Montclair’s “Smart” Parking is Fully Operational

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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.

The cake was baked by Montclair's Marlboro Bakery. "We like to use local suppliers, to show our commitment to the community," said Laurens Eckelboom.
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.

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23 COMMENTS

  1. Have I tried it, why didn’t you and tell us about it? I just knew that a description was on the way on the “continue reading” link.

    So while I understand it’s nice to be a “journalist” and never have to leave your computer, sometimes, it helps tell the story.

    Oh, well I guess I’ll wait for someone below to tell me how it works….

  2. An answer to a question no one should have ever asked …

    Now, how about that budget and my taxes?

  3. “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”

    How’s that exactly?

    The system doesn’t “sense” if spot is available or not. It knows if a current spot is paid for or not. Rather like a parking meter which either has extra time on it but the person has left it early (ie. “not available” but it is) or a spot in which time has expired but is still occupied (ie an “available” spot that isn’t available). So logic suggest there will be NO difference in traffic due to this.

  4. Actually, Parking In Motion provides sensor data (among other data feeds) so if that was implemented as part of the upgrade, logic WOULD suggest there will be a difference in traffic.

  5. Johnny,

    that’s not what they’re saying as far as I can tell:

    https://blog.parkinginmotion.com/2011/03/02/heat-maps-vs-hockey-pucks/

    Where are you getting that they’d install sensors? I agree with the assessment on their site:

    “For starters, many municipalities in today’s economic climate cannot afford the absurd installation costs it would take to get these hockey pucks in the ground. ”

    The best they can do is offer statistical advice. At this moment you are 65% likely to find a spot here. Hint hint, when people are causing traffic driving around looking for a spot it’s most likely a peak period, when there are few spots available at all. Is knowing a this block is likely to be 99% full and that block 98.5% full going to decrease traffic? Doubtful. You still have to drive over to that block to LOOK and see.

  6. I find the parking enforcement people to be quite kind and forgiving actually, on many occassions I have seen them getting ready to write a ticket only to stop because of shouts of “wait, wait”

  7. “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.

    I do not have a smart phone, and don’t intend to get one, because I am too cheap. Therefore, since the Entire World does not have a smart phone, there is NO excuse to NOT shovel the parking meters.

    Either that, or I will have to do all my shopping in Clifton where there Are no meters, or the Mall.

    Thanks, Montclair!

  8. You know who won’t use this system? My parents- those folks with the over 30K tax bill and no smartphones.

    So what did this cost?
    What is the annual maintenance costs?
    How many meter maids will lose their jobs/income/benefits over this?
    What is the replacement cost after some minor vandalism?
    How does weather or being covered in snow effect the sensor reading or accuracy of these machines?
    If you don’t have a smart phone does your house hold get a tax break or refund of their shared cost of installation?

  9. So what did this cost?
    Zero. The company keeps a service fee the user pays.

    What is the annual maintenance costs?
    Zero. The system consist of stickers and access to the internet.

    How many meter maids will lose their jobs/income/benefits over this?
    Probably none (unfortunately). They still have to patrol and check the meters.

    What is the replacement cost after some minor vandalism?
    The stickers for the meters are provided free from the company.

    How does weather or being covered in snow effect the sensor reading or accuracy of these machines?
    There is no sensor whatsoever. only a sticker on the meter pole.

    If you don’t have a smart phone does your house hold get a tax break or refund of their shared cost of installation?
    Each taxpayer will receive, 15% of the Zero installation fee.

  10. ROC, I would have enjoyed reading your posts ( had you been there at the time ) when Amsterdam tore up all their downtown streets and installed trees, bus and trolley shelters, nice finishes, dedicated bike lanes, and toilet kiosks.

  11. Hmmmm….

    Well I wasn’t one of those dignitaries invited to the “ribbon cutting” of the new parking meter system.

    Probably because when it was discussed at a Council meeting I asked “OK. The company makes twenty five cents per transaction. How much of that does the town get?”

    I was told that the town gets no money, because we’re “contributing” nothing, i.e. we’re getting the system and its benefits for “free.”

    Oh, I see, giving exclusive access to customers is “nothing.”

    Why couldn’t Montclair get a “cut” of the transaction fee?

    As to empty parking spaces, remember that the meters still take coins. So I don’t see how the “system” would know a parking space was available.

    And remember, unlike when you pull up to a meter that still has time left on it because some kindly soul has put in too many coins, if everyone uses the system no one will be able to take advantage of this generosity.

    And remember, you can’t use the system to “feed” the meters. Thus, if you’re at a 1 hour meter you can only use the system once. If you’re at a two hour meter, and you only put in money for one hour then, yes, you can use the system to get increased time.

    Oh, and here’s another thing. From the contract. If you use the app the company is allowed to send you advertising. Up to three messages for every transaction. Here’s what the contract says:

    “In addition to reminders and alerts, you may also receive advertisements or promotional marketing messages in connection with your use of the Services. Such advertisements and marketing may be in the form of SMS messages, mobile applications, emails or links to other websites and may be from Parkmobile or from other affiliated, third-party companies. In connection with your use of the Services, you may expect to receive no more than three (3) promotional or marketing messages per parking session per month. In all cases, standard messaging and data charges assessed by your carrier will apply.”

  12. A couple of things I have learned in the past eight decades:

    1. Things that are labeled “Smart” usually are not.

    2. Systems that are designed for municipal applications, such as parking, are usually designed to benefit only the municipality and never the user.
    3. Something that is designed to generate revenue can only do so after it has covered the cost of development, installation, and maintenance. Two simple words: EZ PASS.

    4. “Parking is one of the big keys to economic development.” Then make it free. As in no charge for up to two hours or so. If people linger longer, ticket them.

    Nothing for nothing, but I have really started avoiding doing anything in Montclair that requires me to pay for parking. Thankfully, restaurants in Bloomfield and other neighboring towns where parking is free and readily available have gotten better. While there are still some high-quality dining destinations that are only in Montclair, we are not going to them unless there is free parking near by.

    I do not live in Montclair, but let me opine that y’all really don’t need this boondoggle. Maybe I can get invited out on the yacht recently purchased by the salesperson who sold this to you. That would be nice.

  13. Just spam or is this like a facebook application where the application will pull user data from your phone? Companies don’t just do nice things for free.

  14. im guessing hrh, that the advertising angle is their prime angle. They know where you shop after all. It’s probably the real revenue stream for them. You park at watchung plaza and then get 3 sms ads or coupons for businesses in the area. “$2.00 off at sunrise bagels, if you come in in the next 30 minutes”.

    Smart Idea, actually. But I seethe when I PAY for the ad platform. Like spam faxes, remember those?

  15. ROC,

    Good thinking!

    They KNOW where you are parking!

    Now, if the town had any sense not only would they be pocketing a portion of the transaction fee, but if the ad attracted an actual customer purchase the town would get a cut of the deal.

    And I guess some people do pay for texts received, so perhaps it will cost parkers more than it looks.

  16. So let me get this straight. Using this system you now have to:

    a. pay to park (meter fee)
    b. pay to pay to park (“convenience” fee)
    c. pay to get spammed by ads (SMS fee)

    It’s bad enough that you have to pay extra on top of the meter charge, but the triple hit is ridiculous. Why can’t they just incorporate the ads into their app like every other company does? No one is going to use this system once they realize they’ll be paying $1 or more for a 25 cent meter.

  17. “But I seethe when I PAY for the ad platform. ”

    I do too, which is why the spam feature is a no go for me. All that spam adds up fast and I’m not paying overage fees to Verizon for the privilege of spending my money in Montclair.

  18. I’m giving this a pass. Had previously considered signing up for those times when I’ve forgotten to bring change for the meter, but the spam and data mining are a big disincentive. I recently got an Android for personal use, and actually read the app disclaimers. Virtually every one requires that you agree to give the app access to your contacts, call info, location, etc. They’re mining a tremendous amount of data from consumers which I suspect many people aren’t fully aware of. Remember the big flap a few weeks ago about Apple and Google tracking people’s locations? That’s the tip of the iceberg. There is a reason many of these cool apps are free, you’re being spied on.
    Cary is correct above. The town clearly deserves a cut of the revenue for allowing exclusive access. Seems like they were more interested in the headline of being first than
    actually negotiating an equitable deal. The town basically gets nothing.

  19. ROC, what you’re referring to is Location Based Advertising (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Location-based_advertising). It is interesting stuff, but as the article mentions, there is a fine line between useful advertising and spam. For example, the system would have to be smart enough to only send your example of Sunrise Bagels during the store’s operating hours; if I get a text message to go to the bagel store and it’s 9PM, that’s spam to me.

    It should also track your parking habits to generate some sort of idea of what you frequent in a given section of town and tailor the messages to that. Not sure if all that is possible with this system, but in my mind that would be a “smart” system.

    @deadeye, does the data mining really bother you? I thought it was kind of a given now that all of your data is available to these big companies. And I may be wrong, but I thought the call info and contacts disclaimer went together just because an app needs to monitor if an incoming call is coming in and pause its functionality to display the call.

  20. I’ve been aware of the data mining, but have been and remain a Blackberry user primarily for business. I just got an Android for personal use to take advantage of all of these new functions that everyone is raving about. I don’t really care whether the weather channel knows where I am, or the WSJ, but ALL of these obscure apps now have access to significant amounts of personal data, and the chance of getting hacked has risen astronomically.

    As far as the smart advertising, it’s been around in Europe and Asia for some time now. You can set up your device to tell you that the local McDonald’s is offering free fries, if that’s your thing. I imagine if I were in my teens I would think that was cool, but these days I spend a disproportionate amount of time deleting e-mails from all of the vendors that promised me that they would never send me an e-mail.

Comments are closed.