New rules for parking

Ordinance encourages high-rise dwellers to use building garages - or get ticketed

Downtown parking may get a little bit easier thanks of a new ordinance
Downtown parking may get a little bit easier thanks of a new ordinance

A measure that was intended to adjust residential parking habits downtown but was defeated three years ago was given new life when the City Council adopted a revamped version of the ordinance at its Jan. 24 meeting.

In 2016, then-Council Member Candace Osborne attempted to expand hours and locations of residential parking in Ward E, only to face public outrage and significant opposition from fellow council members.

Now James Solomon, who has since become the Ward E councilman, has successfully shepherded through a similar ordinance, with significant support from local residents.

“This is very much like the ordinance Candace tried to get passed,” Solomon said.

The ordinance

The existing regulations required residents in any of 12 zones citywide to get a parking permit for their neighborhood, which was not transferrable to other parts of the city.

Cars parked in another zone later than the designated cut off time, or without the proper permit, risked getting ticketed or booted.

Under the new ordinance, residents living in buildings that provide parking are not eligible for residential parking permits.

“Landlords are required to tell residents before the move into these buildings,” Solomon said.

Currently, drivers can park in most of the zones for a maximum of two hours between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., after which enforcement ends. This enables residents in the new high-rise buildings, who are not allowed to obtain parking permits because their buildings have private parking garages, to park overnight, causing a shortage of street parking for motorists who have permits.

Some residents with no private parking drive around for an hour or more in search of spaces that would otherwise be available.

The new ordinance gives people without a permit three hours rather than just two to park, so that they can shop and enjoy local restaurants.

But it also extends the enforcement hours to 11 p.m. in most of downtown and business districts Monday through Friday, except public holidays. City officials hope this will encourage high-rise denizens to use their building’s parking garages rather than risk getting a ticket.

“The main purpose of the change is to ensure residents without private parking are using the extremely limited street parking in downtown,” according to the ordinance. “In the evenings, many residents of new buildings with private parking utilize city streets instead of parking [in] the building. This creates a significant shortage of spaces in downtown.”

“The main purpose is to try and free up spaces that are very limited for people who have no other parking options.” – James Solomon

Solomon said thousands of new units have been built in the area over the last few years, putting additional pressure on the city to come up with a solution.

When first proposed, Osborn said the ordinance closes two significant loopholes in the law.

“People in high rises are supposed to park in those buildings,” she said. “That’s why those buildings were required to have parking and they are not allowed zone parking permits. The problem is, many skirt the law, because if they work in New Jersey and drive to work, then they are gone from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. So, they never need to get a permit [during the day] and don’t park in their buildings.”

Officials said developers would not have gotten support for some of these projects if parking had not been included. The fact that people do not use the private parking puts an additional burden on the neighborhood.

By expanding residential parking requirements to 11 p.m., the city allows residents with permits to find spaces when they get home from work, which may not be the case when residential parking ends at 5 p.m.

Solomon said the continued growth in that area over the last three years has only made the situation worse.

“The main purpose is to try and free up spaces that are very limited for people who have no other parking options,” he said.

Will the city build garages?

Although Councilman Richard Boggiano voted with the majority to adopt the ordinance, he said the city needs to construct public parking facilities like those in some he’d seen in Charlotte, S.C.

“We can’t build and build and build and not provide parking,” he said.

Ward F Councilman Jermaine Robinson said the number one concern he hears about in his community is parking.

Currently, the city has no plans to build public parking except near shopping districts like Central Avenue.

Mayor Steven Fulop in several public statements said the more parking the city builds, the more people are encouraged to use cars.

Like many older communities, Jersey City was never designed to handle the volume of traffic the city currently deals with. Trolleys and other public transportation were supplanted in the 1950s by the new emerging car culture. Cars are a key part of suburban culture, but the recent migration back to the cities is worsening the lack of urban parking.

City planners have sought to approve developments that would steer people to use public transportation.

Solomon said he is not proposing the construction of parking garages, but may seek to make accommodations with existing private parking facilities near Grove Street that might help ease the overnight parking shortage.

The ordinance, however, goes beyond downtown in regards to parking meters and extends hours of enforcement from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.  Meter enforcement under previous regulations was 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.This is to assure that there will be turnoff in metered spaces in commercial areas.

The ordinance also modifies some of the parking zone boundaries. Previously, the Village area was lumped in with Van Vorst section.

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