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North Bergen transitions to virtual parking permits

The township is working with residents as it rolls out the new system

Residents can still get virtual permits in person at the NBPA, seen here via Google Maps

The North Bergen Parking Authority (NBPA) has made all parking permits virtual.

Drivers can now register their vehicles at a new Permit Portal located on the NBPA website at nbpaonline.org. In addition, the township has launched a new mobile app known as ParkVantage to allow visitors to the township’s commercial areas to purchase parking by credit or debit card without needing to carry change.

“We’re working hard every day to improve parking in our community, and these new virtual programs will help residents, visitors and customers at local businesses park more easily and conveniently,” Mayor Nicholas Sacco said in a newsletter regarding the virtual shift.

Get permits online

Through the use of new license plate reading technology, all residential and visitor permits are now virtual. Users upload a picture of their driver’s license and vehicle registration from any device to the new Permit Portal.

Parking permit confirmations are delivered via email. According to the township, rates have not changed.

Any car parked in a residential zone for more than three hours must be registered with the NBPA. All current residential parking permit holders are already pre-registered, but will need to create a free account to renew a permit or make changes.

Daily visitor parking permits are also now available online for guests who will be parking in a residential zone for more than three hours. Each virtual daily permit allows a visitor to park in a residential zone for 24 hours, with no tag required.

Still available in person

Virtual residential and visitor permits are available over the counter at the NBPA office at 4225 Bergen Turnpike during operating hours. For those without internet access or after office hours, pay stations are available.

According to the township, the new online system was released earlier than anticipated to provide a safe way to obtain permits during the pandemic. The NBPA is working with the developer on further refining the program to eliminate certain requirements to make it easier to use.

ParkVantage app users will be able to renew permits for longer-term parking, with a maximum of six hours instead of three. There will be a convenience fee on each transaction, and higher hourly rates will kick in after the first three hours. Traditional parking meters accepting change and metered pay stations accepting various forms of payment are still available for residents who prefer them, according to the township.

“Residential and visitor parking permits are essential for making sure that there is enough available street parking in our neighborhoods, and these new digital options will make it even easier to get vehicles registered and able to park,” said NBPA Executive Director Robert Baselice.

Change is hard

While North Bergen is trying to make parking easier, not everyone is pleased.

Outspoken resident Robert Walden argues the new parking regulations have eliminated the ability of residents to buy visitor passes in advance in recent letters-to-the-editor. According to Walden, a resident must now buy a permit after the visitor arrives, after uploading the visitor’s driver’s license, registration and plate number to the NB Parking Authority if the guest wants to park for more than three hours.

“This is not just unreasonable and difficult for everyone, it is an invasion of your and your visitor’s privacy,” he said.

However, residents can obtain virtual visitor permits ahead of time at the NBPA office and at pay stations, according to the township. Residents just need to indicate the date when entering other visitor information.

“The virtual permit has added another layer for people to be able to get permits,” Baselice said. “Everything people want to do with regards to getting permits at our office they could still do, it’s just that it’s no longer a physical hangtag. It’s more accessible.” 

A work in progress

Baselice reiterated that the entire program is not completely rolled out yet.

“We went to a better system we think and many residents believe so,” Baselice said. “The machines that we purchased will allow us to limit the amount of times a plate can purchase a permit in a week because we do have people that buy are permit every day and park on our streets and then commute to New York or whatever. We haven’t gotten there yet, we needed to get the visitor permits rolled out. Then we have the visitor permit one-day rolled out. Then we will have the visitor permit where you can buy more than one at a time rolled out. Then we will have to option to buy multiple permits at one time. So we’re still in the process.” 

The system was released early as a means to mitigate the virus spread.

“After all offices were closed in 2020, we had to come up with some platform and that’s what we did,” Baselice said. “Now we’re refining it. There are still some questions that are out there and I’ve been speaking to residents. We try our best to make sure that what we’re doing is in the best interests of as many people as possible. But change is difficult sometimes. We’re trying to address that.” 

Officials addressing parking

Additionally, Walden said the new process encourages ‘out-of-towners’ to park in North Bergen. But he added the issue is not necessarily with visitors parking in the township, but the lack of parking in general.

“The real problem is North Bergen keeps building huge housing complexes which don’t provide enough parking for tenants and visitors,” he said. “More residents [equals] more cars. It’s also because NB doesn’t build parking garages, only small parking lots here and there.”

Baselice disagreed, arguing that the township has been increasing parking lots and that many buildings have parking lots that sit empty.

“I don’t necessarily agree with that,” Basilece said. “I do a lot of parking. Buildings have parking lots that are underutilized in many cases. That’s out there, we all know that… In the time that I’ve been here, we went from five parking lots to 22. There will be 22 this year. We went from 90 spaces to over 450. We put angled parking on Bergenline, we put angled parking on Broadway, and we’re going to put angled parking on Boulevard East in the near future. And we’re going to extend the angled parking on Bergenline.”

Comparing North Bergen to its neighbors, Walden suggested the township follow suit: “The new parking regulations are mean spirited and poorly thought out, unlike in Union City and Weehawken, which give their residents two re-usable visitor parking permits which don’t expire for at least a year, for free!”

‘Better system’ now in place

Addressing the comments about the new system allegedly being ‘mean-spirited and poorly thought out,’ Baselice said: “We spent many hours of conversations and many hours of meetings discussing this with residents and looking at past complaints,” he said. “We’re trying to make it better for our residents, we’re not trying to make it worse. We’re not subsidized by the township, we don’t take a penny.” 

Baselice said the new virtual format is better, and said that distributing physical hang tags in that matter would not be tenable given the population.

“We believe it’s a better system,” Baselice said. “We don’t want there to be user error. We don’t want to be in a situation where there are people that want to be able to do something online. I don’t have the ability to do that, so we built it out in that fashion so now if you don’t want to come to the office, you don’t have to. You can now purchase your permits online.”

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com.