Tanvi Misra is a staff writer for CityLab covering immigrant communities, housing, economic inequality, and culture. She also authors Navigator, a weekly newsletter for urban explorers (subscribe here). Her work also appears in The Atlantic, NPR, and BBC.
An IQuantNY open-data analysis reveals that police officers have been issuing tickets to legally parked cars.
In cramped New York City, parking is never an enjoyable experience. But when drivers are being ticketed for parking in spots they’re legitimately permitted to park in, it gets significantly more unpleasant.
This has been happening routinely, according to a new open-data analysis by IQuantNY’s Ben Wellington. In 2009, updated laws gave city drivers the green light to park on a sidewalk in front of pedestrian ramp if it wasn’t linked to a crosswalk. The city’s police officers seem to have missed that memo, and continued ticketing cars that were legally parked.
On his Tumblr, Wellington explains what spurred him to investigate this problem:
I’ve got a pedestrian ramp leading to nowhere particular in the middle of my block in Brooklyn, and on occasion I have parked there. Despite the fact that it is legal, I’ve been ticketed for parking there. Though I get the tickets dismissed, it’s a waste of everybody’s time. And that got me wondering: How common is it for the police to give tickets to cars legally parked in front of pedestrian ramps? It couldn’t be just me…
It wasn’t just him.
Using NYC’s open-data portal, Wellington cross-checked the spots in the city where drivers were most frequently ticketed for blocking pedestrian ramps . He found that most of these were legal parking spaces, per New York City’s traffic rules. According to Wellington’s analysis, Brooklyn’s 70th Precinct had issued the most erroneous tickets, worth $100,000 per year in fines.
In the map below, Wellington plotted a thousand pedestrian ramps in the city where the most tickets were issued. Click on any of the red dots, and users can get details, including the address and the number of tickets given out. Here’s Wellington:
My challenge to you… click on a spot and then look at pictures of it on Google Maps to determine if its legal. You will most likely find it is.
Wellington alerted the NYPD about his analysis and received an acknowledgment of their mistake. He says it seems that when the rule changed, the traffic cops were updated, but regular police officers weren’t. Now, the department is taking steps to remedy this oversight. Here’s a an excerpt of NYPD’s statement to Wellington, which CityLab independently verified:
Mr. Wellington’s analysis identified errors the department made in issuing parking summonses. It appears to be a misunderstanding by officers on patrol of a recent, abstruse change in the parking rules. We appreciate Mr. Wellington bringing this anomaly to our attention.