One day last fall, drivers pulled up to Broadway between 22nd and 23rd streets to find all of the parking meters gone – and a new central parking station installed, where drivers were expected to pay for the spot they occupied.
The city was testing out a system that would save costs in maintenance. Parking meters are expensive to maintain and also take time to collect from. Instead of a parking worker going to two dozen meters to collect the coins, he could go to one station, and then move on.
“The driving force behind this was cost,” said Public Safety Director Jason O’Donnell.
Meters are exposed to the elements, and frequent usage causes them to break down. They are costly to repair.
For meter readers, the new system was a gift from God, allowing them to check all of the cars for the whole block at one location rather than going from meter to meter, often struggling to see through frosted glass. If extended to the rest of Broadway, this promised to allow parking employees to cover more of the city more quickly.
“We want something that is a good fit for Bayonne.” – Jason O’Donnell
But with the new system, customers had to first figure out what spot they were parked in, walk a half a block to the parking station, get a receipt for their spot, then go shopping.
Worse, drivers were often confused by which parking space they were paying for, and some found that when they returned to their cars, they had a ticket from the city under the windshield wiper.
While City Hall didn’t hear many complaints, the merchants did, and just prior to the Christmas season, they began to collect signatures on a petition to have the meters reinstalled.
A similar protest has been going on in Jersey City Heights along Central Avenue, where business owners posted protest posters in their windows against the new parking stations. While Jersey City may soon switch back, Bayonne has already relented.
This week, the city complied, and began replacing the meters along that block of Broadway.
“This was always an experiment,” O’Donnell said. “We wanted to see how it would work here rather than jump in with both feet like they did in Hoboken. We want something that is a good fit for Bayonne.”
This doesn’t mean the city has given up on finding some better way of metering Broadway.
“We’re going to keep looking, and if we find something we think will work better, fits the needs of our residents, and saves the city money, we’ll try it,” O’Donnell said.
But for now, residents will soon have the more predictable system back, as city workers replace the posts and install meter heads where they were previously.
“This will make a lot of the businesses happy,” said Michael Haytas, a supervisor for Public Works who, along with Repairman Michal Laurich, cemented the bases into place this week. “I know John’s [health food store] and Pompei Pizza will like this change.”
So does Town Center Management Corporation’s Executive Director Mary Divock, who got an earful from the merchants over the last few months.
“This is very exciting,” she said. “This is easier for everyone who knows the system. We’re happy the city listened and went back to the meters.”