Misuse of parking permits in Albany, NY

There’s something weird going on in the streets around the Empire State Plaza in the city of Albany. It seems that the streets are very popular to visitors, but not during the hours you’ll expect. Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm the streets are filled with parked cars with visitor tags hanging from the rear view mirror, but these cars aren’t there in the evenings and weekends. Officials started to notice that this can’t be right.

It seems that people who work near the Plaza are misusing the visitor permits to get a parking space close to work. The visitor permits were handed out by the city to the local residents who hold a residential permit. The idea was that the residents give the permit to anyone they want, as long as they use it for visiting the permit holder and only for a two hour period with a one-week interval.

One resident says that he sees the same cars with visitor tags every Monday to Friday. They arrive in the morning, leave again around 5pm, and are nowhere to be found on the weekends. And if that isn’t proof enough, he also adds that he regularly sees people in business suits leaving the car and walking into the Capitol. And this really irritates him: The local residents had to pay a 25 dollar residential permit but with all the misuse, the parking situation is still the same as before.

The city already prepared for possible misuse of the permits, but didn’t expect the situation to be this bad. In the rest of the city the permit system works just fine but the closer you get to the Plaza, the worse it gets. The city doesn’t know how these people got their visitor permit. Do local residents hand them out to friends who work near the Plaza? Do they sell their visitor permits? Nala Woodard, city clerk, says that a number of the parked cars might be from homes with one residential pass but multiple cars. But how can you know for sure?

The city is looking for new ways to enforce the misuse of parking permits. Right now, only the resident who holds the permit is getting punished: When someone spots a car with a visitor tag and believes the permit is being misused, they can register a complaint. Each visitor pass has a unique number and can be traced back to the resident it belongs to. This information in combination with the license plate of the car using the permit and the place where the car is spotted can help local authorities see if the permit is being misused. They will send out a warning to the resident and when the permit is being illegally used again, the resident can get fined.

Council member Richard Conti says the council is now looking for ways to enforce permits electronically and help enforcement officers to trace illegally used permits. They are looking for ways that include LPR to see if the car is registered as a permit holder or not. If a car with a visitor tag is spotted regularly at the same spot and stays there for over the two hour period, the car gets fined for illegal parking. Also the resident who holds the permit can get fined.

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