Bettering Plainfield with the facts since 2005

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Pondering parking

Out of order meters mean less revenue for the city.

Parking in front of Plainfield's City Hall Monday afternoon, I noticed a handwritten note on the windshield of the car behind me.

As I went to put quarters in the meter we shared, i noticed what it said: "Meters not working". So I saved 50¢, but it got me to thinking about parking generally, especially since I hear through the grapevine that the city got no responses to the RFP for a parking deck feasibility study on East Second Street.

One thing the late Mayor Al McWilliams was fierce about was making sure parking revenues were maximized. Noticing the number of (some apparently permanently) non-operating meters around town, along with some that have mysteriously disappeared (as on East Front where one seems to have disappeared for no apparent reason after recent street work), I wondered whether there has been a drop in parking receipts over time.

But there are plenty of other parking issues to look into --
  • The condition and use of the public lots behind Front Street. Use of these has increased dramatically over recent years, especially with charter schools and active storefront congregations locating on Watchung Avenue between Front Street and the city line. But their maintenance lags their use.

  • The public lot at Central and West 2nd. This lot also snakes through to Front Street between Pueblo Viejo and the fish market. PSE&G is currently using a corner as a staging area for its Second Street project, but that will come to an end at some point. The lot is not well-maintained or striped, even though there is permit parking and tickets are issued. In addition, the old Sear building and its new addition will be adding to permanent spaces in this lot, as will the apartments over the Red Cross building which is being renovated. Yet Messrs. Dunn and Sanders covet the lot for affordable housing.

  • The Park-Madison parking deck. Will we ever resolve the issue of letting residents use the deck after-hours and weekends, as called for in the original development agreement? The steam seems to have gone out of the city's efforts to get this resolved. Why?

  • Lot 7. This lot next to Scott Drugs on East 7th Street is sort of an orphan. Once filled with the cars of DYFS workers on a daily basis, it now sits weed-filled and forlorn most of the time. Will it get more use when Arkad Development completes the reovation of the DYFS building into apartments and shops?

  • North Avenue parking at the train station. Though this area is currently disrupted because of ongoing work replacing the NJT overpasses on Watchung and Park Avenues, it seems to me that a lot of revenue is consistently lost because the striping is so faded people don't know where the spaces are to park.

  • Netherwood Station area. On the North Avenue side, the streets are parked up all day long. This has been a neighborhood issue in the past, but does it need to be looked at again? And on the South Avenue side, the situation is similar, and now faced with new apartments across from the station (including an "illegal" floor the owner added). Though there is a lot for its use next to the fire station, will it be sufficient?
Besides all this, there are the advances in technology that make it easier to meter larger areas with fewer meters.

In Newark, the area around the Newark Museum has for several years now had meters that monitor four spaces, reducing the time and effort of parking employees to maintain and collect coins.

In Westfield, the lot near Trader Joe's uses a central meter that covers the entire lot and issues time-stamped receipts. This makes it really easy for parking employees to monitor the situation.

In Montclair, for years now the town has issued parking stickers for residents wishing to park on the streets overnight because that was becoming an issue that needed to be managed. Has Plainfield also reached that point?

Seems to me there are enough parking issues in Plainfield that maybe the next RFP should cover a study of parking citywide, looking to solve a lot of problems in addition to a deck's feasibility.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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