A major aim of a proposal from Mayor Eric Adams'...

A major aim of a proposal from Mayor Eric Adams' administration is to boost commercial activity by charging parking rates on city streets based on demand. Credit: Jeff Bachner

The cost of parking on New York City streets could fluctuate in real-time depending on demand, under a plan released Tuesday by Mayor Eric Adams’ administration that explores charging “closer to market rate” overall and decreasing the number of free spots.

An aim is to increase commercial activity by encouraging parking-space turnover, the plan says.

“Parking pricing should reflect demand to encourage the most efficient use of limited space,” the plan says, calling for an update to meter rates and “geographies to reflect the market and increased demand.”

About 97% of the city’s roughly  3 million street parking spots are un-metered, Donald Shoup, a professor in the department of urban planning at UCLA, has said.

The last major change to meter parking rates was in 2018. Rates are set: between $1.25 and $7.50 per hour, and between $5 and $8 for commercial vehicles, depending on location and duration, according to the city’s Department of Transportation.

New rates take effect next month, starting Oct. 16 in Manhattan. One category of parking in the core of midtown or lower Manhattan is now $4.50 for the first hour. It’s going up to $5.50.

Cruising around for a spot notwithstanding, the city’s parking rates are a relative bargain, according to the 2023 book “Paved Paradise: How Parking Explains the World,” which cited a study from 2014, when prices maxed out at $5 an hour; the median hour in a garage was $19.

The book said that the curb was “a better deal than the cheapest garage parking.”

What the Adams administration released Tuesday lacked specifics. It’s a plan to come up with a plan.

San Francisco adjusts rates to “encourage people to park in underutilized blocks and garages, helping to open up spaces in busy areas and at busy times,” a program website says.

Henry Grabar, author of the "Paved Paradise" book, called San Francisco’s program the “gold standard.”

“People spend less time looking for parking, since the price is set to create free spaces on every block. Some of them also pay less, since prices for under-used parking (like in city-owned garages) went down while popular street destinations became more expensive,” he wrote in a direct message.

Grabar noted that New York City already had a dynamic pricing policy of sorts, albeit one that wasn’t technology-based: parking is free at night in most places and on Sundays, for example.

Most cities use apps to let drivers pay for parking, he said, and New York City should use such an app to list dynamic rates in real time.

The Adams administration's ideas for dynamic pricing are in a 44-page report: “Curb Management Action Plan,” which also suggests charging for curb use, such as by e-commerce package sorting; establishing more bike parking; and expanding loading zones.

The dynamic pricing idea has been tried in the region, to mixed reviews.

In 2019, the Hoboken City Council voted to repeal its program after an outcry over a spike in parking rates, about a month after implementation.

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