THE COMMUTE: I admit it. I was stuck for a story this week with no apparent transportation problems resulting from our little snowstorm this past weekend. Of course, it will take a major storm to know if any of the procedural changes put into effect after last winter’s fiasco will keep the subways and buses operating smoothly, or if the MTA will decide it will be more prudent to suspend service again as they did last year for Hurricane Irene that never materialized.
Missing Parking Signs
Since I usually focus on the MTA, let us give equal time this week to the DOT and look at parking regulations. The one that is most unfair, which traps many unsuspecting motorists, requires you to adhere to the stricter regulation in case of a conflict. Theoretically there should be no conflicts and the regulations should be clear, but that often is not the case. The most common example is when you are parked near an Alternate Side Parking (ASP) regulation, which allows you to park for the duration of time you intend to park. Most drivers just park and walk away after checking the closest sign and think they are safe.
They are not.
Unless you are parked near an intersection, you must make sure that you are parked between two signs with the same restriction even if that means walking to the other end of the block. If the sign you see permitting you to park is 10 feet from your car, and 100 or 400 feet away there is another sign stating “No Parking Anytime” and it is pointing in your direction, you may still receive a summons because the “No Parking Anytime” sign would apply — not the ASP sign — and it would cost you $115. This occurs because the other ASP regulation to complement yours should be there, but is missing. If the agent is coming from the direction of the more restrictive sign in making his or her rounds, that sign is the last one he or she sees and the one in effect. A “No Parking Anytime” sign, which may have been intended for one or two parking spaces, can be now be in effect for most of the block until the missing ASP sign is replaced. This can be a major hardship where parking is at a premium.
It could take the city years to replace a missing or defective sign, especially if no one reports it missing. There is a disincentive for DOT to replace its signs in a timely manner since conflicting signage means extra revenue for the city and there is no penalty if they do not replace the signage. To be fair to the motorist, the law should be changed so that the closer sign applies, not the more restrictive one, and the agent should be able to void tickets already written in such cases. City council members, are you listening?
Database Of Parking Regulations
Also regarding parking, DOT’s website now sports a new feature. It includes a database showing parking regulations for each block in the city, which can be very useful. For example, if you are making a discretionary trip to a neighborhood where parking is difficult, all you do is look up the block where you want to park to check when alternate side parking is in effect before you make your trip. If it states, for example, “No Parking 11 to 2 on Thursday,” schedule your trip to arrive there at or shortly after 2:00 p.m. on a Thursday, when there should be plenty of parking available. This can especially be helpful when scheduling non-emergency appointments to the doctor.
I thought I would give the database a test and entered my block and was informed that my block has no parking regulations, which is not accurate. The web page allows you to submit corrections. I wrote that there are regulations on the block but they are not listed. I immediately received an automated reply thanking me for reporting a damaged sign. So much for technology.
Can You Legally Park At A Curb Cut?
This is an interesting question. Since I have not received a parking or traffic ticket in at least 10 years, I have not checked New York City’s parking and traffic regulations in quite a while. I was curious after reading on DOT’s website last year that it is now legal to block a pedestrian ramp, more popularly known as a curb cut, in certain locations. I figured this had to be a mistake. What is the use in having them if they are blocked? DOT even discusses how important these ramps are.
It was time to check the actual regulations, which are available on DOT’s website for download [PDF]. And guess what? DOT may be correct, or they may be wrong. No wonder there is confusion. After the change was made several years ago, agents were still giving tickets, and some judges were refusing to dismiss them, even after being presented with a copy of DOT’s web page as evidence.
The DOT is correct under Section 4-08 (f) (7) (Page 30). You are allowed to park blocking a curb cut provided all the following conditions are met:
- There are no other regulations forbidding you to park;
- It is located at a T intersection;
- There is no traffic signal at the intersection and
- There is no crosswalk.
Now here is where it gets confusing: A crosswalk does not have to be painted in order to be considered a crosswalk, except at T intersections where a crosswalk must be painted or it is not a crosswalk. This is defined in Section 4-01 (b) on page 2.
DOT is incorrect if you check [Code 67] which still prohibits parking in front of a pedestrian ramp with no exceptions and there is a $165 fine to go along with breaking that code. This is also on their website. Why it should be legal to block a pedestrian ramp in any case is a mystery. It does not make sense since these ramps are necessary for wheelchairs, anyone pushing a stroller, or someone just having difficulty negotiating steps. A question for the lawyers: Does the traffic code supersede the Rules and Regulations when there is a conflict?
Other Interesting Regulations
I also decided to check out some of the other regulations and codes.
- Pedestrians have the right of way when crossing in a crosswalk either painted or unpainted. However, since a crosswalk must be painted at a T intersection to be considered a crosswalk, you do not have the right of way when crossing there unless there is a traffic signal.
- You are only not permitted to cross mid-block, where there is a traffic signal at both corners between where you are crossing. (404) (c) (3). Therefore midblock crossings in the city should be legal where there are no traffic signals. Since you do not have the right of way, be extra careful.
- Although a licensed driver is permitted to stand at a fire hydrant as long as he is ready to move his vehicle upon the approach of fire apparatus, he may not stand at a fire hydrant after sunset. (408) (e) (2). Also, if there is a parking meter closer than 15 feet to a hydrant, the parking space is considered legal.
- Double parking is allowed for commercial vehicles when making “expeditious” deliveries or service calls outside of Midtown Manhattan if there is no authorized loading zone or parking available within 100 feet. (408) (f) (1) The part about Midtown Manhattan is mentioned as [Code 46] ”Expeditious” is defined as no inactivity for 30 minutes. I previously thought all double parking was supposedly illegal. Apparently those trucks on Brighton Beach Avenue double-parked for up to three-hours delivering fruit are legally parked unless they violate Section 1102 of the state vehicle and traffic law. I’ll leave that one for another day.
- If DOT issues you a violation for a defective sidewalk, there is no fine associated with it unless it is not repaired in 45 days. If the defect is a result of tree roots pushing up the sidewalk and the city makes the repair because the homeowner does not, you are not obligated to pay for the repair. However, the city must agree with you as to the cause of the defect and you must request a Root and Sidewalk Consultation from the Department of Parks Trees and Sidewalks program to qualify. Doesn’t say if Parks has to provide one.
I was also surprised to learn that virtually all parking summonses except for meter violations or street cleaning regulations (formerly known as ASP) are now either $95 or $115. The fine for an expired meter is $35 and violating street cleaning regulations is $45. There have been instances where agents have given expired meter tickets several minutes before the meter actually expired. If your car is booted or towed, it can cost you much, much more.
Also, the fine could vary for the same offense for example violating Code 59 which prohibits angle parking where it is not permitted will cost you $115. However if you are cited for violating Code 60 or 61which more or less says the same thing as Code 59, the fine is only $45. If you are charged with violating Code 68 “Not parking as marked on a posted sign,” the fine is $65. Don’t forget Code 99 for other violations with the fine amount listed as “vary.”
Bottom line, be careful where you park and don’t trust DOT.
The Commute is a weekly feature highlighting news and information about the city’s mass transit system and transportation infrastructure. It is written by Allan Rosen, a Manhattan Beach resident and former Director of MTA/NYC Transit Bus Planning (1981).