RED BANK – With major development projects taking shape along primary borough byways, parking experts said the downtown business district has a deficit of more than 200 parking spaces.
Their long-anticipated findings were revealed in a study presented at a special Jan. 10 meeting.
According to representatives of Walker Consultants, though more parking is of the essence, a multilevel garage is not the answer.
Instead, Carolyn Krasnow, Walker Consultants vice president, said the needed parking stalls are already available in the heart of Red Bank, “even at busy times.”
Senior consultant Brian J. Bartholomew said simply fixing an insufficient parking system could be a more immediate and cost-effective solution to the parking deficit.
“It would be foolish for us to say that you need a parking garage right now, based upon your current operational conditions, due to the fact that your parking program is broken,” Bartholomew said.
Walker Consultants was hired by the borough in May 2018 to conduct an 18-week study of Red Bank’s parking inventory, an examination that began in the fall at a cost of $52,350, of which $25,000 was subsidized by Red Bank River Center’s board of trustees.
Krasnow said her team formulated its parking estimate based on the expansion of the Count Basie Center for the Arts, as well as the projected occupancy of currently vacant downtown retail and restaurant spaces, and the projected lease of unoccupied second-story office dwellings along major business district arteries.
According to that model, Red Bank has a deficit of 221 spaces on weekdays and 98 during evening and weekend use.
Bartholomew said a major source of the deficit is the permit-only parking spaces lining the White Street lot.
He described interviews conducted by the Walker Consultant team with both English and Spanish-speaking patrons who voiced their annoyance and growing frustrations about driving past empty permit-parking-only stalls in an often lengthy search for open spots.
Of the 271 total spaces in the borough’s most frequented lot, 63 spots are reserved for permit holders. Bartholomew said permit spaces, or those purchased by the month, “should never be reserved.”
“That’s a parking principle. The only thing that monthly parking permits should do is to buy down the price of parking versus parking on a daily basis. That’s it,” he added. “All municipal parking should be on a first-come, first-served basis.”
The Walker Consultants study also monitored 105 curbside parking stalls. Krasnow said the results indicated excessive multi-hour feeding of the meters and even documented 27 cases in which vehicles remained parked for four hours or more.
Krasnow explained that on average, this type of activity is regularly displacing more than 60 customers.
To fully remedy the borough’s parking woes, Walker Consultants provided a list of recommendations, none more pressing than Red Bank’s need for a professional parking manager, which the report estimated would require an annual salary of $85,000 to $120,000.
Bartholomew described a scenario in which too many cooks were in the borough’s kitchen and stated the importance of a single, empowered entity providing oversight of the situation.
“There are a lot of hands managing parking. And with that, a lot of best industry practices aren’t being adhered to,” Bartholomew said.
According to the recommendations, this parking manager, a position the borough hasn’t filled since 2006, would not only manage the day-to-day tasks, but negotiate partnerships between the borough and private lot owners for usage at peak-hour times. The parking garage adjacent to Pazzo restaurant at 141 West Front St. was noted as an asset that is available for public use after regular business hours, but could be better promoted and utilized.
If the borough decides not to hire a parking manager, Walker recommends forming a parking authority to provide oversight powers that are independent of politics.
The Walker Consultants’ assessment also criticized the borough’s governing body for depleting the Red Bank Parking Utility’s revenue.
Bartholomew said the tactic leaves little to no additional funding for non-parking expenses like repaving lots, infrastructure improvements and technology investments, such as license plate recognition software, an upgrade over conventional parking meters.
Bartholomew recommended the implementation of a three-year program that discourages the borough from accessing parking utility revenue.
- Extend parking enforcement from a 6 p.m. end time to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday in order to maximize revenue opportunities.
- Transition permit parking from the White Street lot to other lots around the borough.
- Invest in improved signage that clearly directs patrons to the borough’s various lots when the White Street lot is at capacity.
- Designate locations in town as “convenience parking” and up-charge patrons for settling in those coveted premium spaces. Bartholomew compared it to stadium seating at a sporting event. The closer you sit to the action, the more you are likely to pay.
After a single authority is appointed (whether it be one manager or parking authority body) and the recommended policies and procedures are instituted, Bartholomew suggested the borough conduct a parking supply and demand analysis two years from now to re-evaluate conditions, and to determine if additional spaces need to be created with a garage or by other means.
This article was first published in the Feb.7-14, 2019 print edition of The Two River Times.