City Council Member Lincoln Restler recently introduced a bill that would incentivize New Yorkers with cash rewards for providing information about vehicles parked illegally.
Civilians would be able to take photos or videos of vehicles improperly parked and submit them to the Department of Transportation. If the DOT agrees that an infraction has occurred, the civilian who reported it would be entitled to 25% of the $175 parking ticket issued to the offender.
The bill proposed by Restler, a council member from Brooklyn, is partly motivated by the persistently low number of traffic tickets over the past few years. While 2022 has seen more traffic tickets than 2021, the overall number is still around half what it was before the pandemic. Proponents of the bill say that, if implemented, it could help increase the number of parking violations that receive tickets.
Through the proposed system, citizens would be able to report various types of parking violations. Some examples include cars blocking the entrances of schools and those parked illegally on crosswalks and sidewalks, which impede the movement of wheelchairs and strollers.
Blocked Bike Lanes
Cars parked in bike lanes are a particular concern in New York, and would likely make up a substantial portion of the violations reported. “Much of the city’s bicycle “infrastructure” is simply paint on the street,” says Jon Orcutt, Advocacy Director for Bike New York. “Bike lanes, even those the city considers ‘protected,’ are easily parked in and are increasingly blocked by motor vehicles across the city.”
To that end, some groups including Bike New York support the new proposal and view it as a necessary step to achieve safer streets and better parking habits. Traffic accidents are an ever-present danger to cyclists in Manhattan, and cars parked in bike lanes remain a perennial problem.
“People operating cars and trucks in New York City are clearly not concerned with the consequences of illegal parking,” says Orcutt. “A more widespread disincentive is needed.”
“City government does not measure the scale of illegal parking or consider whether its parking enforcement effort is adequate to the task of keeping streets moving and safe,” he continues. “The citizen enforcement legislation was born out of frustration with city government’s inaction and unconcern.”
A similar program already exists in NYC which allows citizens to report idling vehicles to the DOT. The Citizens Air Complaint Program rewards those who report idling with the same 25% bounty proposed here. However, that program applies only to commercial vehicles; this would be the first time such a system was implemented for personal vehicles.
However, critics say the system could lead to violence if conflicts between drivers and the citizens photographing and reporting them turn ugly. Some also cite discomfort with the vigilante nature of a system based on neighbors reporting each other for infractions.
“[The proposal] seems kind of nuts,” says Claire Brooks, 27, a New Yorker and cycling enthusiast. “Why would we personally incentivize even more parking tickets, the bane of New Yorkers’ lives?” Despite being a frequent user of bike lanes, she says she opposes the measure.
“I very rarely see cars parked in a bike lane while I ride CitiBike, which is almost every day,” says Derek Moss, 25, a Queens resident who often bikes through Manhattan. “Even if there is a car parked in a bike lane, it isn’t a big deal at all since you can just temporarily go into the street.”
“I think this bill would create more problems than it would solve,” he concludes.