A look inside the Parking Utility's books. Report shows better enforcement, more people using municipal garages in 2004

A look inside the Parking Utility's books
Report shows better enforcement, more people using municipal garages in 2004

03/13/2005 Hoboken Reporter

There's good news and bad news regarding the Hoboken Parking Utility, the city agency that deals with parking permits, garages, and enforcement.

The fact that the city issued 82,191 tickets for violations last year might be bad news for the 82,191 people who parked at expired meters or without a permit. The good news is that the HPU's own report, issued last week, shows more parking enforcement and more people using the city-run garages.

A profitable year

Hoboken Parking Utility director John Corea recently presented a report the City Council's Parking and Transportation Subcommittee which compared the income and expenses for the Parking Utility for 2003 and 2004.

The report shows that HPU was a much more profitable department in 2004 and generated about $2.2 million more in profit than in 2003.

According to Corea and Mayor David Roberts, this was accomplished through a more aggressive enforcement of violations, and better utilization of the city's garages.

"By utilizing creative methods, we have maximized the resources of the Parking Utility in a way that wasn't possible under its former management structure," Roberts said Thursday. "This report justifies the abolition of the Parking Utility, which was a high priority since the early months of my administration."

According to Corea's report, in 2003 the HPU wrote a total of 54,672 tickets. The number climbed 50 percent to 82,191 in 2004.

In 2004, the HPU brought in $2.1 million from tickets, which is a 78 percent increase, or $936,000 up from 2003.

Why the huge increase?

One reason, said Corea, is better equipment and training. In the past year and a half, every employee of the HPU has been retrained and has received state certification. Also, the HPU has received new, state-of-the-art, handheld ticketing machines that are lightweight and easier to use than the previous bulky models.

Also, there have been changes in HPU as to enforcement policy.

The city, through the Parking Utility and Police Department, has instituted "Safe Paths to School," a plan for ticketing cars within a certain distance of crosswalks, to allow proper vision for pedestrians and cyclists, said Corea. Originally the distance was 25 feet, but after some complaints, the distance has been scaled back to 16 feet.

According to Corea, this program resulted in as many as 1,000 tickets a month, but now that more people are aware of the rule, that number has tapered off.

Also, the city has been very strict in enforcing its resident parking program. Any car that does not have a residential parking permit and parks on the wrong side of the street is immediately booted. In 2004 the city made $600,000 in boot release fees.

Fuller garages

"By advertising and making adjustments with the management of the garages, we now enjoy and the share the reward of placing approximately 650 new, additional, monthly patrons into our municipal garages," Corea said. The most dramatic is at the St. Mary Garage on Clinton Street, between Third and Fourth streets. In 2003, during most days, there wasn't a single car parked on the building's roof, a waste of 155 spaces.

This was troubling to Corea, because at the time, there were over 200 names on a wait list for the garage. He said in the past year, the HPU has stepped up its efforts to contact the names on the waiting list and get them into the garages. He has produced an occupancy/vacancy spreadsheet that shows that substantial progress has been made on this front.

At the St. Mary Garage, according to Corea's numbers, the number of monthly customers has gone from 590 in 2003 to 884 in 2004, which translates into in increased income of about $800,000.

While the garage only has 744 spaces, some cars use the garage during the day and others at night.

Another garage that has now turned the corner is the automated garage at 916 Garden St. In 2003, the garage, despite having a waiting list, was running about 100 cars below capacity, because work was still being completed on the automated system. But now, the garage, according to Corea, has a full complement of 312 users.

Also, the HPU has restructured the management contract for the garage, and now for the first time since it opened, it is making a profit of about $40,000 per month.

Now the only problem with the garage is that during the past couple of months there have been a number of service disruptions ranging from a couple of minutes to a couple of hours. Corea said that the bugs are being worked out.

The city's other three municipal garages, which are all on Hudson Street, have seen between a 4 and 30 increase in the number of monthly customers in 2004.

But according to Corea, there are still spots available in these garages, especially Garage D.

But even with the empty spaces, the profit from the all of the garages increased $1.4 million. The HPU generated a net income of $7.5 million from the city's garages, according to Corea's report.

Booting changes

The HPU has entered into a contract with Paylock Inc. for booting vehicles. Using new technology, car owners may now call Paylock's 24-hour call center, use a credit card to pay their fine, and remotely release the boot. Then motorist can then drop off the "SmartBoot" at their convenience within 48 hours and incur no additional penalties. The program cost the HPU nothing, but an added $30 surcharge is added onto the violator's booting fee. The booting fee has risen from $100 to $130, with the HPU keeping $100.

Removal of the red meters

Another change in parking is that the red 20-minute meters that line the southern end of Washington Street are now a thing of the past. In December, the City Council unanimously approved an ordinance to replace the 20-minute meters with two-hour meters.

The thinking behind the move, said Hoboken Parking Utility Head John Corea, is to create some level of uniformity throughout the city. Also, by giving parkers two hours, they will have time to shop or eat dinner while in Hoboken.

Before, said Corea, meters ran between 20 and 90 minutes, and prices weren't consistent. Now, as of Jan. 1, all parking in metered spaces is limited to two hours, and each 15-minute interval will cost 25 cents. For more information about how to become a monthly customer at one of the city's garages, call the HPU at (201) 653-1919.

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