With new, electronic kiosk-based parking meters on the way for the 2016 summer season, Seaside Park officials last week began a debate on whether rates should be changed.
The new metering system will be implemented along Ocean Avenue, where mechanical meters have charged for beach parking. Currently, the meter price is $1.50 per hour, with Council President Michael Tierney recommending an increase to $2 per hour.
“I think it’s more of an opportunity now that we’re looking at our budget,” said Tierney, referencing a decline in revenue from traffic violations following years of aggressive enforcement of a 25 m.p.h. speed limit along Central Avenue.
The rate hike for the parking meters would equate to about $470,000 in revenue, worth about a penny on the tax scale.
“I think it’s too much,” said Councilman Frank “Fritz” McHugh. “I think we should go the opposite way.”
He was joined in his opposition by Councilwoman Faith Liguori, who said because parking is unmetered on all but Ocean Avenue, metered parking leaves the ocean block underutilized since drivers park on side streets to avoid having to pay.
“The meters are empty during the week and the people park all along the side streets,” said Ligouri. “They’ve been doing it since those meters were there. The only time those meters get filled up is when Island Beach closes.”
“During the week, Monday through Thursday, they’re empty,” agreed Councilwoman Jean Contessa.
Because the new system is being installed, parking fees will go into effect May 20 instead of April 30, like most years. Council members did not agree on a final price, but floated the possibility of charging $1 per hour Monday through Thursday and $2 per hour on the weekends.