Some Asbury Park residents told officials this week they would like to see either free parking or reduced parking rates on city streets during the winter months although many acknowledge the state would be critical of the reduction in revenues for the city.
The comments were made at a meeting this week to discuss solving Asbury Park’s long-term parking problem, which is not unique among coastal towns.
“Asbury Park is not unique (regarding parking), per se, but it has unique traits that cannot be found (elsewhere),” said Timothy Tracy, executive vice president of Desman Associates.
City Manager Jack Kelly said that Desman has been retained, since June, by Asbury Park to do a study on the city’s parking issues.
“And they have drawn on the best for Asbury Park – from Chicago, Cleveland and New York,” he said.
Tracy said his company is doing an ongoing analysis on parking, including the central business district, Main Street, the oceanfront, and other sections of the city.
“We have spent a lot of time observing, collecting data, and understanding how the city’s parking works,” he said.
He said the company is more than half-way through on its city-wide analysis and that another report will be coming soon next year.
“We are not quite there yet but we will let you know where we are at some point in time. We need some sense of what works and what doesn’t- but we may not have specific answers yet,” he said.
Desman Senior Associate Gregory A. Shumate said that parking is basically a formula of supply and demand.
He said parking will be examined on the basis of operations, management, future demands, parking enhancements, and a cost analysis.
Desman’s initial statistics show that parking is highest on weekends, particularly on Friday and Saturday evenings, throughout the parking area, primarily due to entertainment and dining venues.
Main Street has a “good balance of parking right now,” according to Desman’s early study.
In the city’s central downtown business district, parking was found to be fairly adequate during the day but a problem at night, again due to the nighttime venues.
Some suggestions to improve parking (although not part of any official report yet) include limiting some downtown parking to two to three hours at a time; machines that will explain parking regulations to patrons, and improving parking at a local state-owned garage.
After input by residents other options were proposed, such a reducing or eliminating parking in winter months, even by having to increase the fee over summer months.
As far as the waterfront, Shumate said: “I don’t know if you can ever provide enough parking for the waterfront.”
However, he said this is typical of many beach communities and that one of the problems is that parking tends to spill over into nearby residential neighborhoods in the summer months.
“The good thing is you have a parking problem- the bad thing is that you have a parking problem,” he said.
“Your parking systems need to be organized and its goal well established,” he said.
Tracy said that the cost of parking is a possible management tool and that hourly parking demands need to be explored.
“We expect rates may be modified as we move forward,” he said.
He said winter rates may be free or cheaper during the off-season while some residents said the state may object since the city is losing ratables, which effects its annual state aid funding.
Some residents said they believe off-season parking should be reduced or free. Some said they also believe charging for parking along Main Street is a good idea and creating a trolley or similar system, particularly to move people to the beach from mass transit, be explored.
Others said the parking is not user-friendly and that electric-car charging stations be considered.
Tracy said areas like the existing city hall and train station areas are also being examined for additional parking.