Humble parking permits rarely make the news but you may be surprised at how politically charged the issue of parking and the prospective regulation of where you can park your car on a weekday or weekend becomes.
Albany in upstate New York is a great example of how parking laws which may seem so simple on the face of it, can divide a city and destroy political alliances as well as several careers.
Albany has become a bustling minor city with several parking issues to contend with. It is not simply the issue of where can you park without getting a ticket, but who can park in your neighborhood without detracting from the area where you live!
Albany had a serious issue with people commuting into the city both to work there and as a transit point for other destinations because of the established rail center, airport and jumping off point for Canada to the north and New York City to the south. Many commuters were parking in neighborhoods which simply didn’t want them there but unless the city made the act illegal, there was nothing unlawful about parking in front of someone’s house and blocking their drive!
Several incidents served to underline the point when in 1996, one irritated homeowner commandeered a wrecking truck and proceeded to haul away several cars parked outside his home. Tempers flared when car owners returned to find their vehicles had been “stolen”, and violence erupted when it became clear the homeowner had hauled the cars away.
In 2004, an effort to impose a parking law which the state legislature approved of but which the city council didn’t want because it was not broad enough to be effective failed to be approved. The ensuing political machinations would have done credit to Machiavelli, the scheming Italian politician. Two major unions in the area, several political figures and bi-partisan grass roots movements on both sides of the parking divide came head to head.
The collision was as thunderous as any rear-ender!
Today, Albany still does not have a parking permit system despite more than 20 years of political bickering.
Parking issues dominate local elections and politics because they are emotive – people don’t want strangers using their neighborhood as a car lot, while commuters consider they already have a hard enough job getting to and from work and should not be treated unfairly. Drivers of any denomination consider the issuance of parking fines to be just another form of raising revenue for the city or local government.
The key to effective parking regulation is to provide a fair and clear set of standards. Parking permits are an ideal way of demonstrating just who, and when a vehicle can be parked in an area. They provide a cheap form of regulation of parking but the crux of the underlying issue must be that parking regulations are imposed which are clearly in everyone’s interests. It is not sufficient to simply proclaim a road or area a “No Parking Zone”; people need to use their vehicles and to be able to park when they are working or commuting, but as Albany demonstrates, getting a consensus is one heck of job requiring more than the wisdom of Solomon.
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