Greater City Providence

Councilman Sam Zurier on Overnight Resident Parking Permits

Sam Zurier
City Councilman Sam Zurier
East Side Councilman Sam Zurier released a statement [.pdf] to his constituents today about the Overnight Resident Parking Permit Program:

October 3, 2011
Dear Fellow East Siders:

In this year’s budget, the administration resolved to raise $1 million in revenue through the introduction of a city-wide overnight parking permit program. As you may know, a number of Providence neighborhoods introduced overnight parking permits on a trial basis. As you may also know, Providence is one of the few cities of its size nationally without overnight parking, providing a basis for the administration’s initiative.

Before changing the existing law to authorize the program, the Finance Committee asked the administration to present an implementation plan, which the administration did last week. As proposed by the administration, the program will allow two permits per residence for a fee of $100 each. Applicants must have a Rhode Island motor vehicle registration, but a Providence registration is not required. The administration has engaged an outside vendor to permit online application for permits (subject to verification) and enforcement based on recognition of the permit holder’s license plate number. The vendor has trucks that can scan the license plates automatically, and the vendor has stated that two trucks are sufficient to cover the entire City at night. In addition, police and parking enforcement officers can enter the car’s license plate into their own computers with a wireless connection and determine whether the car parking overnight has permission to do so. Overnight parking will be subject to the same limitations as parking during the daytime; for example, an overnight parking permit does not permit one to park overnight in front of a fire hydrant.

The Finance Committee asked a number of questions concerning the implementation plan. Several of them addressed the vendor contract, which will cost $18 per permit. For that money, the vendor will provide the online sign-up system and the license plate recognition technology, in contrast to the current sticker-permit system. The online sign-up program has value, as it will generate a database of telephone numbers and email addresses to provide rapid notice in the event of a snow emergency, scheduled street sweeping or other event requiring that people move their cars. On the other hand, the benefits of the license-plate recognition technology over simple permit stickers is not clear. I asked whether we can require Providence registrations as a condition for receiving a permit, as that will enhance our collection of motor vehicle taxes from out-of-state residents (such as students) who currently are exempt from the State’s registration rules. The City’s public safety offices will review the implementation plan before is finalized. They have indicated that they believe the general concept is workable. The administration will consider these comments and propose revisions to the plan at another hearing in the near future.

Sam Zurier

There was quite the discussion about all this last week on Facebook. I’m just going to post this without comment. I have some opinions on this all, but would like to see what you all think.

Jef Nickerson

Jef is Greater City Providence's co-founder, editor, and publisher. He grew up on Cape Cod and lived in Boston; Portland, Maine; and New York before settling in Providence. In addition to urbanism, Jef is interested in art, design, and ice cream. Please feel free to contact Jef if you have any question or comments about Greater City Providence.


  • Outside vendor. O when we will learn?

    Nevertheless, it’s about time.

    Is a permit valid citywide or in a district where the car is registered?

    Will it be possible to sell more permits in a given area than there are legal parking spots?

  • overnight parking shouldn’t cost anything. period.

    has the city council seen how many college kids come to providence?

    does the city council want to see less drunk drivers on the road because they know they can leave their car overnight and take a cab home?

    does the city council have any idea how terrible this city looks with all the paved front yards and open air lots?

    does the city council know that providence looks like a ghost town late at night because there is nothing on the roads?

    does the city council want to make life easier for the citizens they represent?

    overnight parking should just exist. nobody should have to think about it.

    then to raise revenue, neighborhood parking permits could be sold just like in every other city.

    that would require the city pay for signs though…

  • I’m fine with bringing overnight parking to Providence. I think it’s a stupid restriction.

    I think the technology is a great benefit– having only two trucks out on the road covering the whole city quickly and efficiently at night is worthwhile, rather than having to pay cops to find a sticker somewhere on a car. Sounds like the technology will make the process more efficient with some added benefits like the online registry.

    However, I am disappointed that the lifting of this ban does not come alongside a comprehensive way to deal with the surface lots in the core of the city. I would love to see this whole thing as part of a larger package that re-imagines how we allow for parking as a whole in the city.

  • A $100 a year just to be able to park on the street at night for streets that are paid for by the already cash strapped tax payers? Seems a bit high.

    Do we know if the proposal addresses of over-night visitor parking?

  • I believe there is a district restriction (it goes by police district based on what I’ve read).

    Personally, I think $100 is too much. What was the point in having a pilot program priced at $25 to see if it’ll actually work and then jacking up the price by 400%? The pilot program would have failed at that price and we wouldn’t even be arguing this. I think this program will fail at that price.

    I agree with the councilman that we need to restrict it to cars registered in Providence (I read somewhere that they’re thinking about limited it to cars registered in RI, but it doesn’t do the city any good if they’re not registered in the city). However, I would not have a problem if they did something like charge Providence residents a much lower price (how about $25?) since they pay taxes here, and then charge non-residents (students, for example) a much higher rate (let’s say $200-400 per year). Then the city needs to enforce the ordinance that says that no more than 25% of your property can be paved, which will force the hands of landlords to dig up the pavement. Then the city should limit the number of parking lots they’ll allow in any given area. They’ll then have students either not bringing their cars to school or get quite a bit of money from the students. While I don’t necessarily like the idea of taking money from students, they do use our roads and it’s not something the colleges should be covering through their PILOT payments.

    But before the city starts gouging their residents (and I don’t want to hear “you choose to own a car, blah blah blah” because some people can’t get where they need to on public transportation alone), they should look to other sources of revenue… fully enforce the snow removal ordinance (yes, this will be taking money from residents, but these are neglectful residents), fully enforce the parking laws (they’ve started doing this, but it can be done better), fully enforce the removal of trash/recycle receptacles by a certain time after it’s been collected… Then then city needs to do some pension reform with the unions. All of this before they start gouging the residents. We already pay a shitload of money (excuse my language, but it’s deserved here) in motor vehicle taxes. Our property taxes are pretty damn high… and the city is charging us quite a bit of money to park on the street that our taxes already pay for. Yeah, that’s cool.

  • Andy, The proposal does not include guest parking with a permit. It requires you to pay $10 per guest per night. It’s ridiculous. The Somerville permit gives you guests passes you can let your guests use. Oh, and I believe that one only costs $25 for the resident permit.

    Finally, I think the technology and outside firm is ridiculous. This isn’t something we can do ourselves for less?

  • I think the problem with “doing it ourselves” is that then we are asking night shift police officers to enforce parking. This is likely a waste of their time at a time of night when patrolling is probably a much better use of their time. The other option is that enforcement won’t occur because officers don’t have time to enforce parking all night.

  • @Runway

    I can’t image charging my friends and family to have to pay to park outside my place when they’re visiting. In the South End of Boston there are specified areas (such as handicap spaces) that are designated for visitor parking and vehicles are only allowed a certain length of time they are able to park.

    I also agree about this outside firm. Why pay someone else to do our work, number one. Number two, cities such as Philly have been successful in maintaining and managing their city-owned towing services and I’m sure to a generous revenue stream- yet we outsource that too.

    Providence seems to have a lot of time and money for plans, but never a good implementation comes from them. Common sense really.

    PS. Has anyone seen “Parking Wars” filming in town recently? I have and I’m curious to know what the thoughts are of the rank and file meter maids (appropriate term?) are regarding Providence’s “parking crisis.”

  • @Andy “Parking Enforcement Officer” and yeah I have seen them filming on Thayer and down in the Jewelry District.

    I do wonder about the opinion of the parking enforcement and police. I suspect they might want to have an outside firm do it.

  • @AF – \”I think the problem with “doing it ourselves” is that then we are asking night shift police officers to enforce parking.\”

    Currently the night shift officers are enforcing the ban, so this would not be additional work.

  • @Mike Right, but seeing one or two cars on an empty street and writing tickets is going to be significantly easier than checking the license plate or sticker on every car of 100 on a block.

  • Maybe the rate should be a little more progressive… Based on income, or perhaps it costs more on the East Side than it does in Olneyville. Maybe the on-street pilot programs failed (they did?) because it is simply not necessary to park on the street overnight. The system works now, why add the complexity AND make it free?

  • @AF: So you’re worried about making the cops’ jobs easier? Really? I think if they had to actually look for the parking permit sticker, they’d be doing more of a service and better patrolling than they do now, which will make our neighborhoods a bit safer.

    And of course they want the outside firm to do it. They want their jobs to be easy. They want to be able to hang around and do as little as possible. I’m all for making them do more and getting them actually looking at the streets.

  • I think the police have better things to do than looking at every single windshield of every car parked on every street in the city for a parking permit.

    Though, I’m not sure the private company is the answer. Surely the police department themselves could afford the two vehicles with plate scanners patrolling the city that the private company is offering. I’m surprised that PPD does not already have plate scanners through Homeland Security grants. I know they had Homeland Security grants, I don’t know what they did with them.

  • ProJo: Providence mayor proposes overnight parking permits

    City parking-enforcement officers, using a car-mounted license-plate scanner identical to the one used to boot the cars of traffic and parking-ticket scofflaws, would primarily enforce the permit program. The police would be expected to take a hand, too.

    So we already do have plate scanners.

    PayLock’s involvement would enable residents to get permits online and by telephone, as well as in person, and make it easy for the city to alert residents by e-mail and robocalls to emergencies that require permits to be suspended, he said.

    Perhaps, but surely sharing our revenue with PayLock is not the only to accomplish these goals, it is the 21st century after all.

  • And we already have ways of paying taxes and tickets online… I think the city can accept payment for parking permits, too. Sounds like someone in city hall is buddies with someone at PayLock…

  • $100 is quadruple the pilot program price and double the price of a permit in NYC. Most other cities are between $0 and $25. Making this a revenue stream is unreasonable (especially immediately on the heels of major car tax increases. Mine doubled.). I am seriously outraged at the idea of having to pay so much money to park my over taxed car in front of my overtaxed house. There is PLENTY of cash being left on the table by not enforcing the parking regulations we already have. Use temp metermaids and run them 24/7. Tag for parking in front of a hydrant, too close to a corner, whatever. Fine for lots paved more than the max allowed by law. There are a million and one ways to pull this revenue without imposing yet another fee on residents. I think they will be surprised at how few people take them up on their offer at $100. I’m curious if it will even pay for the vendor.

  • This program should be free for homeowners who rip up some driveway (doesn’t have to be all of it) to plant greenspace of some sort. If you don’t, then you can pay the fee. Granted I’m not living in PVD right now but I’d buy a permit every year to not only support the program but to ensure i have a place to park when I visit, (although I guess I won’t be able to unless my car is registered in RI) But the point still remains. I don’t think $100 is that much in the big picture.

    Agree with everyone who says if this is about making money (and I suspect it is not, it is more about killing the program in that special way that makes administrators lay the blame on the residents for not supporting it) then the city should look at all the other revenue generators that could use a bit of an uptick in either fees or enforcement such as actual parking infractions, speeding, snow shoveling, and the like.

  • @Chris – You are correct. Serves me right for not fact checking something on the intarnetz. We can substitute Chicago which charges $25 a year. So Providence would be charging 400% more than Chicago after having dramatically increased car tax AND would still allow streets to opt out (ie: rich folks on the east side). I call B.S.

  • Should only be for Providence residents otherwise we run into future space availability if anyone in Rhode Island is allowed to purchase and for what reason?

    People who work in the city, but who commute should be encouraged to take public transit and not drive a vehicle in. Also, how many of these non-residents would actually be in need of a permit if its only for overnight regulation?

    If not for residents of Providence only, then a graduated rate should be implemented for non-residents similar to beach passes.

    For example:
    Providence Resident – $25.00
    Rhode Island Resident (non-metro) – $50.00
    Out of State – $100.00
    Free spaces/designated areas for non-resident visitors (implement day/time limitations)

    Could end up bringing in more revenue this way?

  • It is only for Providence residents, but for some reason your car does not have to be registered in Providence.

    More info in new post here.

  • I would prefer to have the DMV offer window stickers along with registration, they already have an infrastructure for this sort of thing (payments, processing, etc.). It’s easy enough for an officer to see a sticker on the front window.

    Also, I like the idea of limiting it to RI-registered cars. My biggest fear is that the East Side will get clogged with college student junkers, and this will force them to at least register, pay taxes, and insurance where the car actually is.

    As for out-of-city residents of RI, those are the folks we want leaving cars here the most if they’ve been out drinking. Most of the fatalities are happening on highways after bars close, this might make a dent in that.

  • Out of towners won’t be able to register. Though you can have your car registered outside Providence, you have to live in Providence for this program:

    • Residency can be established with utility bill, deed, tax bill, or rent receipt. Applicants must also prove that their vehicle is registered in Rhode Island. If a fraudulent address or registration is determined, the permit will be voided.

    I did another post with more details.

    That said, I don’t know how an online registration checks your utility bill, or rent. I guess the city has your deed and tax information on file.

  • Residents only, but your car can be registered on Block Island or Little Compton and out-of-staters need not apply and no verification because of online application? So does that mean parking permit by the honor method?

    Little Compton or the like, is that a concession to the many Providence residents that have second homes in towns where insurance is cheap?

    If the object was to plug a budget hole, besides offering some convenience to residents, one would think the thousands of out-of-state students would be included, but I suppose that would mean viewing out-of-state license plates on the street at 3:00 a.m., which would be so distasteful and offensive that those vehicles must instead be relegated to asphalt covered backyards, a preferable choice.

    Maybe it’s me, but I don’t get it. Who in the city dreamed this up? What was the compromise?

  • @mangeek: College students already have their insurance rates that of RI. It depends on where you park the car. Insurance companies have a way of finding out. My wife went to grad school in Philly and had her car registered at her mother’s in CT. She paid the CT rate for a month or 2 before the insurance company found out she lived in Philly and started charging her for having it parked there.

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