EV Parking Space “Blockers” Draw Ire of UES Resident

New York City electric vehicle drivers grapple with charging station spaces being taken up by vehicles that are not supposed to be there. The gas guzzling owners are only ticketed occasionally for stealing the space from needy EV owners. On UES resident has had enough.

| 29 Feb 2024 | 06:32

Tom Goodman wants to buy an electric car.

The UES resident has been considering the switch and even put a deposit down. But he faces one large worry as he transitions from a gasoline powered car to an energy efficient e-vehicle: where does he get the fuel in the form of an electric charging station to power his new car? The lack of access to unblocked charging stations around the city is a real concern he says.

Goodman, who runs a PR agency, lives on the Upper East Side and since contemplating purchasing an electric vehicle, he has taken interest in the ConEd charging station on 101 E 78th Street, about a block away from his house where he plans to charge. However, he quickly noticed an issue with the spot. “One of the things that was on my mind was the space near us is very often blocked by drivers who are not charging,” he told Our Town.

And it is not just gasoline powered vehicles hogging the spot. “The worst offenders,” he explained, “are EV drivers who just park their car in the spot.” Although they understand that charging is important, they still choose to park in the spot without utilizing it for its intended purpose. Other non-electric vehicles that block the charging spots he refers to as “space blockers.”

Goodman is a self-proclaimed “car buff” and does plan on purchasing an electric vehicle. But he knows that finding space to charge is going to be difficult, “it’s a psychological impediment but also a very real world impediment,” he said.

New York City’s Department of Transportation (DOT) has implemented certain measures in an attempt to combat these “space blockers,” but Goodman doesn’t think it’s enough. He estimates that the average cost of a ticket for illegally parking at an electric vehicle charging spot and without charging is about $100. But this doesn’t deter drivers from taking up these spaces. “Seeing the car ticketed, the driver would rather pay the fine than not have a convenient space,” Goodman noted.

Another observation about “space blockers,” Goodman has noticed, is that there are repeat offenders. He takes pictures of cars parked in the space near his house that are not charging, and has been able to piece together multiple instances of the same car on different days parked in the spot. The car appears to be a Hyundai Tucson V6, which is an ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) vehicle that does not and cannot take electricity.

Rather than taking up a charging station spot, drivers could park in parking garages; however there is another problem raised by this. To park for a full day in the parking garage, it costs around $50, and tipping the attendant raises that to circa $65. This means there would only be about a $35 difference between parking in a convenient electric charging space, or at a parking garage in a less ideal location.

This dilemma then becomes a question of which holds more value to a driver–an accessible parking spot, or $30-$40. Most drivers choose the accessible parking spot. And parking meter agents don’t always ticket illegally parked cars in EV spots, every day, making it worth the gamble. To impose the fine more effectively, Goodman suggests a steeper ticket. “If that fine were $500 and there was a sign that said $500 fine, that would scare people away,” he said.

It can also be difficult to tell that spaces are reserved for electric vehicle parking only. The chargers themselves do not stay anything about repercussions for parking a vehicle in the space and not using it to charge. In order to tell who can park in the spots, drivers must exit their cars and read the fine print on a sign near the charging station, which most drivers would not take the time to do if they are in a rush to find parking.

Outside of fines, Goodman recognizes red paint zones used in other cities on the side of the curb to be a good measure to deter parking or stopping in certain spots. In the case of electric vehicle spaces, “ I had proposed... painting a green curb in the two spots so it was very clear delineation that this is just not a normal parking spot,” he said.

The solution to the problem is still hazy. Governor Kathy Hochul announced New York state’s commitment to end the sale of all gas vehicles by 2035, which would massively increase the sale of electric cars. However, installing more charging stations for the influx of electric vehicles is not necessarily the key to making charging more accessible. As long as there are spaces to park in, drivers will find a way to occupy spots that they see fit to park their cars, even if they may be designated for other use.

Con Edison has been busily installing the electric vehicle charging stations around the city since June 2021. A spokesman there said there are now 100 charging stations for cars across all five boroughs.

When ticketed, parking in a charging station does trigger a bigger fine than say parking in a typical no parking zone. The DOT lists a General No Parking violation to be $65 in Manhattan. A spokesman for the traffic division did not return calls..

One possible answer could be enhancing New York’s public transportation system, which could cut the city’s reliance on personal vehicles. On February 29th, the DOT announced installation locations for the nation’s first e-bike battery charging pilot with the first operable station in Cooper Square in Manhattan. The incentive to charge these batteries more safely stems from an increase in e-bike battery-related fires that caused 268 fires resulting in 18 deaths across the city last year. So far this year, one young man was killed and at least 17 were injured in a fire in Harlem on February 23rd that was blamed on a lithium ion battery that was charging on the third floor of the six story building.