Friday, July 16, 2010

Guest of the Stable: Ian Sacs

The following is a reply to the Guest of the Stable piece earlier today by Hoboken Transportation and Parking Director Ian Sacs, who is available via email at:  i.sacs@hobokennj.org.  Although it's unusual to have two Guest of the Stable posts the same day, this submittal merits an exception.

Hi Sean,

First I wanted to say that I am sorry I didn't get back to you earlier.  I make a lot of effort to reply to residents as quickly as possible, so it's unfortunate that your message either did not get to me or got buried.  Either way, I am very happy to respond because you bring up several of the fundamental concerns (and potential solutions) regarding the metered parking areas of our city.

1. You have good timing on the question of multi-space meters.  One of the first things I moved on after being appointed last fall was assembling bid specifications for this equipment.  Earlier this year, we received Council approval to award a contract for "Phase I" of an effort to replace single-space meters.  We are just 2-3 weeks from installing multi-space meters and monitoring a pilot implementation along Washington Street.  The plan is to replace single-space meters along the East side of Washington Street from Observer Highway to 7th Street.  This technology has been extremely successful in other cities, and we expect this plan to not only increase the number of parking spaces along Washington Street, but also to increase revenue and dramatically improve accountability of the cash collections in Hoboken.  As you hinted in your letter, it is also a prerequisite for more advanced methods of managing parking demand.

2.  On double parking, it's obvious that this primarily occurs because there is not enough space to park along the curb.  In commercial districts where parking is metered, the recommendations you reference from Dr. Shoup are powerful tools in arriving at a balanced parking scenario where double parking is no longer necessary.  Getting to that point requires careful study and approach.  Dr. Shoup's mantra of "performance based pricing" is entirely apropos for Hoboken's commercial districts, but the right way to effect such concepts is through thoughtful and inclusive dialog with the businesses that look to parking as a critical factor in their success.  And I entirely subscribe to the philosophy that revenues generated from performance-based solutions are appropriately rolled back into the transportation mix to best serve the community.  I have begun that dialog with several community organizations that represent businesses in Hoboken with hopes to work towards a solution that makes a parking space available on every street and simultaneously integrates well with our larger approach to solving Hoboken's parking problems.  If there is always a space available curbside, the frequency of double parking will drop considerably.

Lastly, I wanted to emphasize that the topics discussed above are but plates in a smorgasbord of solutions that must be implemented in order to resolve Hoboken's parking and traffic problems.  That's why, in addition to the commercial-specific concepts discussed above, we are moving full force on a wide array of programs, including a dramatic focus on pedestrian safety, improved bicycle facilities, expanded shuttle bus service and routes, and implementation of the city-wide car-sharing program (corner cars, http://hobokennj.org/cornercars).  If you have interest in this broader plan, I've written a more technical op-ed article for an internationally-read website Planetizen.com here: http://www.planetizen.com/node/42812.  I warn you though that this article is not for the faint of heart, so enjoy at your own peril!  I hope this is a sufficient response to your questions.  Cheers!

Again, if you would like to contact Ian Sacs on a transportation or parking issue, note the dote between his first initial and last name: i.sacs@hobokennj.org

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Guest of the Stable: Sean Iaquinto


This is a letter I sent to Ian Sacs, the Director of Parking and Transportation, a few weeks ago. Actually I can't remember if he replied, but I don't remember him doing so. What are your thoughts on fixing parking along Washington Street?

"Hi Ian,

I just wanted to know two things:

1. Are we looking to perhaps replace the meters on Washington Street with smart meters (meters that you can use credit cards, etc) with like they have in NYC?

2. I was writing about the double parking situation and did some research. New Haven had an issue like us with parking and I wrote this:

"One solution is we should have smart meters on Washington Street, which use "Dynamic parking" (refers to a system in which parking fees rise and fall according to demand. For instance, during the busiest part of the day downtown, it might cost $2 to park for an hour. When there are fewer cars around, it might be only $1.) Smart pricing also frees up curb space by incentivizing long-term parkers to use off-street lots and garages.

New Haven had similar issues with parking as we do, you can read more here.

Donald Shoup, author of The High Cost of Free Parking, says: "His proposed solution, implemented in a number of cities around the country: charge the "right price" for parking - not too little (or free) and not too much so as to discourage people from coming downtown.

That could be done either by varying the price according to time of day, or by charging for length of stay, Shoup said. He said optimally, most parking spots would be full but there'd be enough open spaces to make finding a spot relatively easy.

Second, he proposed returning parking meter revenue to the neighborhoods that generate it, to pay for improvements neighbors and merchants want to see.

Then cities should remove or reduce off-street parking requirements, shrinking the amount of pavement surrounding urban buildings and facilitating the creation of more human-scaled development, he recommended."

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The bottom line is that Washington Street is too easy for people to park there in the middle of the day, popping quarters into a meters all day and taking up space. Someone like me would gladly pay $1 to park for 15 minutes if I can get in & get out.

I know plenty of business owners who park on the street and keep feeding the meters all day long to park. They clog the streets from people like me or parents who just want to pick up their kids or someone who simply wants 15 minutes to do a quick pickup and get on their way."

Wanted your thoughts on that if you had a second. I mean, don't you think the issue on Washington Street is that we don't have enough quick turnover & that it is too cheap to park? I think we should be looking to raise the price to park along Washington Street, for people like me who may be in their car and want to pop-in and out to buy something. Sure, there's the argument for people who want to eat along Washington Street, but I think a) they can pay more to park there for an hour or b) They should look to use a public parking garage if that cost is too high (I mean $4 for 1 hour is still probably cheaper than a garage).

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Even after writing this I think a key issue is having enough parking garages. A perfect location for a multi-story garage would be on Observer between Washington and Hudson. That's a huge parking lot that if it was converted into a multi-story lot it could house a ton of people who drive into town looking for a quick place to park for downtown dining or shopping.

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