Tired of being ticketed by the NYPD for parking in front of a pedestrian ramp in the middle of his Brooklyn block—even though doing so has been completely legal since 2009—open data analyst Ben Wellington of I Quant NY recently cross-checked NYC’s Open Data portal with Google Maps to see how many parking tickets are issued to drivers for this legal non-offense. The numbers he turned back were not small—over the last two and a half years, 1,966 parking spots in front of pedestrian ramps generated about $1.7 million annually in tickets. Based on Wellington's sample-size analysis, the vast majority of these spots were legal.
To clarify, it's legal to park in front of a pedestrian ramp as long as the ramp is not in front of a crosswalk. (Don't be deterred by a yellow-painted strip at the base of the ramp—that's still a legal spot.)
Wellington mapped the top 1,000 ramp ticket-generating spots in the city here. You'll still have to cross check with Google Maps to see if the spots are indeed legal, but he assures that the majority of them are. Click on a dot on the map to see how many tickets have been generated in recent years.
The worst offender in the city, a legal parking space in front of 575 Ocean Avenue in Flatbush, generated $48,000 in 2.5 years; the NYPD precinct with the most wrongful pedestrian ramp tickets, the 70th in Brooklyn, brought in more than $100,000 in fines per year. (Reminder: people who don't drive don't have to worry about this kind of thing!)
In a lengthy response to these findings, the NYPD offered an explanation for the wrongful ticketing:
The department’s internal analysis found that patrol officers who are unfamiliar with the change have observed vehicles parked in front of pedestrian ramps and issued a summons in error. When the rule changed in 2009 to allow for certain pedestrian ramps to be blocked by parked vehicles, the department focused training on traffic agents, who write the majority of summonses. Yet, the majority of summonses written for this code violation were written by police officers.
More surprising to Wellington was the NYPD's apparent willingness to make good. More from the department:
The department sent a training message to all officers clarifying the rule change and has communicated to commanders of precincts with the highest number of summonses, informing them of the issues within their command. Thanks to this analysis and the availability of this open data, the department is also taking steps to digitally monitor these types of summonses to ensure that they are being issued correctly.
"This is what Open Data is all about," Wellington wrote on his blog. "This was coming from the NYPD, who is not generally celebrated for its transparency, and yet it’s the most open and honest response I have received from any New York City agency to date."