Everyone who drives or takes taxis in Manhattan has cursed quietly while travelling along a four-lane avenue choked to only two lanes by a Federal Express truck doubled-parked on one side and a United Parcel Service van double-parked on the other. How they manage to do this at the same time—and at rush hour, too—is one of the standing mysteries of metropolitan life. But as e-commerce grows, while Walmart and Barnes and Noble shutter brick-and-mortar stores, this traffic congestion will only worsen. Though Uber cars may replace taxis, these two great economic cyber-disruptions won’t cancel each other out.
So why not recognize the reality and accommodate it? Currently, New York tickets the double-parked FedEx and UPS vans to the tune of about $12 million a year, according to Crain’s New York Business’s most recent tally in 2013. But even though these two delivery behemoths, laden with goods from such e-tailers as Amazon, Drugstore.com, Diapers.com, and so on, account for 20 percent to 30 percent of Gotham’s 10 million annual parking tickets, that $12 million is only 2 percent of the city’s annual take in parking fines, thanks to the discount the city gives the big delivery services through its “stipulated fine” program, which halves the ticket cost in exchange for the big companies’ agreement not to contest tickets. The delivery companies, including also the Fresh Direct grocery service, along with the cable companies Verizon and Time Warner, expense the fines as a cost of doing business, and a very light one at that. But while they get a discount, ordinary New Yorkers get socked with the “externalities”—the hidden cost in wasted time and aggravation imposed by the delivery companies’ cut-rate law-breaking.
Instead of cheaper-by-the dozen fines, let the city’s Transportation and Finance Departments figure out a hefty, equitable rental for a designated delivery-van space every couple of blocks on major Manhattan avenues, and at appropriate intervals on cross streets. Let UPS and FedEx and the like set up computer-scheduling programs to share the space efficiently, something such tech-savvy outfits can do much better than City Hall. And then let the city double or triple the fines on any scofflaw van that blocks traffic. Why should New York’s residents and workers bear the cost of Amazon’s prosperity, and why should New York’s brick-and-mortar retailers pay more in taxes than their fair share of the city’s operating costs? Yes, an Amazon purchase will cost a nickel or a dime more, but why should such e-tailers freeload?
To be sure, such a system means fewer parking spaces for private cars. But parking them is a luxury that their owners should pay for.
While Gotham’s traffic planners, bewitched by the effete urban-green orthodoxy that sees the chimera of global warming as more dire than such real threats as Islamic terrorism, have cut the number of lanes on major thoroughfares in half (making double-parking by FedEx and UPS easier), and have spent millions on bike lanes used only by delivery men, many of them illegal aliens in our lawless sanctuary city, they have left the city’s real traffic problem unsolved. Just try driving north to Harlem on Broadway or Amsterdam Avenue, where the planners have provided one lane to turn right on 125th Street and another to turn left—while also planting a bus stop right in the middle of this Rube Goldberg mess—so that it takes at least three changes of the traffic lights to go straight. Or observe the huge sign on East 46th Street that declares NO TURNS UNTIL PARK AVENUE—though the only possible next turn is Park Avenue, 15 yards ahead.
It really is time to go back to the drawing board, with some sharp-penciled accountants and Earth-dwelling officials to review the planners’ results.
Photo by ShellyS