One of the first things Asbury Park can do to bring its parking problem under control is to hire a professional person to oversee and manage it.
And while the city’s parking utility brought in a little more than $2.5 million last year “no one is planning or managing the system,” said Gregory A. Shumate, a Senior Associate with parking consultant Desman Associates, based in New York City.
Last June, the council hired Desman Associates to conduct a thorough study throughout the city, including at the waterfront and downtown, on Main Street, and in the Springwood Avenue area.
The parking problem in Asbury Park, particularly in the downtown district, has increased dramatically with the addition over the winter of several new restaurants including one which has a capacity of 700 when fully operating by May..
Shumate gave an overview of the company’s 152-page parking report at this week’s City Council workshop.
“You need to put the right professionals in place. You now have fragmented management and need to hire a parking utility manager,” he said.
He said that parking enforcement needs to be consistent and that parking meters need to be well-maintained and well-lit.
The report said there are 3,895 public parking spaces in the city, of which about 2,100 are metered. Most of the parking inventory is at the beachfront area, of which about 70 percent is metered. There are also several privately-owned parking lots at the beachfront.
Shumate said the city should explore “demand pricing” that increases the price of parking during the peak summer season or during special events.
“I don’t know if you will ever cure the surge for parking at the waterfront,” he said.
The report suggests a $3 fee for the first hour for meters on Ocean Avenue with a $2 fee for two subsequent hours- limiting parking to three hours during the peak season.
The report suggests parking off of Ocean Avenue be $2 for the first hour and $1.50 for each additional hour- with no time limit. Fees would be lower, or even free, during off-season months.
All parking meters in Asbury Park are electronically controlled and rates can be easily adjusted. The report also suggests that parking fees can be raised during special events, like July 4 or the annual Zombie Walk. It also suggests the city improve the parking lot at the North Beach area and install meters.
Shumate said that parking in the downtown central business district “is not well-managed and does not have a lot of turnover.”
He suggested that limits, such as three hours, be placed on downtown parking from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at $3 an hour. He said the rate could then drop to $2 an hour with no time limits after 5 p.m. Prices could be adjusted depending on the time of year.
“You want a higher turnover on much of Cookman Avenue year-round,” he said.
Shumate said it is time for the city to “exercise whatever rights it has” to increase use of the 162-space, state-owned Bangs Avenue parking garage. He suggested old vehicles apparently being stored there be removed and meters possibly installed.
He also said the city needs to review and limit its sale of downtown parking permits.
There are about 1,279 downtown parking spaces with 567 downtown permits issued in 2014.
“You need to curb permit sales to people who really need them,” he said.
He also suggested that the current $30 per year parking permit fee be increased to about $100 a month “so it is not a giveaway.”
“Your permits are all over the map and you need to get a handle on that- and $30 is a good deal,” he said.
Deputy Mayor Amy Quinn said that while $100 a month may seem like a lot of money, she pays that every month for her outdoor parking spot at the Santander condominiums on Deal Lake Drive.
“And that is far away from the busy downtown business district,” she said.
Shumate said that employees and residents are now allowed to purchase two permits at $30 each and that eligibility requirements to purchase permits need to be reviewed and tightened.
“They are not properly monitored,” he said.
Shumate said the city needs to look into leasing vacant lots in or near the downtown area to provide more parking. He said valet parking is also an option.
Plans were also presented to provide more metered parking in the municipal parking lot at City Hall and also just west of the transportation center. It was also suggested that Main Street parking be metered from Third Avenue to Lake Avenue.
The report did not examine NJ Transits’ capability to bring more people to Asbury Park by train to reduce the parking problem.
The report said that there is no significant parking problem along Springwood Avenue.
“We know we have a parking problem and we are making progress. I hope to have some positive news for everybody soon,” Mayor John Moor said at the end of the Desman presentation.
Desman’s entire 152-page parking report can be viewed at www.cityofasburypark.com