Tuesday, August 07, 2012
Street Sweeping Leads to More Driving: Study
Wall Street Journal
August 6, 2012, 11:13 p.m. ET
It's long been a theory among grumbling critics of the city's alternate-side parking rules: If you make people move their cars, they will drive them.
Now a forthcoming study by researchers at New York University says that the truism is usually true—but with a surprising twist. In neighborhoods where on-street parking is scarce, motorists are more likely to drive than use mass transit on days when they have to move vehicles for street sweeping.
But the study also unexpectedly found that in neighborhoods where driveways and garages abound—like the farthest reaches of Brooklyn and Queens—street-cleaning days can actually reduce driving because owners pull their cars off the street altogether, said the study's lead author Zhan Guo, an assistant professor at NYU's Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management.
On balance, though, the rules lead to more driving—an average increase of 7.1% in car usage on cleaning days, the study found—giving ammunition to residents who clamor for fewer cleanings.
In an interview, Mr. Guo said his paper was an attempt to empirically determine a truth that many New Yorkers know anecdotally and all too well: they spend a lot of time moving and parking their cars. (The paper begins with an epigraph attributed to author Calvin Trillin: "You can park your car on the streets of New York, or you can have a full-time job, but you can't possibly do both.")
"Street cleaning and [alternate side parking] rules do indeed force residents without off-street parking to use their cars when they would not otherwise choose to do so due to fear of losing their street parking spots," the study reads.
Those extra vehicle trips aren't solely a result of scheduling car-related tasks, like picking up groceries, to a day when the car has to be moved.
Previous studies attempted to measure the effect of cleaning on drivers, including a 2008 DOT study that showed a 19% increase in morning traffic in Park Slope on alternate side mornings. But those studies didn't prove the traffic was caused by the rules, Mr. Guo said.
The new paper, to be published in the Journal of Planning Education and Research, uses data compiled in 1998 by the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council's once-per-decade household travel survey.
To be sure, the stats are dated, but Mr. Guo and a colleague, Peiyi Xu, say more recent numbers weren't available and they don't believe parking behavior has changed dramatically.
They also used Google's Street View and Bing maps to assess the households they studied and make sure the streetscape hasn't changed.
"I think for some of the community boards who want to change street cleaning frequency, this might be good news," Mr. Guo said. "But we should be cautious not to generalize this to too many of the neighborhoods."
Martine Orcel, a therapist from Prospect Heights, drives to work but would rather not. "I would more likely leave my car and take public transportation if I didn't have to look for parking," she said.
The new study comes soon after a 2011 City Council measure provided a framework for handling requests for less frequent street cleaning. Under the new law, the sanitation department and the city's Office of Operations, which has kept "scorecards" on street cleanliness since the 1970s, can approve the requests to cut back in community districts that have maintained a score of 90 or above for at least two years.
The Department of Transportation announced earlier this summer that it would suspend alternate-side parking rules in Brooklyn's Sunset Park, Windsor Terrace, and Greenwood Heights neighborhoods—the first to see the rules changed under the new law.
Previously, the DOT had approved street-cleaning reductions in three other neighborhoods, a spokesman said.—Danny Gold contributed to this article.http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390443792604577573331262287726.html?mod=WSJ_NY_LEFTTopStories