Sure, it’s the most wonderful (parking) time of the year, as meters are bagged and shoppers are glad, and there’s lot of good cheer. Yet, folks in town have been vocal about the lack of parking, or about the limits of parking — that is, meters that mandate we shop or eat or browse or watch a movie for only an hour or two.
No one is more frustrated by the parking problem than Luther Flurry, executive director of the Montclair Center Business Improvement District.
“Number one on the BID’s wish list for the new year is four-plus hour parking throughout Montclair Center,” he says. “Would you go to the mall if you were limited to two hour parking? No. Because you expect to go shop in a number of stores and maybe grab a bite to eat.”
In Montclair Center, the only places where extended parking is available are the township’s Crescent Deck and privately-owned parking lots, many of which are packed to capacity on a crowded Saturday afternoon.
In an October council meeting, Flurry advocated for extended parking for Montclair Center. He told the Council,
Since the founding of the Montclair Parking Authority the BID has advocated for and, once or twice, thought we were promised, new technology downtown that would make this a reality. Our concern is not broken meters or pockets filled with quarters, but the limited options for extended stay parking.
Much of the work of the BID has been to create and encourage development of a walkable downtown. This is good for business, as customers frequent multiple establishments and good for the environment, discouraging tiny car trips. But shopping and dining is not possible with two hour parking. Neither is an impulse purchase after a movie. Extended parking is available throughout the district at night, and used to be available throughout the district on weekends. I do not think it is purely coincidence that these are the times Montclair Center is most crowded.
Flurry told Baristanet that the financial and structural relationship between the township and the Montclair Parking Authority, which was dissolved earlier this month, was a barrier to making long term parking happen and the idea has been abandoned for now.
According to the Project for Public Spaces and the National Trust for Historic Preservation (Main Street USA), and Destination Development International, people will spend an average of four hours in a downtown if it has the right mix of shopping, entertainment, and dining — a mix that parts of Montclair Center has.
“The more we can have people park and multitask,” Flurry says, “the better for all of our retail shops and restaurants.”
Flurry adds that we need to move away from traditional “car-based” thinking, which viewed short-term parking as a way to encourage quick turnover, and toward a new model of “pedestrian-oriented” thinking.
“We want to park our car and spend our day or afternoon in the area enjoying a variety of businesses,” he says. “If someone in Montclair parks anywhere other than the Crescent Deck or private lots, that opportunity doesn’t exist and it discourages people from coming downtown.”
Could Flurry gets his wish? Last night, at the First Ward community meeting, Mayor Jackson said that by next summer, Montclair can expect a dramatic change in the way we park in Montclair, after the town implements changes starting in the New Year when Montclair Parking Authority ceases to exist. He didn’t give specifics, only saying modernized parking would be in place by summer. He cited replacing antiquated meters with the latest technology and mentioned speaking with one company that doesn’t charge to install new high end meters, but instead takes a piece of the incremental dollars.