The reforms, which will likely involve adopting a number of ordinances over the next few months, would change the focus of local parking regulations and reallocate resources to other more urgent areas.
Last year, the council voted to approve comprehensive zone parking enforcement, especially in Jersey City Heights, where a parking shortage seems to be worsened by out of town drivers. But the council’s action has not progressed due to lack of equipment and personnel.
A new fleet of modern, vacuum street sweepers is slowly replacing the outmoded machines currently in use. Lavarro’s plan, which isn’t expected to be fully mobilized until 2020, would reduce the number of times a street gets swept weekly from four to two, and would free up parking personnel to deal with parking permit violations.
The new parking plan would also establish an online data base for street sweeping.
Too many people get tickets
Lavarro said residents are inconvenienced by the four times a week street sweeping schedule and often face tickets, fines, and even suspension of licenses because they cannot get out to move their cars.
“We’ve all had to rush out to move our cars when we heard the enforcement siren,” he said. He recalled attending a meeting when this happened and everybody in the meeting jumped up.
Motorists also waste time moving their cars for street sweepers, often leaving work or homes to circle the block waiting for the sweeper to pass. A person stopping to get a cup of coffee in a local shop, he said, might find that the coffee cost jumped from $3 to $203 to cover the cost of a ticket.
One report issued last year said that Jersey City issued 162,000 tickets just for street sweeping in one year.
Many towns use this as a revenue generator, but Lavarro said Jersey City should not be one.
Although streets often display rules for parking, not all signs are clear and sometimes signs are missing. This means some residents might not be aware of the rules.
The lost revenue can be partly recovered by greater enforcement of residential parking programs that would help eliminate out of town parking on Jersey City streets.
“We want the punishment to fit the crime.” – Rolando Lavarro
Lavarro said he would also introduce an ordinance that would set up a ticket amnesty program that would eliminate fines for residents’ tickets prior to Jan. 1, 2017, and allow residents to pay tickets after that date without a late fee.
Under current law, a person who does not pay a ticket faces a number of legal issues. Tickets are often lost or blow off windshields. Sometimes a resident doesn’t know he or she got a ticket until they get a late notice in the mail. If this is misplaced, a second notice may notify them that their license will be revoked if not paid. After that, a resident failing to comply could also have their car registration revoked and car insurance dropped. There are hefty fees to restore each of these.
The new parking plan would also establish an electronic fine reminder. Residents when applying for a residential parking permit would include an email, and when a ticket is issued, this would trigger an automatic email to the resident.
“We want the punishment to fit the crime,” Lavarro said, claiming that street sweeping tickets should not ultimately result in a person’s inability to drive to work or to have to pay big fees to get the issue resolved.
Lavarro’s plan would also end the practice of suspending a license for unpaid parking tickets.
Some of the changes may need to involve state legislators, since some rules for ticketing are governed by state law.
In addition, the new parking plan would reform booting laws. Currently, if a driver has one outstanding ticket, the city has the right to boot the car if the car violates another parking regulation. The change would boost this to five outstanding tickets, not one.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.