Observations on the Albany parking permit system so far?

albany parking permit system sign

Justin emails with an observation about Albany's residential parking permit system:

As a resident of Zone A [Center Square] I was very pleased to see how there were always a few spots available on our block when the parking permit program first went into effect. However, now there never are but often there are 10-15 "Visitors" on the block. Who knew we were so popular?
I've begun monitoring the permits and notice repeat offenders. Some have been "visiting" for several weeks now.

Justin notes that the city has asked for people to report complaints and instances of permit abuse. But he says he finds that frustrating because he doesn't think enforcement is adequately monitoring the situation.

While I think it is ridiculous that we are paying people to enforce this and are being asked to volunteer to make it work, it seems like our only option. ... Because right now the parking permit system essentially is a $25 tax on anyone who lives in the neighborhood who doesn't want to get towed. There still are no spots available due the visitor tag abuse.

Justin followed up this past Monday morning: "There are no available spots on my block right now. However, there are 14 Visitors permits. Several of the same people who were 'visiting' on Friday but were gone for the weekend and are now back 'visiting'."

It's been about three months since the parking permit system took effect. Any new system is bound to have quirks, bugs, problems -- that's just the nature of new things.

So if you live in neighborhoods covered by the system -- or frequent them because of work or whatever -- what's your take on how it's working so far? And if you've noticed problems, how would you fix them?*

* Honorary bonus points for constructive ideas.

Earlier on AOA: Maps of the Albany parking permit system's three zones


They should either get rid of "visitor" parking permits altogether, or make them temporary. For example, I live in Center Square and my brother is coming to visit in July, that gives me plenty of time to go and buy one from the city for a few days in July. Make them 3 days max. Just sayin...

I have noticed more spots available during the day, but of course the parishioners at the churches completely ignore the system. They've been allowed to get away with not following parking rules thus far, why start now?

Additionally, it obviously hasn't addressed the issue of nighttime parking, which is just as bad.

I have also noticed the visitor tag abuse. I assumed there would be some kind of go-around on the system. But don't these tags have unique numbers? And wouldn't a bit of effort to enforce result in tickets (and a bit more moolah for the city coffers?)

Constructive idea - Paint lines on streets indicating ideal parking spaces. How many times have I gone to some out of city event and come home to see 3 cars parked inter-spaced in 5 parking spaces? Let's just say too many times. This means I park farther away and have to walk (at night) more than a couple blocks to get home.

Blocking out spaces would result in 1) a gain of spaces and 2) would make it even more screamingly obvious when some jackass parks their shiny car over 2 spaces because, well....jackass.

Before everyone gets too up in arms, keep in mind that some of these "visitors" might actually be residents who can't/haven't been able to get parking permits.

Doing away with visitor parking entirely would be problematic for people who have family from outside the area. I do think the visitor permits need some sort of tweaking though to prevent the misuse pointed out. Making them temporary with dates clearly visible so that people who overstay the permit time would be easy to identify and ticket.

And YES to the idea of blocking out spaces. II've often watched people struggle to find a space that will fit anything larger than a Smart Car because, as Tess said, 2 or 3 cars overlap spaces that could park 4 or 5.

I live on State Street in Center Square, easily among the most packed streets in the neighborhood. Parking is IMMENSELY easier to find at 9am on weekdays (when you've gotta move that car or get a $50 ticket - I don't drive my car to work). I used to have to park 1/2 mile away pretty regularly - now I always find something within a block.

Also, for what it's worth, we own two cars but only got one permit. One car uses the permanent permit, and one uses the visitor's permit. I wonder if this is common. Then again, it has occurred to me how much more than $25 I could get if I were to sell that visitor's permit on craigslist, and I can't be the only one!

It would've been nice to see evening parking addressed, and hopefully we will see this in the future. But in a pinch you can always find overnight parking in Washington Square Park (though it must be moved by 10:30am the next morning).

If this is simply people who live in the neighborhood but choose to use a visitor permit versus a resident permit, that is one thing. I would suggest this should be changed. If you live there, you aren't a visitor. If you don't play by the rules, why should anyone?

Also, if this was residents using Visitor permits then technically the only problem would be that you were not paying the same as other people for the same rights. Realistically, the majority of the Visitor tags show up Monday through Friday from 9 to 4. And are not here on nights and weekends.

I think the permit parking has been great, there have been spots available on my street during the day. I do have a permit and a visitor tag as I have two cars in my family. Not that there isn't abuse, but I believe that maybe seeing so many visitor tags due to that restriction.
Also visitor tabs were not free. It is important to remember that these are residents of the neighborhood, they are allowed to have visitors and should have the tags to use. If it is being abused, a way of identifying it needs to be created, but we cant be told we cant have visitors in our homes for more than 2 hours. There needs to be a balance.

I've noticed a marked improvement for sure. Its still relatively tough to find spots onto street (state) but I'm able to find spots in center square itself which is a huge improvement

I second (and third, and fourth) the suggestion to paint parking lines.

One idea is to put in parking meters that don't apply to those with resident permits. This might bring in enough revenue for the permits to be free for residents. The con is that residents have to look at the parking meters (including any graffiti).

Another alternative is to allow residents to buy books of half day, daily, or weekly visitor permits. They could be adhesive stickers like those dispensed from parking meters in Seattle. Similarly, the stickers could be printed with scannable bar codes to ensure uniqueness and validity. In contrast to the parking meters, this places the cost on the resident purchasing the visitor permits. But, again, the revenue might be enough to make the resident permits free.

I'm not sure the parking lines idea is a good one. In general, I think that the cars are *more* tightly packed than they would be with regular lines. With occasional exception.

The ability of daytime parking has greatly increased in quality of life for my family and it is definitely worth the $25. I agree with Justin P. about the lines. Although some people have a hard time parking as tightly as they should, it doesn't allow for variations in car size and many neighbors have smaller cars. Perhaps we should leave notes like these http://www.perpetualkid.com/parking-citation-notepad.aspx to help people learn.

There does seem to be more visitors on the street than I'd expect. We need to ask the city to be more vigilant, but just any other quality of life issue, residents need to pay attention and report abuse.

Re: painting lines, consider the variation is car sizes. We have Smartcars and Minis and Suburbans and every range of SUVs and everything in between. You paint lines, that means you have to paint them to accommodate the largest vehicles. We'll lose more spaces than we gain. Not a solution.

Parking is remarkably easy and spaces generally available under the new system. Before, I could not find parking at all and would sometimes circle the block for many time looking for available spots in the middle of the day. Now spots are always available. Clearly, state workers were previously clogging the streets. I have not noticed any abuse of visitors parking tags.

Justin P is correct. The majority of parking is bumper to nose. Lines drawn would have to be large enough to accommodate the largest vehicles and there would ultimately be a lot of wasted space. See the painted lines in downtown Troy if you don't believe it. Don't always blame the cars that are there-- often vehicles of different sizes come and go, revealing large spaces in between cars that appear, if one assumes everyone parked at the same time that someone is an idiot. Granted there are people who park like idiots, but it's not the case every time.
I don't want to have to arrange with City Hall every time I have a visitor for more than 2 hours. And meters or stamp books would not help-- either it would have to be so expensive no State worker would park there or it would be cheap enough, some would do it every day.

The real solution is enforcement. Scan the visitor tags. If some show up day after day after day on the same car, revoke the resident's permit, just as the forms we signed said.

Also, visitor passes were free. At least mine was.

I don't think painting lines would help either. My car is very small and can fit in places a lot of others can't. If they accomodated larger vehicles, it would take away the ability to squeeze into a spot that would be left unused if lines were painted. Thanks HudsonParker for pointing out that it isn't always a discourteous parker to blame for the gaps in between cars. Often, it's the result of say an Elantra filling a gap that a Chevy Suburban was parked in previously. Of course there's going to be a substantial gap between bumpers.

As far as the parking system goes, I haven't seen a difference at all. I drive to work at 6:30 in the morning and return around 5:00 at night. For those of us with a regular "9-5er" (that isn't walkable) the new permit system did absolutely nothing. I don't mind parking a few blocks away during the day when it's sunny or at least light out (on the rare occasion that I'm home during the permit hours). The problem is coming home anytime after 7 and having to walk for blocks. Ultimately, I had to pay the $25 to cover the few sick or vacation days that I take throughout the year and didn't reap any benefits from it. It's great that it's working out for other people in the neighborhood, I was just disappointed that nothing was done to help out the night parking issues as well.

As a resident I went and got my permit early. And I got a Visitor permit because I occasionally have contractors or visitors. My permit number is below 100.

There are several people abusing visitor permits on my block. Their permit numbers are in the 4,000 - 5,000 range.

If there is no enforcement, why won't more people sell or give away their permits as they are clearly doing already? If you use to have a parking problem but no longer do, perhaps you will care about this in a year when there are another thousand "Visitors". Would you have plenty of spots if there were 10 additionally people parking on your street every day like on mine? Hudson Parker has it right.

"The real solution is enforcement. Scan the visitor tags. If some show up day after day after day on the same car, revoke the resident's permit, just as the forms we signed said."

According to this article there were 2750 spaces in the parking permit zones.


One of the Visitors on my block has a tag number in the 5400 range. If you don't have a problem parking on your block, I'm willing to bet you will.

I agree with Sherri. Forget about trying to go out to dinner and drive there. If you're home past even 7PM then you're circling to find a spot that's most likely being occupied by people visiting Lark Street. Then you're awoken to noise at 4AM from cars leaving, look out the window, there are more free spaces than at 7:30PM!
Just yesterday, at 8AM on the way to my car, I observed a "visitor" park on Hudson and proceed to the Plaza. The system does work well during the day but not in the evening. I agree that it's a tax for the luxury of parking on your own streets but does not address the issue of evenings.

Revoking all visitors permits because of some people's abuse would suck. Recording the license plates of 'visitors' to see if the same car is using a tag all day, every day would be a better solution.

I definitely think that the lines are a bad idea, since you'd end up with way fewer parking spaces.

And as Sherri and Joe said, the permit system did nothing to help residents who commute to 9-5 jobs (which I would think would be the majority of residents?) or for visitors that arrive after 5. It sounds like the system is working for those who are around during the day, but I've never witnessed it!

I agree with all of the comments that say that the real issue is night and weekend parking. I would happily trade the current system for that. That way the people who work downtown who park on the street could park during the day and the residents could park when they were home on nights and weekends.

If we are ever going to get that I think it is in our best interest to make sure the current system works as well as it can. The current system is only in place for 2 years and then it has to be re-approved. If the current system ends up being widely abused and not a great success I would expect it will be less likely to be re-approved.

I have been living on State street for 6 years and the parking permit has done nothing to help with our parking issues. They are given to anyone who wants one even if they are not residents, and the biggest issue is at nighttime not during the day. In my opinion this was a way for the city to make some money without fixing the problem...big surprise.

The solution wasn't to make parking any better for residents, it was a scam to get more Revenue from citizens without rising "Taxes"

Sorry, but I see a lot of whining from people who knowingly bought into a neighborhood without off street parking...and now expect that everybody else should be inconvenienced because of their decisions.

I'm a resident in the City of Albany, pay my taxes, work in 1 of the permit zones, and need my vehicle to do my work...yet I can't get a permit because the rules are limiting business to 3 permits. How is it fair for me to pay my city taxes and yet be denied the right to park in it?

A solution to night-time parking is get rid of your car or pay for off street parking. There are also metered spots close to Center Square that are free after 6pm. My partner and I routinely use these spots and move the car in the morning before 8AM or we will pay the meter for an hour or so we can sleep later and avoid tickets.

Has there ever been a study on perpendicular parking spaces on one side of the street, with one-way traffic on the other?

I think the streets in these neighborhoods are wide enough and in this case you could feasibly fit two cars perpendicular where only one would fit parallel, therefore the same number of spaces would exist (as parallel parking on both sides) while allowing for cars of varying length to fit in marked spaces.

"Sorry, but I see a lot of whining from people who knowingly bought into a neighborhood without off street parking...and now expect that everybody else should be inconvenienced because of their decisions"

Sorry but I see a whiny person who decided to do business in a neighborhood without adequate parking but wants free parking.

Care to share your Visitor permit number? I'll make you famous. Probably be good for your business.

Visitor passes? What a joke! What about RESIDENT passes. People who live in homes they own or rent on a given street should have pass priority. I moved out of that area because as a resident I could never find a place to park. Visitors should have the same rights as all non residents which equates to pay to park in a lot or park in inconvenient locations. They don't pay to live in these neighborhoods. If parking for work is an issue then that's something they need to take up with their employers. There's nothing worse then living in a neighborhood where you can't even park and have to drag your groceries 10 blocks home then have to move your car every 2 hrs to non existent spots if you are a night worker.

Center Square (and nearby blocks) seems to be the biggest challenge. State workers want to park there during weekdays, hungry/thirsty people want to park there on nights and weekends. In the meantime, residents want to park there any/all of these times.

It's no secret that it's a hassle to constantly circle your block as a resident for parking. But at the same time it can be a pain to find parking if you're going out for dinner or drinks there. On top of that, it might be bad to put a 2 hour limit on visitors who've had a few drinks and make them move their cars.

I walk when I can to avoid the issue altogether. But sometimes it's not nice out, sometimes my friends or I am lazy and want no part of walking, sometimes I am DD. It's nice when you do find a spot to not feel rushed or worry about the car until you're ready to go, and if necessary leave it until the next morning.

I live in the mansion district and am out of the city 9-6. In that scenario, the permit system has really not changed anything at all. There's more parking during the day it seems but back to normal by evening. I actually haven't gotten a permit - as long as I leave by 10 and return after 4, I can park. On a holiday or day off, I just park 2 blocks away outside the zone.

It's a tough problem to solve. It's one of the drawbacks to living in a popular part of the city - limited parking there makes it a premium and as a result, there's value associated. That's why landlords and garages can charge for off-street parking. If you don't want to pay a premium, you deal with the hunting. Supply and demand. Theoretically the permits should help, at a small cost, but maybe they aren't.

The point of the article was basically, "is the parking system working?" How is responding to the question considered whining? The system was supposed to be a tool to help residents park near their homes, not those who commute into Albany for work.

When I moved to Albany, this parking system was not in place. I knew parking may be difficult at times and accepted it as part of living in the area. My point isn't about a lack of parking, it's this: time, money and effort were put into creating this system and really, the issues the system was created to address have not been addressed. It was sold on a platform that emphasised better parking for residents and hasn't delivered that for the majority. For the amount of money and time that went into the planning process, the street signs and the enforcement, I think the results have been less than desirable. This isn't a rant about the lack of parking in the area, it's about the lack of results from a system that came at the expense of the residents.

People just love to fricking complain don't they? Oh poor me, I can't park in front of my house, oh poor me I have to walk, oooooohhhhh.

Definitely feel the late night parking pain. I've always just viewed it as a consequence of living downtown, but maybe I'm not being proactive enough. If anyone has equitable ideas for how to fix this situation, I definitely encourage you to talk to your reps (they listen to ideas). Take it to the (car crowded) streets, my neighbors!

We have an obstacle on our hands, but a fixable one. And, in a sense, it's a problem we're lucky to have:

"If your city doesn't have a parking problem...that's a bigger problem": - Jeff Buell

A lot of these comments seem to be suggesting that the whole thing is a scam because it doesn't help night time parking. I'm really curious how anyone could have possibly been misled into believing that a daytime parking permit system was going to help at night. Can someone show me some sort of communication from any City representative even hinting at such a thing?

The system was designed to free up parking during the day when non-residents were taking up space. Night parking is a completely different issue, and is not so easily addressed.

I loaned my visitor parking tag to a neighbor. She had never bothered to get a permit because her work schedule didn't make it necessary. Three weeks ago, her work schedule changed. She was having a rough couple weeks with her pregnancy, so I just gave her my tag rather than making her go down to city hall. As a result, she's one of the 14 visitor tags that you see on your street.

That being said, I don't see a need for unexpiring visitor passes.

I wish the parking permit allowed us to park in the meters and exempt us from paying for the meters. I live on spring street in center square and sometimes those are the only spots I can find . I don't understand charging someone $40.00 for parking in a metered spot for the length of time that would have given the city $1.00. I feel like it should at least be less for residents.

I checked with the city and they are projecting that they will make 3.7 million dollars from parking tickets this year. I wonder how that compares to other cities of close size.


The whole purpose of the tags is for people like your neighbor. Like my neighbor who is is 84 . When her health aides come to help her, there are no spots near her house. Perhaps she is spoiled and should learn to "waaaaaaalk " like at least one commenter here has expressed?

As far as your example being my block. Sorry. There are no very pregnant women on my block. The funny thing about being someone who lives here and is the type of neighbor that picks up garbage and plants flowers is that you get to know your neighbors. Two new kids on my block this Spring. None using your Visitor permit. The other 14 are day trippers.

And while I'm not the greatest expert on parenting advice, if you couldn't be "bothered" to get a parking permit you probably are going to be "bothered" by having a child. You and your "work schedule" and the word "necessary" are about to have a big new meaning!

I'm confused about the comments about night time parking still being an issue. The night time hours are outside of the scope of the permits and would require more staff to handle the extra enforcement for those hours. I never thought the permit system was going to fix night time parking. It has been successful in the area I thought it would be. I used to have to wait until 1130 to leave work if I was sick, or have to park 5 blocks away near Price Chopper. Not fun when you are seriously ill. Now, I work from home and can leave the area and come back without much issue.

I have been noticing it more difficult to park on the stretch of South Swan near the plaza. Most of the cars this morning didn't have permits- perhaps they moved after 2 hours? But one was there all day.

There is a lot of mixed messages about the visitors permits. I'm pretty certain I was told that it was only one sticker per residence and a second car could use the visitors pass, such as a spouse/room mate. I have heard from others that it is one sticker per authorized vehicle. I have heard the visitor pass was free, and $10.

Do we have enough resources to cover the level of enforcement that was expected? Somehow, they had time to measure everyone's tires from the curb before permits went into place (Sometimes, it is really difficult to line it up if the person in front of you is parked shoddily. 8 years of living here, and I got my first one right before permits went into effect). I've been noticing cars parked past the alternate street parking cut off without tickets a bit more frequently. It makes me wonder if they are focusing on particular areas due to lack of employees to cover the zones.

It has had pros and cons. I think the biggest con is that it is all very inconsistent.

I too was very excited to see the big improvement in parking availability at the start. I agree that it is shrinking. This week, about a third of cars parked on lower Lancaster had actual permits. The rest had visitor tags. No way those were all legit. I like the idea of having them be temporary IF getting one can happen online. Many of us cannot get to City Hall during the work day.

Yes, the Citybshoukd be using our permit fees for enforcement.

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