The Challenge of Summer Parking in Asbury Park

 

By JOANNE L. PAPAIANNI
Asbury Park is bracing itself for a summer onslaught of visitors, following two previous summers when parking became scarce on weekends as beaches, downtown businesses and restaurants thrived.
The installation of parking meters in the city has been very successful. Over the last five years more than $5 million has been transferred to the city’s general fund.
City Transportation Manager Michael Manzella and Mayor John Moor sat down to discuss ways the city will be dealing with summer tourists and help them navigate the beachfront and downtown areas with ease.
New at the beginning of this summer season will be the Bike Share program which began late last August along with a new Jitney program geared for weekend visitors.
The Bike Share program, which is funded by private sponsors, has been expanded after its initial success. It’s an easy program to use by downloading the Zagster app  on a smart phone.
Bike rentals cost $3 per hour or $30 yearly for unlimited riding.
Manzella said there are now 40 bicycles parked at eight stations throughout the city.
He also said Zagster tracks riders by pinging them along their routes. Data found that riders took the bikes as far south as Spring Lake and as far north as Long Branch.
For those owning bikes who want to avoid traffic and parking fees, new bike racks have been added with 44 at the boardwalk and 10 downtown. When new properties are developed in the city, developers are being required to include bicycle racks in their plans.
Despite the increase in bike riding Manzella said there has not been an increase in bike accidents, which he believes is due to the slower speeds in the city.
“Cyclists slow down the cars,” he said.
 There are also now three designated bike lanes in the city located on Grand Avenue, Fourth Avenue and Asbury Avenue.
 Also new are four Jitneys being provided by Scooter Dudes of Red Bank. They will be joining the free jitneys that run during the summer months.
The cost of riding the Scooter Dudes jitneys will be $5 per round trip.
Riders will pay the $5 for a trip to their destination and be given a ticket for their return ride.The jitneys will also run on Monday nights for the Springwood Park Summer Music Series.
The Scooter Dudes jitneys plan to run all year in the city, unlike the free jitneys which only run in the summer.
The jitneys will run Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays on a designated route from the downtown area to the beachfront to the transportation center.
They will also have a text service too for customers who want to be picked up at a specific location.
Tourists getting off the train in Asbury Park will be able to rent a bicycle, text or wait for a jitney, call for an Uber or Lyft or hail one of the taxis that check the train schedule and wait for the trains to arrive.
For those who may want to drive to the city it is often difficult to find a parking space. Meters are installed downtown and at the beachfront, but will eventually be up and down Main Street as well.
The city is now using its third set of meters and Manzella said the new ones are working much better than the previous two models.
“They’re pretty good. 85 percent of customers are using credit cards. That’s high and that’s good,” he said. “And they are three times as fast and easier to read in the sunlight.”
He also said they are more cost effective on a monthly basis than the previous models.
Although the council adopted an ordinance allowing the meters on Main Street from Lake Avenue to Summerfield Avenue there are no plans yet to have the meters installed.
Parking meters have been installed in the city since 2009, beginning in the beachfront area.    For the first two years after acquiring the funds the money, according to state law, can only be used by the parking utility for things such as salaries, parking related expenses, street striping and meters.
After the two year time period the money is then put into the municipal budget’s general fund for use as the city sees fit.
Over the past five years these funds were transferred to the general fund: 2013, $1,039,604; 2014, $1,601,000; 2015, $1,601,000; 2016, $1,876,000 and 2017, $1,876,000.
“There’s no question that it helped to stabilize our budgets,” Moor said.
“I like to say it’s taxing our tourists visiting from abroad,” Manzella said.
Both Moor and Manzella said the parking problem has no relief in sight for the near future.
They have, however, met with downtown developer Carter Sackman and beachfront master developer iStar to discuss construction of parking garages.
Moor said parking garages do not have a high return on investment and that is why in business areas they are combined with retail or restaurants.
However, both said nothing will be decided until new federal funding, passed in this year’s tax reform bill is allocated for Opportunity Zones. Sen. Cory Booker notified the city that it has been aproved for federal funding for two zones: the beachfront area and the Central Business District.
Ultimately, Moor said, the developers will decide how parking spaces will be included in their plans.

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