Parkers beware: Enforcement is about to pick up.
For years, the Hoboken law that requires motorists to move their vehicles after parking at a metered spot for two hours has not been enforced, according to Parking and Transportation Director Ian Sacs. Some people – particularly employees of businesses on Washington Street – have remained in the spots for many hours, feeding the meters. Sacs believes enforcing the law will make room for more shoppers to park on Washington Street.
The problem with all-day parking by local employees is that it leaves no spaces for visitors and shoppers, according to Sacs. With Hoboken’s strict parking rules and permit requirements, they need to use the meters to avoid receiving the dreaded parking boot.
Moving from a downtown meter to an uptown meter will not save a shopper from a ticket.
Sacs implemented a plan seven months ago that allows business employees to receive a free parking permit, called a “merchant coupon,” which entitles them to pay only $5 to park for 12 hours in a city municipal garage. That amount is cheaper than feeding the meters all day.
A regular business permit costs around $200 per year. For employees without a permit who choose to park at the meters every day, or those who work fewer than 40 days per year, the free garage permit may be a better deal. It also allows for covered parking.
Aside from the two-hour limit on metered spots, parkers without a permit may only remain for four hours in non-resident (visitor and permit) spots. Simply moving their car after four hours in a permit area or parking at a new meter after two hours does not mean they’re safe from a ticket, boot, or a tow. Hoboken has a technology called “virtual chalking.” Vehicles from the Hoboken Parking Authority ride up and down the streets of Hoboken, scanning license plates. In the permit areas, if a car is parked without a permit for more than four hours, the license plate will scan through the system and the vehicle will often be booted, a painful experience for many visitors.
The same applies to meters – even for a shopper who first visits downtown stores, then uptown stores. Sacs said according to the city code, if a vehicle was parked at a parking meter downtown for two hours and then again uptown for another hour, the car can still be ticketed.
Besides parking at meters, shoppers can park in the city’s public garages or in a private garage. The city operates two public garages on Hudson Street downtown, one near Hoboken University Medical Center on Fourth Street, and another on Second Street. Some businesses reimburse shoppers or customers for parking, but the programs vary according to the establishments.
Warning before ticketing
Sacs said last week that people have called his office after receiving a warning notice, but no fines have been handed out yet.
“It’s a great way for us to get in touch with people,” Sacs said. “They call and ask what the alternatives are, and we’re able to tell them about the merchant coupon plan.”
A survey of Washington Street and the immediate surrounding streets between Newark Street and Eighth Street last Monday between 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. by The Reporter revealed that out of approximately 375 legal spots, 400 cars were parked, meaning that there were more cars parked than spots available during the lunch hour. Many cars were doubled parked, or parked illegally in front of fire hydrants, at bus stops, or in crosswalks
Bill Stagg, a downtown resident, believes parking on Washington Street is a lost cause.
“I personally avoid even checking Washington Street for available parking,” Stagg said last week. “There are usually no spots and I don’t want to deal with the possibility of people double parking next to me.”
Stagg said he doesn’t necessarily want to see “an increase in enforcement, but rather a consistent enforcement of the current parking rules.”
Stagg’s roommate, Doug Parker, agreed.
“I've given up trying to find spots by Washington [Street] altogether,” Parker said. “I'd rather walk the 15 minutes than risk driving in circles for an entire afternoon.”
What about deliveries?
Sacs hopes the merchant coupons will free up more parking on the street. However, there are areas of the city that have metered parking, mainly uptown, with no municipal garage close by.
“We’re working with Stevens students to study a model developed in North Carolina where the city partners with private garages to create a seamless parking program,” Sacs said.
On average, the city distributes 1,600 to 2,000 business permits annually, Sacs said. He said approximately 200 people have already signed up for the “merchant coupon” program.
The problem for some businesses on Washington Street is what to do with deliveries.
“We’re strongly encouraging bike deliveries,” Sacs said.
Some are asking why this rule is being enforced now.
“There are lots of rules that have always been on the books but for one reason or another they were never enforced,” Sacs said. “All downtown businesses suffer if parking is not enforced.”
Mike Novak is the president of the Hoboken Chamber of Commerce. “It’s encouraging any time [the city] is looking to free up parking spaces for shoppers effectively,” Novak said. “It should keep residents and retail employees off the street to free up spots for shoppers.”
Novak said he thinks the “merchant coupon” initiative is “the right program.”
“I think the employees sometimes for whatever reason risk it on the street [and park at a meter] all day,” Novak said. “I don’t understand.”
Sacs noted that the city didn’t jump to ticketing right away, but gave warnings.
The ticketing will be phased in along with new multi-space meters on Washington Street over the next few months.
Ray Smith may be reached at RSmith@hudsonreporter.com