Meters up and down Washington St.? New rates?

City considers various parking changes; plan to house homeless vets advances

Parking on Washington Street in Hoboken could look a lot different if the city implements a few changes that have been discussed over the last two years – shifting all meters to a system of inputting a license plate number; possibly increasing current meter rates, and adding meters to the upper section of Washington Street where there are none.
The first change is slated to happen later this month, while the other two are less clear-cut.
In 2014, the council approved $5 million in bonds to place meters all the way up Washington Street – but talks don’t seem to be heading in that direction yet. Currently, meters run from Observer Highway to Eighth Street on both sides and continue between 14th and 15th. Residents would not have to pay to park there if they have a residential permit, according to 1st Ward Councilman Michael DeFusco, but visitors and business customers could have to pay up to $18 for four hours under a set of proposed rates.

“Both systems have their flaws but if the new rates encourage drivers to park at the garages that’ll be good.” – Curtis Lane
Right now, some of the meters have been testing the electronic pay-by-plate system, in which drivers type their license plate number into the meter on a keyboard, insert payment, adjust the time, and take a receipt – no longer needing to place a ticket on the dashboard. This is the most likely change to happen in the near future. The pay-by-plate system is expected to expand to all meters by the end of March, City Spokesman Juan Melli told The Hoboken Reporter.
The proposed new meter rates, which Mayor Dawn Zimmer wrote to City Council members about in a letter last month, are still up in the air.
“[The] pricing strategy is intended to encourage short-term parking and to discourage longer term parking on Washington Street,” Zimmer wrote in the letter.
Changing the rates would entail a number of alterations to the existing system including adding a “grace period” for the first 20 minutes of parking at the meters, then forcing parkers to pay. But unlike now, when they can only pay for two hours at the meters, they’d have the option of staying for up to four hours, for a price.
Proposed new rates mentioned in the letter were: $1 for the 40 minutes after the first 20-minute grace period; $2 for the second hour, $5 for the third hour, and $10 for the fourth hour. Thus, parking at meters on Washington Street for four hours would cost $18.

‘Holistic’ approach

“We need to look at Washington Street and parking in Hoboken holistically,” DeFusco, the chairman of the Transportation Subcommittee, told the Reporter.
DeFusco prefaced his statement by saying that the rate changes are contingent upon discussion. Melli said the mayor will be open to discussing plans once a more concrete proposal is established.
If the City Council would approve such a change, it would be the second recent major decision regarding the future of Washington Street, following the passing of a $15 million redesign plan last month that will include bike lanes, repaving, safety measures, and new water mains.
A specific plan to extend meter parking throughout the stretch of Washington Street has not been rolled out, DeFusco said.
The city is also currently working to create a “pay by phone” app.
“Once [the pay-by-plate system] is working, we expect to have a pay by phone system within a few months,” said Melli this past week.

Step in the right direction?

Ultimately the city aims to encourage workers at local businesses to park in municipal garages in order to free up metered spots for customers and visitors, as well as create a more fluid thoroughfare.
“The dynamic pricing model encourages movement in the parking spots; something that would potentially offer free parking on Washington Street [for 20 minutes] so shoppers and residents alike would be able to park for free,” said DeFusco.
Still, some residents said they are not sold.
“That’s ridiculous. You need way more time to run your errands,” said Sandra Joseph while walking down Washington Street after work earlier this week. Joseph, a Hoboken resident for over 30 years who works in lower Manhattan, added, “When you’re running in and out you need more time. An hour…maybe 40 minutes could work.”
Curtis Lane, 19, who works at a restaurant on Hudson Street, said last week that four hours is too long. “People will park and leave their cars there all day,” he said.
Ostensibly it would be cheaper to park in municipal garages than on Washington Street per the new model.
According to the city’s website, right now business workers can pay $5 to park at municipal garages for an entire 12-hour period, which is $7 less per day than feeding the meters for the same amount of time under current rates. Business workers also have access to a monthly plan to park in the garages, which cost from $325 (standard) to $400 (VIP). A $225 a month plan also exists, but has time limitations.
Business workers can also pay a monthly, quarterly, or annual rate to park on the street: $50 a month, $100 a quarter of a year, or $200 for the entire year.
Residents can pay from $160 to $235 monthly to park at municipal garages, depending on the garage. For transient drivers – depending on garage – rates are $4 for half an hour, $4 to $7 for an hour, $6 to $10 for two hours, $8 for three hours, $16 to $17 for eight hours, $20 to $26 for 12 hours, and $24 to $30 for 24 hours.
Prices for private garages vary.
DeFusco could not provide a figure over how much revenue the rate increase would provide the city. He said the money would go to alleviating parking issues, such as the creation of a municipal garage at the 6-acre northwest BASF site that the city is working to acquire.
The councilman could not provide a date when the council might consider the rate changes or adding meters.
The Hoboken Chamber of Commerce, which represents nearly 200 businesses, did not touch on a specific aspect of the proposal when asked for comment last week.
“We would hope that the mayor’s proposal to also improve parking utilization on Washington Street is another opportunity for the City and the Chamber to collaboratively find lasting solutions supportive of residents, visitors and business growth,” reads an excerpt from the statement sent via email.

Housing for homeless vets advances

A great birthday present for Hoboken’s American Legion Post 107 Commander John Carey would be for the Zoning Board of Adjustment to approve a plan to build six units of housing for homeless veterans atop the current Hoboken meeting hall on Second Street.
The plan will next be considered by the Zoning Board on March 15, according to Carey, who noted that on that very day he turns 72.
On March 2, the City Council unanimously voted to move forward with the plan.
The project would expand the meeting hall (at 308 Second St.) from its current garage-like layout into a five-story 900 square-foot structure.
A community meeting was held in town earlier this week on Monday, Feb. 29 to discuss the plan that includes a number of amenities that would be part of the project: a kitchen facility, meeting rooms on the first and second floors and a laundry facility on floors three, four and five.
American Legion Post 107 was chartered in 1920. The Hoboken chapter has been at their current meeting hall on Second Street since 1995. Prior to that they were headquartered at an old church at 13th Street and Willow Ave, Carey said. The meeting hall will continue to hold meetings after construction.
With the passing of the resolution this week, the city has agreed to take a parcel next to the hall, which provides 15 spaces for municipal parking, and use it to expand the building. Thus, those parking spots would disappear.
“This is terrific,” he said at the meeting on Wednesday. “The council as all supportive. I’m very excited.
Prior to the vote, Mark Villamar, of Post 107, said expanding the building would be a “great asset” to “help the state of homelessness among the U.S veterans.”
Carey could not say exactly how many homeless veterans are in Hoboken, but confirmed that there are over 50 in Hudson County.
“They’ve given a lot, and they are the reason why we have what we have today…at least we get six homeless veterans a roof over their heads,” said 4th Ward Councilman Ruben Ramos Jr.
Many of the council members conceded that much more needs to be done to help the homeless veterans.

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