SHOCK & OWE: Residents, Businesses Confused and Bewildered By New Hoboken Parking Policies

SHOCK & OWE: Residents, Businesses Confused and Bewildered By New Hoboken Parking Policies

The City of Hoboken first announced their dynamic pricing plan back in November as a means to find an equilibrium between on-street parking—which was fairly inexpensive yet very hard to find—and garage parking—which was more expensive and therefore underutilized.

“The idea is to create a 15 percent availability of parking per block” said Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla, in an interview with hMAG in late February. “The problem right now is that there is an imbalance between the pricing structure on-street and the pricing structure off-street. Because the pricing structure is so low on street, people who are not necessarily parking to shop are parking on-street for the better part of the day, which lowers the opportunity for customers to utilize the businesses.”

According to Ryan Sharp, Hoboken’s Director of Parking and Transportation, “Most cities in this region have similar population densities, density of retail and parking demand as Hoboken—and they have parking rates that are much, much higher,” he told us. “New Jersey has been kind of slow to get in the game, but it’s becoming best practice now in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, DC, San Francisco—even Atlantic City and some other shore towns.”

With the policy taking effect earlier this week, the response has been decidedly indignant in the face of significant sticker shock regarding the price of on-street parking.

Fees for parking went up from 25 cents for 15 minutes to anywhere from 50 to 90 cents for that same period, depending upon the location. That represents a 100-360% increase in cost to a person parking their car in Hoboken.

For example, hMAG priced a 4-hour meter a few blocks off the city’s main commercial thoroughfare, on 2nd and Garden Streets, which totaled $10.35—that’s 62.5 cents per 15-minute period (up from 25 cents), plus an additional 35-cent service charge to ParkMobile App, the company that runs the payment program for the City of Hoboken.

***CLICK HERE for a Map of Hoboken Dynamic Pricing Zones***

“The pricing adjustment for on-street parking is designed to both free up parking on street, as well as generating revenue for a parking benefit district, which will fund various projects designed to benefit our economy and businesses,” said Hoboken Spokesperson Vijay Chaudhuri, in response to an email from hMAG.

The City of Hoboken revealed its plans for a “Parking Benefit District”—a geographic area where parking revenues are collected and reinvested into economic development initiatives designed to attract customers to business districts—in its discussion with hMAG last month.

According to Chaudhuri, “A main example is the HOP bus, which is now free of charge for residents and visitors.”

Hop on… it’s free!

As part of the effort to free up spaces on the street, the City also moved to decreasing short-term pricing in Garage B, D and Midtown, while offering deeply discounted parking to employees of Hoboken businesses.

According to Chaudhuri, “As of right now, 93 employees have been added to the program, which corresponds to 93 fewer employees parking on street feeding the meter, and more parking space now available for customers of local businesses.” He adds, “Limited garage space for local employees to [use] the daily debit program is still available on a first come, first-serve basis.”

hMAG heard from several Hoboken business employees who said that they had been told the space were all taken. Furthermore, there was confusion over what other options are available to employees of businesses in town.

“We sell business permits for $200/year (about ($0.77/day) which allow employees of registered Hoboken businesses to park on the visitor side of permit parking zones without having to pay at the meter or with ParkMobile,” said Chaudhuri. It’s worth noting that these permits only offer restricted parking, and certainly don’t guarantee a spot will be available.

All that said, it appears that the parking conditions in Hoboken haven’t gotten any easier—at least not in the span of a week.

Andrew Impastato, of Hoboken Parking Dude, has his theories as to why they won’t ever get any better under the current plan.

“Dynamic pricing works in cities like San Francisco, DC or Austin because the surface area of those cities and the parking supply is greater—you have a large cities with all these different parking areas,” he told hMAG in a phone discussion on Friday.

In a city like this, it’s only one mile with 15,000 permits for 11,000 spots. There are no parking spots anywhere, at any hour of the day,” added Impastato. “Whether it’s  2 p.m. or 4 a.m., you’re not gonna find spots.”

Without freeing up spots, certain political opponents of the current Hoboken administration are voicing concerns that dynamic pricing may be nothing more than a money grab.

hMAG specifically asked Mayor Bhalla about this concern in our interview last month, to which he responded, “We’re looking to earmark the revenue generated from the dynamic pricing structure and reinvest it back into the local economy and small business through various improvements that we feel will benefit.” He added, “The last thing we want to do is use it to plug a budget gap.”

Of concern to local businesses, which continue to face adversity in an ever-evolving marketplace, is the idea that people are going to be even more reluctant to come into Hoboken and risk facing what some people claim is a predatory parking policy.

You still need to have signage letting people know about these dynamic pricing changes at entrances to town,” said Impastato. “If you come to Hoboken and you’re lucky enough to find a spot, you’re going to pay to use that spot. The only thing that will change is not the ease of parking but the amount of money in the bank for Hoboken,” he adds. “It’s impacting residents, businesses, and the local economy is hurting because of it.”

According to the City, the plan had reportedly been presented to the Hoboken Chamber of Commerce, with the ultimate goal of incorporating the whole of Hoboken into a Special Improvement District (SID) within the next few months—similar to those currently existing in neighboring Jersey City.

“My overarching goal is to help small businesses, because they’re under attack,” said Bhalla. “The backbone of any vibrant city is the streetscape, the street life. The government’s job is to play a supportive role to small businesses, not be a roadblock.”

A week into the new program, the Hoboken parking jolt has certainly been felt—and it was more or less anticipated. With a continued reliance on technology, such as the ParkMobile App, Director Sharp maintains that the City will monitor parking habits in various zones and with the intention of modifying them wherever it is deemed appropriate. Sharp also spoke of potentially implementing real-time dynamic pricing, and continuing to evolve parking strategies in response to demand.

“It was Einstein who said, ‘The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results,’” said Sharp. “We realize we need to do something differently, and these initiatives will help us do that.”

Meanwhile, Impastato has created an online petition to rescind the dynamic pricing initiative and “to highlight what has been done and what has not as it relates to finding solutions to our parking problems.”

For further details on dynamic pricing, garages, the Hoboken Parking Benefit District, and how it impacts you or your neighborhood, CLICK HERE


Authored by: hMAG