By John Burton
RED BANK – The change in how people pay for parking in east side municipal lots has been taken in stride by some but for others, they just don’t like it.
Motorists parking vehicles now have to pay for parking by using a kiosk pay-station system which has been up and running since Monday, June 25.
Those pulling into lots, that formerly relied on meters, now find stations located throughout the area that will take their payment in the form of cash, credit card, debit card, or smartcard for up to four hours of parking.
The new kiosks and accompanying numbered parking spaces can be found at lots on White Street, in Marine Park, the North Maple Avenue lot, adjacent to Maple Cove nature area, Union Street, Wharf Avenue and English Plaza.
The machines have 15-foot posts with a “Pay Here” sign. Customers use a touch screen with prompts to walk them through the process. The costs remains the same for the lots, 50 cents per hour, but customers can no longer pay for parking in half-hour increments.
Parking fees are required and enforced from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Saturday. Parking is free on Sundays.
With the new machines, customers also can enter their cellphone numbers and the terminals will alert them if time is running out. Customers can extend the time on any of the terminals or by using their phones, alleviating the need to rush out and deposit more money.
The borough has hired a group of temporary employees to assist patrons. They will be on hand weekdays through July 6, offering help to those having difficulty managing the system.
“I think we’re doing it right,” Mayor Pasquale Menna said about the program, especially the available tutors. “Like anything that’s new, you have to teach people.”
Matthew Pompliano, Highlands, is working in the White Street lot for two weeks to earn some extra money for veterinary school. He observed during the first couple of days that “18- to 25-year-olds seem to not mind it. They seem to pick it up right away.
“When you get to the middle-aged and elderly, it gets to be kind of a problem,” Pompliano said.
“Some people are angry by the rate,” that they cannot pay for just 30 minutes now, he said.
Pompliano’s colleague, John Durante, a Point Pleasant Beach resident, was trying to help a man with the pay station at the White Street entrance of the English Plaza lot.
“It sucks!” said the customer, when asked about how it was going.
The customer, who wouldn’t give his name, couldn’t get the machine to accept his dollar bills. “It’s the second time it happened to me in two days,” he said, indicating he works in town. In response he gave the machine a good smack, which set off a loud alarm.
The next customer, Mary Ellen Morelli, Lincroft, said her experience went smoother. “I love that I can use a credit card or a dollar,” she said. “It’s convenient.”
Ceil Baner of Beachwood, who works in Red Bank, complained about having to put in the number for the parking space. “It’s too far to remember that many numbers,” she said. But after thinking about it for a while she said, “I think that you can use credit cards is good.” And then after thinking about it a little more, she decided, “This is good, I guess.”
“The main thing is some people are having a hard time getting use to it,” Durante acknowledged. “But once you explain it, and what it can do, they seem excited.”
Little Silver resident Marie Trochia wasn’t excited.
“What a way to start your day,” she said as Durante walked her through the process. “I think the whole thing is ridiculous,” she said, referring to having to pay to park. “You can go to The Grove or the mall and park for free.”
That sentiment is still the bane of local merchants who had opposed meters when they were first installed some years back, believing it would hurt their business.
“We hear more and more complaints mostly about the parking,” its costs and enforcement, resulting in a $38 parking ticket, said Ellen Halperin, who owns Esotercia Limited, a Monmouth Street salon. “You have a lot of people who are staying out of Red Bank because of the parking.”
Nancy Adams, executive director for RiverCenter, which oversees and advocates for the business special improvement district, said the organization supports this initiative as an improvement for both businesses and customers. “If people leave to feed the meters, chances are they’re not coming back to the store,” as has happened under the previous system, she said.
Gary Sable, who owns and operates That Hot Dog Place/Soupmeister, 30 Monmouth St., sees a flaw, which will impact his business. People who want to run in a grab a cup of soup or a quick lunch to go will think twice about dealing with the terminals. “They’re just not going to do it,” he insisted.
“I don’t see what the big deal is,” said Alexia Lutz, who lives and works in Red Bank. “I think they’re great. I just wish it was for more than four hours.”
“It’s the wave of the future,” Menna said, noting the old meters are being phased out, industrywide.
If this program is found to be acceptable, the old meters will eventually be installed in other parts of downtown, where officials had always intended putting them, such as the commercial section of Reckless Place and Harding Road, he said.
The on-street meters remain the same, $1 per hour, with customers able to pay by coin or prepaid smartcard, which can be purchased through the borough.
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