Update: Scroll down to see statement on parking meters from Montclair Council.
If you want a Montclair-centric Halloween costume this year, you could go as a broken parking meter.
Montclair’s got broken meters to spare — hundreds of non-working meters at parking spaces all around town.
The issue of what to do about broken meters as well as whether or not to fine people for parking in the spaces when they are unable to pay was discussed Tuesday at a Montclair Council meeting.
“It is simply unconscionable to many of us that we fine someone for parking at a broken parking meter,” said Councilor at Large Peter Yacobellis who advocated for dropping the fines for parking at broken meters and extending holiday free parking, starting as early as November 1 and running through the holiday season.
Second Ward Councilor Robin Schlager offered a different suggestion, after speaking with the township’s Parking authority and town manager’s office. Schlager learned that parking lots with kiosks are working well and that additional kiosks could be added to surface lots by the end of the month. This would free up some 120 working meter “heads” that could be swapped for the broken meters not currently working.
Schlager also said 42 Watchung Plaza meters could be switched over to a kiosk system as a pilot; Councilor at Large Bob Russo asked if the same pilot could be implemented in the South End shopping district.
Déjà vu all over again
Broken parking meters are not a new Montclair problem. In 2007, when there was an epidemic of broken meters, there was a workaround to avoid paying the ticket. Then there were some new meters in 2012 (with a new price), By 2015, broken meters were at an all time high, with Montclair Mayor Robert Jackson declaring that the township’s then 1,700 meters had to be replaced immediately – with no further delay. In 2016, it approved 545 solar–powered parking meters. Changing technology, including meters that were operating on a 2G communication-based system and can’t connect to today’s 4G or 5G is one reason some meters don’t work. In some cases, vandalism is the cause, but it appears to be minimal.
The Township expects people parking at broken meters to use the ParkMobile app and has posted stickers on all meters, warning motorists to pay even at broken meters or risk a ticket. Using the app can be time consuming for people trying to get to an appointment and isn’t a viable option for people without smart phones.
Montclair Council issued a statement Wednesday afternoon regarding the parking meter situation:
Montclair, NJ – Montclair Township Councilors held an in-depth discussion at the October 19 council meeting about operational plans to resolve the pressing issue of the many non-functioning parking meters throughout town. Council determined, based on information and recommendations provided by the Parking Utility and township management, that the problem will be successfully addressed by implementing the following:
The Parking Utility has begun removing the 120 individual meters in the Valley Road, Maple Plaza, and Grove Street surface lots and will replace them with pay station kiosks – statistics show that kiosks traditionally suffer less vandalism than individual meters. The kiosks will allow patrons to pay by credit card, coins, and mobile app. The 120 meter heads that will be removed from the individual meters will be used to replace non-functioning meters throughout town.
Moving forward, individual meters in the remaining surface lots will be removed and replaced with pay station kiosks. By removing these meters from all surface lots, the Parking Utility will gain up to 500 meter heads in total, which will be used to replace non-functioning meters.
Individual meters will also be removed and replaced with pay station kiosks in Watchung Plaza and the South End Business District.
The Parking Utility leadership team is currently pricing out new, more efficient, and technology adaptable meters from companies in the marketplace. Many of the Township’s meters stopped functioning when the internet service provider upgraded its broadband cellular network, affecting Township meters using older technology.
Separately, the Council also took action to review all ordinances to ensure excessive penalties are removed with regard to serving time in jail.