Officially yesterday, Montclair became the first city in the state of New Jersey to launch a pay-by-phone parking system for its 1,500 or so metered spots. The mobile phone application, which was rolled out about a month ago for a soft launch, has been declared fully operational. Along with Laurens Eckelboom, Executive Vice President of Marketing for Parkmobile USA, a virtual who’s who of municipality parking dignitaries and town government officials came out for a ribbon cutting between meters in the back of Lackawana Plaza.
Eckelboom and John Teubner, Executive Director of the Montclair Parking Authority explained that the past few weeks were about “tweaking the system,” and communicating with customers. “We’ve had tremendous feedback from people — even with the convenience fee [25 cents per meter cycle] people think it’s worth it,” said Teubner.
While the system is still a pilot — results will be analyzed and evaluated in four months — the group expressed hope that Parkmobile’s application will help improve the town’s tough parking problems. In time, the system might even use technology to find empty parking spots and direct drivers to them, thereby cutting down on “cruising traffic.” According to Eckelboom, approximately 30% of all city traffic is due to people driving around looking for parking spots. Companies like Parking in Motion and Streetline, which provide real time parking data via mobile phone apps are possible future partners. “We haven’t implemented this part of the system yet, but we will very soon,” said Eckelboom.
When asked if he thought that this technology might indeed reduce congestion in town, Lieutenant Kenneth Miscia, who oversees the traffic division for the Montclair Police, agreed that logic would suggest that it would help. Miscia did express concerns, however, that the app might be distracting to drivers.
“These are new, untested apps that are currently being tried in big, congested cities,” explained Matthew Silverman, chair of the Montclair Parking Authority’s traffic and parking advisory board. “People are driving around looking for parking spaces that are 100% occupied. In theory, this would eliminate that activity, but its too new to say for sure.”
The smart parking system that is now in place doesn’t add any clutter to the streetscape, and the financial investment was completely Parkmobile’s. “This is a great arrangement that really benefits Montclair,” said Mayor Jerry Fried. “Parking is one of the big keys to economic development.” Fried said that he downloaded the app and uses the system, as does Third Ward Councilor Nick Lewis.
“I was always looking for quarters, and I’ve gotten entirely too many parking tickets through the 19 years I’ve lived in Montclair,” said Lewis. “At $30 a ticket, they add up fast. I’ve contributed thousands of dollars to the town.” Lewis said that although he was offered a parking pass when he took office 3 years ago, he didn’t take it. “I just kept getting tickets.”
Lewis and Parking Authority Chair Gregory Matthews agreed that it’s not good public relations for the town to be giving people lots of parking tickets, and that the town doesn’t get that much revenue from parking violations, once the state, county and court have taken their shares. Anyway, it was unanimously agreed that even with Parkmobile’s app in place, there’ll be no shortage of parking violations.
What about next winter, when the snow is so deep that people can’t reach the meters? “There’ll be no excuse,” said Matthews, with a smile on his face.
Have you tried the new system? To download, you can call Parkmoblie at 877-727-5457, or click here.