone who lives in the city doesn't "dare" to care about their kids.


Hadn't realized that the City of Albany was only for the enjoyment of residents. I don't really understand this "us against them" mentality, nor do I think it's productive to encourage it.

I am curious about the nighttime parking issue. If you can't find a spot in the evening, it's sounds like there's a shortage of residents using lots.

Interesting conversation. Center Square is a dump. Walk around. Us parking and walking through Center Square actually "brings up" your neighborhood. I don't have a dog with me, so its not my dog that's sh*tting on your sidewalk. Those aren't my chicken wing bones on the curb. I didn't put those overgrown weeds in front of your house. I'm not robbing people in broad daylight. Center Square will actually get worse without good people parking there!

@Code Monkey - Chill. We get it - you hate suburbanites.

Seriously, though, there would be no city if not for the multitudes commuting in for work. That's what makes a city a city.

Are you making the argument that people should only live where they work? That couldn't happen.

If Ron isn't someone trying to be funny, then I rest my case.

And if Ron is serious, he forgot to mention watermelon in his dog whistle racist post. Yes, please bring us up Ron with your white suburban goodness. What would my life be without another white suburban state worker shuffling by my home scratching off their lotto ticket and wishing they were happy?

Well, I wouldn't have to pick up their losing ticket from my flower garden, but I could live with that.

I don't hate suburbanites. But I do love my city on Sunday mornings when they are home in their lovely homes in the suburbs instead of pretending how to know how to parallel park as they remove someone's bumper. I enjoy this time so I can garden. And pick up chicken bones and dog sh*t. In peace.

What I don't like is people who treat my HOME like it is their playground. You wouldn't like it either. Are there problems in the city? Yes. Many. But the first purpose of a neighborhood should be to serve the people who live there. No one works in Center Square, Hudson Park or the Mansion. People live there. They raise their children there. They garden there. They talk to their neighbors.

I'm making the argument that people should be civil. That said, I've had more suburban middle aged women compliment my gardens than I can count (sadly, the young girls don't look at all despite my blatant attempts to showcase my daisies). These women all obviously don't live in the neighborhood or they would know to steer clear of me. Plenty of suburbanites appreciate the beauty of our neighborhoods. Sadly, many others don't (Hi, "Robbed in Daylight", Ron!). Either way, I think we, being the ones paying the outrageous taxes to live here, should have first dibs on services. I don't understand why people who live elsewhere think they should be first in line. But I'm tempted to rent a bus next winter and fill it up with kids from the hood and head out to that nice free skate out at the YMCA in Delmar just to make my point. Watch how fast that becomes a "Residents Only Skate".

Code Monkey, you're hysterical. Keep it up, I love reading your posts.:-) !!

Now I'm getting offended.

I actually worked in Center Square. In a building directly across from Hudson Park. We didn't mooch your off-street parking. We had a lot directly behind the building. And above us? Residential housing. Oh yes, we were the good neighbors who called when your water heater started LEAKING down to the ground floor. We signed for your packages during business hours, so that UPS could deliver the hay for your bunnies. We called the police when there was a fire in your unit. As the daytime residents, we took our obligation very seriously to keep your neighborhood safe during daylight hours, when the upstairs folks were out working and at school.

So Abby, you don't fit in code monkeys sweeping generalizations and hate filled exagerations against people he's never met? Looks like he's got more studying to do at the Mel Gibson school of rants. Next time don't get offended. Grab the popcorn and have a good laugh. :)

@SteveTenerowicz - If everyone with a car is owed a spot, what about folks who own two cars? Say a couple living at one address? What about an apartment with five college students and five cars? What about the crazy guy down the block with seven cars? Where does the madness end?

Resident parking permits always sound like a good idea that breaks down in practice. Ask your friends who live in a city with such systems. Better, go visit them and try to park close enough to carry your luggage to the front door...

When people rent, or buy near the capital they know there is NO PARKING! It is going to have a BIG impact on my neighborhood. They will park on my block,and take the bus to work. The unions were too busy trying to renegotiate their contracts to get involved in the parking issue. I am not going to vote for anyone who voted for the permit system.
This will not solve the nightime parking problem.
The city's coffers will grow from the permits!
Stores in my neighborhood will remain unrented, and maybe the occupied stores might fold!

I'm a resident in the affected area (Hudson/Park), but I have an off street parking spot. Having my own parking spot was a requirement when looking for a house. That being said, I am definitely 'for' the idea of permit-only street parking, but I don't see how the proposed times are useful. Most people are at work from 8-6 on weekdays. Many/most work outside of the downtown area and use a car to get to work. So the only time when resident permits are required is when most residents aren't home. Then, right at 6 as everyone gets home, it's a free-for-all again. And Thursday - Sunday if you aren't home early, you still aren't going to find a spot.

I'll probably get a permit anyway, since it's cheap and could come in handy for visitors... but I don't think the new system is going to solve any problems. If anything, the streets will be empty during the day, state workers will be pissed, and residents will be pissed when they get home from work and still can't get a space because of diners/bar patrons/etc.

State workers who live in the suburbs need to get a grip and not see a parking spot as an entitlement. It's no accident state workers park in the yuppie sections of Center Square and not, say, Arbor Hill, which, as the crow flies, is still only a couple blocks away from their workplace. They not only want a free parking spot--they want their car to be safe!

It's unbelievably dishonest when state workers (and their unions!) do the whole "it comes with the territory when you live in an urban area" rap. Why don't they say that to themselves, that if you're going to take a job with the state, with a job centered in a state capital (funny how that happens), then you're going to work in a city. And that means getting to a city.

The CDTA is basically built to bring state workers into downtown. The Central Avenue line has its own app to show arrivals (no other line), stops and shuttles are everywhere, and then it all but shuts down at 6pm. And the buses are empty. Take a look while you drive to work next time.

State workers come into town, brown bag their lunch, or buy from the trucks in the summer, and go home. Take a bus. Carpool. Figure it out. Center Square, along with a couple other pockets, is all that's left of a tax base this city has, and it only shows how powerful the state employee unions are that this kind of thing hasn't happened already.

You've got a job for life where you can show up at 7am and leave at 3pm. What else do you want? A valet?

I agree with Paul. Wouldn't there, though, be some relief from parking at night, seeing as folks without permits would have to move their cars by 8am?

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