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One Person, One Car, One Parking Space
From residents to state unions, everyone knows about downtown Albany’s “parking problem.” But are there better solutions than making more spaces?

By Miriam Axel-Lute
Photos By Leif Zurmuhlen

In Center Square around 4:30 PM, a man in a pressed olive-green suit is hovering on his stoop, keeping an eye on his double-parked SUV. As soon as he sees a woman approaching her car on the other side of the street, he gets in and pulls over to that side, ready to take the spot. This time he scores a bonus: The pickup truck in front of her leaves as well, giving him plenty of room to park safely away from the fire hydrant. “It’s incredibly unfair that property owners like myself cannot come home during the day and find a space,” he sputters in a well-rehearsed but still indignant sound bite. “On the day [my wife] delivered [our baby], when I should have been being joyous, I was worried about finding a parking space.”

Welcome to downtown Albany.

“You literally have to plan your life around parking spaces,” says Mary Stoll, a Washington Park resident who recounts not being able to get a dishwasher delivered because the delivery person said he could never get a parking spot in her neighborhood. “You walk out of your house in the morning, there are people circling the block and they’ll follow you to your car.”

“We don’t expect to be able to park right in front of our house,” says John Frederick, county legislator for District 6, and a longtime state employee. “If we expected that, we’d live in the suburbs and have a driveway. But we do expect to be able to park and do our business without being ticketed or towed or driving around for 20 minutes.”

Ward 6 Councilman Richard Conti has let desperate neighbors use his driveway so they could get work on their homes done, because so many contractors are loath to come to the neighborhood. He has also heard from landlords who say they have trouble keeping good tenants because of the parking difficulties. Holly Katz, a Mansion Neighborhood resident, notes that elderly residents are at risk when visiting nurses can’t park. Katz pays $100 a month for off-street parking, something she says she wouldn’t do if the streets weren’t so crowded with commuters.

But the unions representing state workers, especially the Civil Service Employees Association and the Public Employees Federation, have long maintained that blaming workers, particularly state workers, is unproductive. It’s not their fault that there aren’t enough spaces, they say. And state workers who once had free parking at Harriman Office Campus until they were relocated downtown as part of the Albany Plan have taken an effective salary cut by losing their parking spot, points out Denyce Duncan Lacy, director of public relations for PEF. PEF and CSEA insist that nothing can be done to alleviate the residents’ woes without the construction of more parking facilities.

What Parking Problem?

Trojans are famous for defending the parking spots in front of their homes by placing furniture—especially 1950s kitchen chairs—in them, and woe betide the fool who attempts to move them aside.

But in Troy’s downtown over the past few years, when new state offices began to arrive and the city was trying to attract tenants to newly renovated historic buildings, such self-help measures were not deemed sufficient. So the city added a new 310-car garage at Fifth Avenue and Broadway last summer, and the manager of the Uncle Sam parking garage is adding another level.

And so, despite the fact that parking is still one of the first questions businesses ask about when considering the compact downtown location, most users feel that there’s enough. Either you’re willing to pay to be in a garage—which are well-occupied but not full—or you get out and move your car every two hours, or you park over in the lots by the Taylor Apartments and walk a few blocks into town.

“If you’re willing to pay, there are plenty of spaces,” says Judy Coyne Becker, who works at the Troy Architectural Program. She alternates between the latter two options.

But if you walk around town with Don Rittner, a Troy native and author of various histories of the city, you can’t help but be reminded that there’s another dimension to parking besides how much and what it costs: where it goes, and what it looks like.

From the top level of a riverfront parking deck, Rittner indicates the spectacular view of the Hudson river. Why is this wasted on a parking deck? he asks. It should be a hotel, or something where people can enjoy this view. Walking past the blank frontage of the new garage, he can barely contain himself. “It’s a morgue for cars,” he says. “At least put some commercial on the ground floor, so it won’t be so desolate.” Well-designed, mixed-use garages not on the waterfront wouldn’t solve the transportation problems, says Rittner, but at least it would be more in line with the character of Troy’s downtown.

—Miriam Axel-Lute

The size, and even existence, of a need for more physical spots is difficult to pin down. First, it’s hard to know just how many people are commuting into Albany to work. The Downtown BID estimates that there are 35,000 to 40,000 workers within its boundaries—but its western boundary is Eagle Street, leaving out the Empire State Plaza and a number of office buildings going west along Washington Avenue. The most recent estimates for state workers come from 2001, before the new DEC building opened. That survey showed 18,898 state workers—some of whom might be included in the BID number, but the majority of whom were likely at the plaza. Since then, more state workers have moved downtown, but others have taken early retirement and not been replaced, says Michelle McDonald, public-information officer for the governor’s Office of Employee Relations. A middle-ground estimate of 50,000 is often tossed around. These numbers will increase when the Alfred E. Smith building is reopened.

Next, no one knows how these workers are getting to their jobs. According to a recent Census survey, 75 percent of Capital Region residents drive to work alone, and another 13 percent carpool. This data was not broken down by destination, however, and it would make sense that higher percentages of people heading to downtown Albany would be walking or taking the bus, since it is surrounded by a higher number of walkable neighborhoods and bus routes than most employment centers.

As for the parking available to those who do drive, the state’s Office of General Services manages approximately 10,500 subsidized parking spaces in garages and lots for state workers. Those garages and lots all have waiting lists, some of them up to 10 years long, except for one of two lots restricted to carpoolers and two peripheral lots (one on Broadway in Menands and one by the 9W 787 exit) from which employees take shuttle buses into downtown. The planned Sheridan Hollow garage will add 1,400 more spots.

“There is not a shortage of parking space,” says Bob Schaffner, who was the executive director of the Albany Parking Authority from 1997 until he retired last week. Counting both public and private (restricted to employees or customers of a specific business or agency, including OGS facilities), the number of off-street spots in downtown Albany has increased from 14,000 in 1998 to 22,000 today, says Schaffner, and even then the public garages and lots weren’t full. They still aren’t.

And while downtown workers see signs that a crunch is on its way—a lot that used to provide daily parking is now filled with monthly parkers, for example—Schaffner says downtown does not yet have serious parking demand, or we’d see private developers building lots and garages. “There hasn’t been a privately built and paid-for garage in this city in 15 years,” he says, adding that the only reason the city could float the bonds for the recently completed 900-spot Quackenbush garage was the disappearance of some surface lots due to new construction.

The “problem” that workers have is not availability, it’s cost. And the cost is not insubstantial. Public parking averages $95 a month for a lot and $135 a month for a garage. State workers, on average, make less than (equivalently employed) private-sector workers, points out Duncan Lacy, so market-rate parking can be tough on their budgets.

Therese Assalian, spokesperson for CSEA, agrees. “Our position has been and remains, adequate and affordable parking for everyone in downtown Albany,” she says. What counts as affordable? “Something which [at] your current salary doesn’t force you to make a choice between parking and dinner. We all know overpriced parking when we see it.”

Costly is different from overpriced, however. State-worker parking, at $18.40 a month for lots and $36.40 a month for garages, is heavily subsidized. Albany’s public parking is priced only to cover the parking authority’s costs—it’s not turning any profit.

State workers aren’t really asking for more than most of their private downtown counterparts get. According to Tracy Metzger, president of the brokerage firm TL Metzger, most employers coming into downtown are picking up the cost for their employees’ parking, or at least subsidizing it. It adds $2 to $3 a square foot to their costs on average, she says, which employers are willing to pay to be downtown, close to government offices, courts, and cultural attractions.

Jeff Cutler, development manager at downtown tech firm Amici, is far from alone when he says he considers parking a requirement for a job. “I do a lot of interviewing,” he says, “and one of the consistent questions that I get is what is the parking situation.” Amici covers parking costs for its employees.

But for at least some workers, convenience is more important than cost. Jennifer Morris, spokeswoman for the Office of General Services, says that the Empire State Plaza visitors lot, which costs $10 a day, fills up by mid-morning most days, with a high percentage of workers rather than visitors. And a widely rumored practice of workers who do have spots in one of the subsidized garages snagging available spots on the street on nice days to avoid the lines going in and out of the garages has further raised the ire of many fed-up residents. “It’s my understanding that the Eagle Street garage is often only half-full,” says Councilman Glen Casey (Ward 11), an observation that county legislator John Fredericks (District 6) echoes. Morris explains that since some workers will not come to work on any given day, there can be the perception of more available spaces than there are. She said they already issue more permits than there are spaces, and even issue special summer permits when more workers are on vacation.

And don’t forget residents’ cars. A common argument from workers and union leaders who feel blamed by the residents is that the problem is at least as much, if not more, too many car owners in neighborhoods that have morphed from single- family homes to multiple-family dwellings.

This is a partial truth. According to Census data, population and car ownership has either held steady or dropped slightly in all of the downtown neighborhoods since 1990. And in a sharply worded letter to PEF president Roger Benson in 2001, state Assemblyman John McEneny (D-Albany) responded to this claim by pointing out that “subdividing buildings has been all but illegal since 1968. . . . Subdividing is not adding to the parking problem. In fact, parking problems prevent subdividing, even where it would make sense.”

On the other hand, the number of residents’ cars does equal or slightly exceed the number of on-street spots, at least in Census tract 14, which encompasses Center Square and Washington Park. “There’s definitely more cars than the neighborhood can probably accommodate,” says Conti. But he is quick to point out that the “nighttime” parking problem, which involves mostly residents and patrons of local businesses, is a completely different question from the daytime issue, one with different possible solutions (opening garages and lots to residents for affordable overnight parking, shortening meter hours from 8-6 to 9-5). That can be explored once the daytime-commuters problem is dealt with, he says.

These tensions primarily find their expression in a protracted political battle over a plan to alleviate the effects of “parking spillover” on the residential neighborhoods through a residential permit parking system. With RPP, residents would pay a modest fee for a permit, while during weekdays nonresidents would be limited to one to two hours.

Residents and elected officials from the Washington Park, Center Square, Hudson/Park, Park South, and Mansion neighborhoods have been pushing for RPP districts for more than 15 years. This year Mayor Jerry Jennings has named securing such a system one of his top two priorities.

“All we are asking is we have access to our streets,” says Stoll. She and other residents have written letters, collected petitions, staged rallies outside the union buildings, and even once held a “Leave Your Car at Home” day, encouraging residents to leave their cars parked on the streets all day so commuters couldn’t get a spot.

But it’s that “our streets” phrase that makes an RPP a tricky proposition. Because the city’s roads have been built and maintained by federal and state taxes, the city can’t “discriminate” among potential users. According to a Supreme Court case from the late 1970s, an RPP district is considered constitutional only if it is a discrete area in which a strong negative effect on the neighborhood’s safety and quality of life from nonresident parkers can be shown.

There Is Such a Thing as Too Much Parking

For a reminder that someone always bears the cost of parking, look no farther than Schenectady, which has just gotten itself out from under a parking albatross that had been a major factor in keeping the city’s bond rating at junk status.

The Broadway parking garage was built in the mid-’80s as part of the agreement that brought the New York State Lottery building downtown. The garage was built larger than the lottery building needed, in anticipation of more downtown development that didn’t materialize. The 1,100-space garage was also put in an economic bind, says Jayme Lahut, executive director of the Metroplex Development Authority, because it is “surrounded by 500 spaces [in lots] that are free.” Add to that long-term contracts for state workers to have spaces for $25 a month, well below cost, and you have a financial mess.

The Broadway garage was losing about $1 million per year, between an operating loss and high debt payments, and the city was making up only half that from parking meters and parking tickets. So in November 2002, Mayor Al Jurczynski asked Metroplex to consider taking over and refinancing the garage using its better bond rating.

It took until February of this year for the players to come to a decision, primarily because Metroplex wanted the seven city lots in with the deal. The Downtown Schenectady Improvement Corporation, a business-owners association that has taxed its own members for 27 years to raise the money to maintain those lots as free parking for customers, feared that Metroplex would try charging for the lots in order to recoup its investment in the garage.

They were more or less right. “Over the course of those 27 years,” says Lahut, it became clear that “free parking is a failed economic development model. It has not resulted in the renaissance of downtown. . . . In almost any urban area of the country, people will pay for parking . . . if there’s a reason to be there. The task of Metroplex is to create reasons to come to downtown Schenectady.”

Free parking may not attract people downtown by itself, says Bill Glock, owner of Family Auto and Tire Service Center, and president of the DSIC, but charging for parking could still keep them away. “The overwhelming concern is that we don’t do anything that detracts from people coming into downtown Schenectady.”

Todd Fabozzi, a planner with the Capital District Regional Planning Commission, agrees. “Charging for now-free surface parking—not a good idea until the demand is sufficient,” he says. When is demand sufficient? “When you have trouble finding a place to park.”

This tension was finally resolved in a Feb. 12 memorandum of understanding between Metroplex, the city, and DSIC. Under the MOU, Metroplex paid $1 million for the lots and assumed the debt on the garage. It will keep several of the lots free for at least three years, and free at night for at least 10. It expects the whole system to start turning a profit after five years. And Metroplex will undertake a parking planning process in which downtown property and business owners will have a strong voice. The city will pay DSIC $50,000 a year for 20 years to compensate for the loss of the lots.

“We wanted to make sure the property owners have a voice” in the planning and management, says Glock, and he feels confident that the current MOU does that.

As for Mayor Brian Stratton, he’s primarily relieved to have the financial drain off his back, while knowing that parking will still be available near key attractions like Proctor’s Theatre. “Parking has always been plentiful here,” he says.

—Miriam Axel-Lute

New York state, unlike most other states on this coast, has determined that approving RPP districts is a state matter, and any municipality wanting to institute one must get an authorization from the state Legislature first. RPP districts have been approved for 22 municipalities in the state, but the legislation for one in Albany has repeatedly failed; its failure is widely credited to intense lobbying from the unions.

But McEneny, a strong supporter of the RPP plan who has introduced the bill and had it passed through the Assembly numerous times, cautions that supporters need to be wary of simplistic statements like “everyone else has one, so we should have one.” He has maps of each of the state’s other RPP districts: Many cover only two to four blocks surrounding a parking generator such as a train station. The largest are about a square mile in a downtown or near a tourist attraction such as a beach. By contrast, the bill currently under consideration would give the city the right to establish RPP districts within a 1 mile radius (3.14 sq miles) surrounding the plaza. The state’s other RPP districts “would all fit within our downtown five times over,” says McEneny.

On the other hand, Albany’s needs may be more comparable with other state capitals or major cities. In states that don’t require Legislature approval, many cities have far more extensive RPP systems than what has been approved in New York state. Harrisburg’s covers six neighborhoods. Baltimore’s covers 36. Philadelphia’s covers 30 neighborhoods, for a total of 700 blocks and 20,000 permit holders. The problem with larger areas is not constitutionality.

In any case, Albany’s RPP districts wouldn’t take up the whole circle designated in the bill, since they wouldn’t cover any commercial streets. But the unions and many other legislators want the city to predefine which specific streets they want to include in RPP districts before they’ll consider supporting the bill.

Jennings, however, is heading in the other direction. According to a frustrated McEneny, the only bill Jennings sent to the state this year (it needs a “request for home rule” ruling from the Common Council before it will be considered by the Legislature) has a new stipulation that says the city has authorization to add RPP districts throughout the entire city. Jennings did not return calls for comment, but several council members pointed out that the mayor is asking only for authorization to consider RPPs anywhere in the city—not to actually institute them everywhere. Every RPP district—inside the one-mile circle or outside—would still have to go through the complete process, including public hearings, to determine if there’s a need and if it’s constitutional.

Part of the motivation for this expansion, says Casey, is a fear that RPP programs in the downtown neighborhoods may push commuters farther out, into neighborhoods like his Pine Hills district. Casey supports the RPP legislation with or without the expansion.

The unions make no bones about vigorously opposing an RPP—at least until some unspecified amount of additional parking is added to the mix. “Sticky decals won’t solve the problem—bulldozers and asphalt will,” says CSEA’s Assalian. “If there’s no way to quantify what the actual shortage is, it would be foolish to sign off on anything where the math is too fuzzy,” she adds.

In testimony to the Albany Common Council in 1998, PEF President Roger Benson explained his position: “If you were building a new house, would you move out of your present home before the new one was completed? I know I wouldn’t. At its core, PEF’s opposition to any permit- parking system in the downtown-Albany area concerns this same basic principle: Don’t give up what you’ve got—no matter how limited that is—until you’ve secured something better, or at least, equally adequate.”

PEF has offered to support a limited RPP plan that reserves only as many residential spots as are added somewhere else for workers. This suggested compromise was offered before the Eagle Street garage was opened in 2000, which residents say at 2,500 spaces has plenty more spaces than would be covered by any downtown RPP. Benson, however, says new plans to move more state workers downtown negate that gain, and the union continues to oppose current RPP plans.

Residents offer another perspective on the effects of the new garage. “All the people who are now in the garage and were on the street, those spots on the street have been taken by people who were in peripheral lots,” says Katz. This assertion is not provable, of course, but the widely decried closing of the Washington Avenue Extension peripheral lot in March 2003, which the unions point to as more evidence that their parking options have been squeezed, happened because only 300 of the 1,700 spots were being used, says OGS’ Morris. In a city where parking is at a premium, OGS was losing hundreds of thousands of dollars on that lot.

“People don’t want to leave their car and take a bus,” says Morris simply. “They want their car available in case they want to go to lunch, to a doctor’s appointment . . .”

The key to moving forward will be getting all the affected stakeholders in one room at the same time, says McEneny, so “no one can weasel out of an honest answer.” The Jennings administration, frustrated with repeated rebuffs of its attempt to secure RPP districts, has said there have been enough meetings, but in fact, says McEneny, there has never been even one meeting of all the parties at once: neighborhood associations, the city, the state (OGS and GOER), the unions, the downtown businesses. Frederick takes that one step further, adding that a professional mediator is called for to bring the factions out of their deeply worn ruts to look at something that may work for all sides.

The bitter back-and-forth over RPP in the papers and in politicians’ rhetoric has been wearing on most of the participants, who say they are optimistic for a compromise this year with the same kind of rote conviction as peace activists say they are optimistic for the end of all war.

Part of the reason it is dragging on like this, say many, is that the issue has been defined too narrowly: “We don’t have a parking problem,” says Albany Common Council majority leader James Sano (Ward 9) forcefully. “What we have is a transportation problem.” Or even more broadly, an urban-sprawl problem.

“It’s obviously related to the choices people have made to place themselves extravagantly all over the landscape in the form of sprawl,” says urbanist and environmentalist Albany resident John Wolcott. “The actions taken to accommodate this sprawl, [creating more parking], create more problems in turn.”

Of course, choice is a tricky word. Don Rittner, a longtime Capital Region environmental activist and anthropologist, points out that the construction of the Empire State Plaza destroyed an entire residential neighborhood, sending a rush of residents to the suburbs, even while it concentrated jobs downtown. That’s certainly not the only reason the region has participated in the national suburbanization binge, but it is true that the state’s revitalization plan for downtown started off with a decidedly suburban mentality.

Free (or subsidized) parking, in fact, distorts the market, making car ownership cheaper and urban housing more expensive, writes Donald Shoup, director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California. He has called free parking “a fertility drug for cars.” As with any other good that is underpriced, it is overutilized, argues Shoup. In Albany, for example, the cost for a subsidized garage spot is less than a monthly CDTA pass, while the market rate for a parking spot is much higher, meaning that someone with a free or cheap parking spot may well choose to drive even if they would have considered the bus, because it is cheaper. “I would probably take the bus,” volunteers Cutler, “but it ends up being more expensive for me than driving.”

Those who want to take this broader perspective have a long list of things that ought to be involved in a comprehensive transportation plan. Addressing the amount of and location of parking would be just once piece.*

Frederick suggests tax and salary incentives for carpooling, reduced parking fees for lower-paid employees, free or reduced CDTA swiper cards, better park-and-ride lots, and other incentives to use mass transit. “Why do we not have 12 convenient, well-lit peripheral lots attached to convenience stores?” asks Frederick. He says that lots like this could be well-used if the shuttle rides were quick and available late into the evening, and if they were associated with a store that would keep them from being empty and desolate.

A Good Problem to Have

“Saratoga Springs is really becoming the place to be for a longer period of the year,” says Mayor Michael Lenz. Business is booming downtown, and even outside of the super-busy track season, people are coming downtown to shop, or for the nightlife. And it’s become harder and harder to park. “It’s crossed over that line from a perception to a reality we have to address,” says Lenz.

A 2001 report from consulting firm Edwards and Kelcey recommended adding 1,250 additional parking spaces over the next 10 to 15 years. Lenz has his sights set on 500 to 600 at the moment, possibly starting with a new garage along Woodlawn Avenue, funded by the sale of the “Hub” parking lot.

The dynamics of parking in Saratoga Springs are different from any of the other Capital Region’s cities in that the primary concern is providing spots for tourists and shoppers, rather than workers or residents. In fact, one of the proposed measures is a shuttle-bus system from out-lying lots—which would be encouraged specifically for workers “to free up our lots for tourists, to free up parking internally for people who are here to shop,” says Lenz, who adds, almost regretfully, that “you can’t mandate that. You can’t make it illegal for employees to park close.” You can only appeal to their team spirit in the competition of the vibrant downtown against the malls, which is how Saratoga Springs defines its economic mission.

That determination to compete with the malls also makes Lenz’s thoughts on charging for parking sound a lot like those of the Downtown Schenectady Improvement Corporation, despite the fact that the two cities’ demand is worlds apart. “We can’t put up barriers,” says Lenz. “The malls don’t charge for parking.” The exception may be at night during the summer, he says, when people making a night of it usually spend so much money anyway they probably won’t mind $5 to park.

Matt McCabe, finance commissioner, owner of Saratoga Guitar, and chair of the previous mayor’s Blue Ribbon Parking Commission, agrees. “I am not sure that paid parking can come into the mix at this time,” he says.

McCabe is a big supporter of the shuttle-bus idea, not just for bringing workers in, but also for bringing residents and visitors out to cultural attractions like SPAC. “It’s got to be clean, neat, service-oriented, on time, and comfortable—first-rate Saratoga service,” he says, but if these standards are met, he believes people will use alternatives even if parking remains free.

In addition to city-owned shuttles, Lenz is also having discussions with CDTA about expanding its service within and around the city.

—Miriam Axel-Lute

A Downtown Albany BID program, Commuter Cash, has been operating since October in an attempt to woo some downtown workers onto public transit. The program offers workers either a $20-a-week voucher for private bus lines like Yankee Trails and Upstate Transit, or $20 off a monthly CDTA bus pass, for six months. The idea, says executive director Pamela Tobin, is to give workers a chance to test out public transit, and then encourage employers to take over the cost after six months, offering it either as a benefit (in exchange for giving up a regular parking place) or at least as a pretax deduction. This can save employers payroll taxes. The program has 300 participants at the moment, but it remains to be seen if employers will adopt it. The idea was taken from a successful similar program at DEC, but nothing similar has been offered by the state at large.

PEF and CSEA do offer discounted bus passes to their members, but so far, they say, they haven’t put energy into lobbying for better mass-transit options because they haven’t heard from their members that they want that, although they have heard that the choices available aren’t sufficient. “Carpooling and/or relying on the bus schedules has not proven to be the most reliable choice for our members,” says Duncan Lacy. “If you live in Clifton Park and work in downtown Albany and you care for children or an elderly parent, if something comes up you need to be able to get to them.”

For Sano, the answer has to include light rail: Nothing less than that is going to be sufficient to handle the growth of Tech Valley and new state offices downtown, he says. And it has to be paid for by the state. “They built [the Empire State Plaza] with no transportation plan,” he says. “The state has to pay for a problem they created.”

Encouraging more downtown workers to live within walking distance could also help. Wolcott suggests extra points on civil-service exams for those who can walk to work. In a Nov. 13, 2003 op-ed in the Times Union, Karl Berger, a PEF shop steward from ENCON, suggested “mortgage incentives for people who relocate near their place of work.” One such program does exist in Albany, providing $5,000 in closing cost assistance, but it’s in the Delaware Avenue Neighborhood, intended for employees of the University Heights/Albany Med complex.

One option that has not come up locally, but which Shoup promotes and which has started to catch on in California, is “parking cash out,” in which every employee is given the same amount of value—whether in a parking spot, transit passes, or cash for those who use neither. This increases fairness with which employees are treated, but it requires conceiving of a parking space as a benefit, something the unions (and most employers) are not yet ready to do. “It’s not a benefit. It’s a term and condition of employment,” says Duncan Lacy tersely.

Supporters of the residential permit parking system are skeptical that such efforts will catch on as long as free parking is readily accessible along neighborhood streets. As OGS’ Morris (who does not have a position on RPP) says, “You can encourage people all you want, but if they can park downtown, they are going to want to do that.”

“The permit parking is the lynchpin,” emphasizes Frederick. “Then the unions will have to go to OGS and say there’s not enough parking, not enough help finding carpooling, not enough emergency planning to get back to Clifton Park [if you take the bus].”

A residential permit parking system would put more impetus behind a movement to create a comprehensive regional transportation system, says Sano. But by itself it addresses only a symptom, not the underlying problem of too many cars coming into the city. “We should be looking at the root problem,” he says. “We’ve been thinking inside this box for too long.”

*Look for Metroland’s take on transportation alternatives next week.

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