Hoboken Parking Utility “Money Van”
Finally got a chance to snap some photos of the infamous “money van” when it was parked (legally, surprisingly) outside of City Hall.
Incidentally, as I was taking the pictures, a HPU employee came running out of the building and said “Excuse me, what are you doing???” I informed him of my right to take pictures in public and kept walking.
See my better suggested photo of what the van should look like after the jump.
I’ve heard from some friends (who NEVER carry a digital camera with them) about this new high-tech parking revenue van recently acquired by the City.
The story ran in this week’s paper, so here’s a summary, some observations and suggestions.
What is this van?
The purpose of this van is to scour city streets to find parking/permit violators more efficiently. Armed with computers, sensors and boots, they check license plates, permits and even criminal records. Those in violation of the “4 hour limit” will be booted and fined a total of $195. Most city streets that don’t have meters have alternate parking regulations, where one side is “residential permit only” and the other is “permit parking only” – or 4 hour limit for those without permits.
Where the city plans to “get you” is that this 4 hour limit isn’t just on that street, or in that spot, it’s within city limits! The city claims that, according to Hoboken City Code § 141-9, if you plan to be in the city for longer than the 4 hour “grace period,” you will be ticketed, towed or booted without a permit. To me, however, the ordinance does not specify whether the “vehicle parked” means in one spot, or in permit zones in general. It’s ambiguous, and can be argued either way.
Unsuspecting visitors who spend more than 4 hours in Hoboken, and who haven’t memorized Hoboken’s city ordinances, may find themselves $195 poorer. Of this $195, $100 goes to the city directly, $50 to Paylock, Inc., and the $45 parking ticket fine is split between the city and the state (not sure what %.)
What is wrong with this system?
For one, the signs on the street simply say “all others, 4 hour limit.” This does not imply or suggest that this limit is city-wide. Most drivers will leave this up to their own interpretation and assume they can move it to another spot elsewhere. Additionally, even though the signs say “Permit Parking Only,” they do not guide new visitors on how or where to obtain their permits.
And since this parking van is currently operating from Monday through Saturday, 6am – 10pm, it is planned to go into use 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Those drivers that come to town when the HPU is closed, will not be able obtain their permits, and will still be subject to the boot & fine. John Corea suggested that drivers “get their hangtags in advance, or use a city garage.”
To me, this is almost like having speed limit signs on the highway with no numbers. “People should read our city ordinances before driving here.”
Another issue, provided the public becomes well educated about Hoboken’s parking ordinances, is that there may be increased parking problems near or around City Hall. If each visitor knows that they need to go to City Hall first, they may try to get their permit first before finding their intended spot.
Here are a few ideas to level the playing field, and make a clear and honest attempt at notifying visitors to Hoboken.
Giant signs at all entrance points
At each entry point into the city (uptown Willow & Park ave. bridges, the 14th St. Viaduct, and all south entrances,) have gigantic and clearly visible signs that indicate “You only have 4 hours in Hoboken, or else you need a permit. You’ll be out close to $200 otherwise.”
More informative street signs
Additional instructions need to be added to each pole. Indicating that this 4 hour limit is city wide, and where to get the permits. Even a map for those directionally challenged.
15-minute parking zones near city hall?
To make it easier for both residents and visitors to get permits, the city might want to consider a quick “city business” municipal parking area near city hall. 15 minute limit. I’ll leave the logistics up to someone else. Maybe at the parking lot near Barnes & Noble? (see my suggestion from June 2007, on how the city should intervene with that parking lot…)
Automated permit machines?
Other cities have automated kiosks that allow visitors to buy temp tags without human intervention. Either cash or credit, they can print these tags out close to where they park. The city chould probably raise the temp permits a little to cover the cost of the equipment, but we all know the HPU is already a cash-cow, so they should be able to cover it, no sweat. This will also alleviate the parking concerns near city hall for those seeking temp tags.
Any other ideas??