Could Kearny’s parking woes be close to improving?

Kearny residents fed up with competing for curbside parking spaces when shopping in the main business district or circling around several blocks to find a space close to home at night could be seeing some relief by the summer.

That’s when Mayor Alberto Santos hopes to unveil the first phase of a plan that would set up a local parking utility to sell residential parking permits and enforce new parking rules, initially, in the southern part of town.

If the new system works, Santos said he anticipated expanding the program to encompass the entire town.

The plan figures to be based, in large part, on recommendations submitted by Advanced Parking Planning Systems LLC, a consulting firm headed by Robert Baselice, who also serves as executive director of the North Bergen Parking Authority.

Baselice’s firm surveyed Kearny residents to get an overall assessment of the local parking problems, surveyed how other municipalities in the region were handling parking issues and then drafted a 30-page report listing his observations and a plan of attack which he presented to the mayor and council last Tuesday.

Residents’ top three complaints were “no availability of parking at night,” followed closely by “people taking up more than one space on the street, saving spaces,” and “commercial vehicles taking up spaces when not providing services,” just ahead of too many out-of-state or temporary license plates on the street.”

To best get control of these and other gaps in satisfying the demand for making available sufficient spaces as efficiently as possible, Baselice recommends creating, by town ordinance, “a separate Town of Kearny Parking Utility” as a unit of the Kearny Police Department, but dedicated to all things related to resident parking.

The KPU, which could be managed by the town administrator or a new person, would take charge of issuing/selling resident parking permits via an “online customer portal;” gather and maintain permit records; provide the option of mobile meter payments at meters; staff and train parking enforcement officers who would deploy hand-held electronic ticketing devices and ticket printers, together with License Plate Recognition technology to cover more ground with fewer personnel; and, for civilians assigned to the KPU, a computer and printer to review enforcement reports.

As part of the town’s new approach to solving its parking issues, Council President Carol Jean Doyle said the town needs to clarify the definition of commercial vehicles so they can be properly regulated.

APPS agreed that because “an abundance of vans, pickup trucks, buses and box trucks parking on the street,” the town should consider assigning “rentable parking spaces in certain lots” for those vehicles used by residents only for transportation, while those conducting business “should only be permitted (to park) from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.,” at least for now.

To offer residents more options of paying for parking along business districts, APPS advised the town to provide for “paying with a credit or debit card or clicking on an app and paying with a mobile device” rather than just putting coins in a meter.

The firm also suggested combining those options with angled parking along designated sections of Kearny Avenue.

APPS suggested Davis Avenue by Kearny High School might be wide enough to support angled parking as a means to ease the crunch of teacher parking in that area.

Two-hour visitor parking in the business district ranked as the most favored option among residents surveyed by APPS.

To accommodate out-of-towners who work in Kearny, the KPA could issue a “business permit,” allowing them to park on the streets during working hours, APPS advised.

An overwhelming majority of residents surveyed favored paying a fee of $15 for three years for a permit or for registering a vehicle owner’s license plate to help maintain the town’s parking program, APPS reported, with discounting for senior citizens, veterans or other groups a possibility.

At the same time, APPS noted, because “the data supports a higher fee, a logical compromise would be to leave the fee at $15 and have a 2-year expiration from the date of purchase. We are also recommending the town be split into two zones allowing for revenue to support the (parking) unit to come in on a yearly basis with two zones renewing every other year.”

APPS felt the town should hold off “limiting the number of permits per household or building or charging a “graduated fee system” for households with more than one car, at least until after the first phase of the parking program is done to gauge the impact on curbside parking.

Residents told APPS they favored parking “stalls” (lines on the street marking out parking spaces and driveways) and, “with a new parking stall ordinance, people parking over the lines or saving spaces (would) be in violation,” the firm said.

APPS has projected the new parking program would cost about $1 million to begin operations, assuming a staff of one administrator, a supervisor and nine enforcement officers working different shifts, with some doing clerical work; four leased vehicles; computers and LPR cameras; and possibly 20 pay stations.

By year 2, APPS anticipates it will be taking in a profit of more than $300,000.

“This will be a six-month process to set up,” Santos said. “So for those that want permit parking tomorrow, that’s not going to happen….  We will do it in phases, probably going with two zones.”

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Ron Leir | For The Observer
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Ron Leir has been a newspaperman since the late ’60s, starting his career with The Jersey Journal, having served as a summer reporter during college. He became a full-time scribe in February 1972, working mostly as a general assignment reporter in all areas except sports, including a 3-year stint as an assistant editor for entertainment, features, religion, etc.

He retired from the JJ in May 2009 and came to The Observer shortly thereafter.

He is also a part-time actor, mostly on stage, having worked most recently with the Kearny-based WHATCo. and plays Sunday softball in Central Park, New York