The Township of Nutley is exploring the possibility of upgrading its aging stock of parking meters.
On March 15, at the invitation of Public Works Commissioner Joseph Scarpelli, the township governing body heard a pitch by Municipal Parking Services (MPS), a firm based in Minnetonka, Minn., to consider its products.
The MPS brand offers, among other things, a credit card option that would replace the township’s current coin-operated meters, along with other tech-enhanced features.
No commitment was made by the commissioners after the company’s presentation, but Scarpelli said that he would actively encourage his colleagues to study the MPS proposal as a starting point and, at some point soon, authorize going out for bids for new meters.
“There are 272 on-street parking meters in Nutley,” Scarpelli said, “and a lot of them are old and break down. We repair or replace around 30 meters per month due to malfunction, vandalism, tampering and so forth.”
Last year, the township netted $135,000 in meter revenues but, with an improved version that, presumably, will be more resistant to breakdowns, even more cash should be realized, he said.
The current mechanized meters take a quarter for 30 minutes of parking time and 50¢ for an hour. Each meter provides for a two-hour maximum parking time.
But with the types of electronic hardware and software options available from companies like MPS, motorists could be looking at a much more expansive and flexible parking system, the commissioner said.
For example, drivers can replace coins with credit cards and to eliminate the worry about getting a parking ticket for not getting back in time to feed the meter, drivers can use a mobile app to adjust the meter.
Or, drivers can buy “no fine” insurance as another contingency to avoid getting ticketed.
Or, if a driver does get ticketed, he or she can get a discount when paying the fine at the meter.
Other mobile device features allow a driver to locate an available metered space while in transit and, after parking and conducting business, the driver can learn how much time is left on the meter and get an email confirmation of the time purchased.
As part of a meter package, the township can opt for installation of high-definition, wide-angle cameras facing those streets and sidewalks where meters are located and meters can be equipped with built-in speakers and microphone giving parkers direct access to police assistance by calling an emergency number from the meter screen.
Meters can also be programmed to provide both motorists and the township with essential information:
- For the drivers, there can be amber alerts, notices of street closures, community events and discounts from local retailers.
- For the township, with the aid of built-in, cloud-based data, analytics and administrative platform, there can be self-reporting messages to a supervisor, advising that a meter needs servicing and patterns/trends on how a single meter, street or entire parking lot is performing.
Asked if any communities in the region had secured such meters, Scarpelli said he believed the nearest municipality to have acquired such a high-tech meter system was Palisades Park in Bergen County.
As for the cost of implementing the new meters, Scarpelli said that it was his understanding that, with the MPS system, “there would be no upfront cost to the township. The fee would be on the back end, based on a percentage of increased meter revenues.”
Asked if the township would consider – as some larger-sized towns have done – creating a Municipal Parking Authority to oversee the township’s parking enterprises, Scarpelli said that he and his fellow commissioners have ruled out going that route because there is no need for another layer of government or the employees associated with that.
One alternate possibility – which, he said, the commissioners “have looked at” – is a “parking utility,” but only if the revenues it collected were exclusively dedicated to the maintenance and upkeep of the meters.
To come up with a consensus on how the township should – if at all – proceed with some type of meter upgrade, Scarpelli said he would seek input, in particular, from Mayor/Public Safety Commissioner Alphonse Petracco on the potential for incorporating safety aspects and from Revenue & Finance Commissioner Thomas Evans for the “IT” features.
Recreation Commissioner Mauro Tucci, the newly hired interim manager of Belleville, said he was impressed by the MPS presentation and would try to arrange a similar exposure for the Belleville governing body.