Hoboken parking cops have to issue at least 1 ticket every 20 minutes
HOBOKEN — For a driver visiting the Mile-Square City, a parking space is the holy grail.
Legal spots are so rare, in fact, that it’s nearly impossible for meter maids to go several minutes without spotting a violation.
Last year, the city issued 144,335 parking tickets, which comes out to almost three for every resident.
That’s a bigger per-capita rate than Jersey City, which has five times the population but only issued twice as many tickets.
Double parking, expired meters and other infractions are so plentiful that the city requires its parking enforcement officers to notify a supervisor if they go 20 minutes without writing a ticket.
Although city officials don’t call the policy a “quota,” parking cops who slack off can find themselves out of a job.
The state Civil Service Commission in February upheld the firing of a parking enforcement officer who sometimes went more than an hour without issuing a ticket.
During an employment disciplinary hearing before an administrative law judge last year, Parking Enforcement Supervisor Robert Orsini said it was practically unheard of for an officer to go 20 minutes without finding a violation.
But Melissa Walker had gaps of inactivity during four days in February 2016. The gap lengths ranged from 56 minutes to 3 hours and 9 minutes.
Walker, who had five years of experience and had been suspended in 2015 for violating the 20-minute rule, argued that she was assigned to a neighborhood where it was difficult to find violations. She also said police officers often beat her to writing tickets for double-parked cars.
The administrative law judge, however, did not believe her.
Millions of dollars
Parking fees and violations bring the city millions of dollars every year.
The parking tickets contributed to the $5.18 million haul that the Municipal Court raked in last year.
A 15 percent tax on private parking fees netted the city another $2 million.
The city’s Parking Utility anticipates revenues this year of more than $17.4 million. Last year the utility made $10.1 million off its parking garages, $3.4 million off parking permits and $2.7 million from meters.
The city’s parking scarcity has been driven in part by more residents and visitors flocking here. The city’s population has increased by nearly 40 percent in the last 17 years, attracting urban dwellers priced out of New York across the Hudson.
The city’s website says it sells about 15,000 residential parking permits a year. But there are less than 10,000 on-street parking spaces available.
Another 2,835 spaces are available in the city’s five municipal garages, one of which is reserved for residents. The rates for parking for three hours in the garages range from $8 to $17.
In 2014, the city hired a consultant to draft a parking master plan that made 27 recommendations.
City spokesman Juan Melli this week said the city has acquired land in order to build a new parking deck.
The city adopted a pay-by-phone option for fees and implemented valet parking. The city this year is expanding its hybrid permit/meter zones, which allow visitors to pay for parking for up to four hours on streets where residents with permits can park for free.
The city also has a wayfinding program that uses electronic signage to inform drivers about the availability of parking throughout the city.
Melli says the city is in the process of improving the design of parking signs.
The city's website has another suggestion: Just give up your car!
"[Y]ou may find it easier to consider alternative transportation options such as Corner Cars and eliminating the high cost of car ownership, not to mention the frustration of looking for parking."
Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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