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A Push for Paid Parking

Thu, 04/18/2024 - 11:06
ParkMobile charges municipalities 30 to 37 cents per transaction, but there are no upfront costs. In Sag Harbor, which now has paid parking on Long Wharf, above, the village was able to allot more than $100,000 to sidewalks.
Durell Godfrey

Like it or not, public officials in search of new revenue streams love paid parking. In a case of cross-municipality cooperation, local officials have collaborated and chosen ParkMobile as the parking app for South Fork lots. So, if you aren’t familiar with ParkMobile, now is the time to change that, as the number of lots using it is growing.

For example, in the last month, the East Hampton Town Board, East Hampton Village Board, and the Sag Harbor Village Board have all announced an expansion of paid parking just in time for the high season. Over 10 previously free parking lots have been turned into paid lots, all controlled by the app. Rates and hours differ for each lot. In most cases, parking is free for an initial period of time, with fees kicking in after that.

East Hampton Village already employs ParkMobile in five lots and now uses it for beach parking. Sag Harbor introduced legislation in April to expand all village lots to ParkMobile, and three lots in Montauk will go online by June.

Sag Harbor was the first to start using ParkMobile. In 2021, it turned Long Wharf, arguably one of the nicest parking lots in North America, sticking out as it does into the bay, into a paid lot. It has since raised $250,000, with less than 1 percent of those funds coming from residents in the 11963 area code.

Aidan Corish, a village trustee and unofficial parking czar of the village, says the money has funded sidewalk maintenance and tree trimming along the sidewalks. Previously, the village’s budget for sidewalk maintenance was only $30,000 a year.

“All parking funds have to go to transportation, that was part of the deal in the beginning,” he said. But that can be loosely applied. The money has also been used for flood mitigation on sidewalks. In the future, as the village works to encourage cycling, it might be used to help pay for better bike lanes. The new legislation also calls for paid parking to be active year round; previously it was just in season.

East Hampton Village doesn’t restrict where the paid parking money goes. Marcos Baladron, the village administrator, said in 2023, that $86,000 was raised from the ParkMobile lots and put into the general fund. “ParkMobile is really easy to work with. It’s a nice source of income.”

At the April 2 East Hampton Town Board work session, Councilman David Lys announced that three Montauk lots, the Kirk Beach parking lot; the lot at South Edison Street and South Euclid Avenue, and another at South Embassy Street and South Elmwood Avenue would all soon be controlled by ParkMobile. The money will be used for town beautification.

“That funding will be used for streetscape needs, like Christmas trees. We’re trying to use a non-tax revenue for a beautification need,” he said in a phone call. This will be the town’s first year using the service, so it is not yet sure how much money will be raised. The three lots will be controlled seasonally, for now, and Mr. Lys expected them to be functional by mid-June.

It’s hard to argue with the ease with which these lots are transitioned to revenue streams. Once a public hearing is held and legislation passes turning previously free lots into paid lots, ParkMobile “geo-fences” the area to be policed, and assigns it a numeric code. In East Hampton Village, police cars have license plate scanners that alert an officer if a parking session is active or not, making ticketing easy. In Sag Harbor, traffic control officers use handheld scanners. Another benefit is that lots that were previously difficult to enforce, such as the one at Havens Beach in Sag Harbor Village, are now moneymakers.

So far, the public has not come out against the changes. Data from Sag Harbor show most revenue raised comes from visitors, not the locals who know when the paid parking kicks in. In every municipality, firefighters and ambulance volunteers are exempted from parking fees.

“ParkMobile has been a huge success,” said East Hampton Village Mayor Jerry Larsen. “We listened to what our merchants were asking for and gave their customers a way to park longer. We are expanding it this spring to cover more areas of the village.”

“At first there was pushback,” said Mr. Corish in Sag Harbor. People worried about the elderly not being able to figure out the app. A man who received a ticket complained because he felt there wasn’t enough signage. “Eventually it all worked out. I think the village could get $300,000 a year out of paid parking for no staff and little overhead. It’s the future.”

“Last summer we had 10,000 transactions and I got no complaints,” he continued. “Not one. Taking core parking and using a paid structure to force turnover is a good thing. When things are free, they don’t have a value. Parking is a perennial problem. When I drive by the gas-ball lot and see vans belonging to plumbers or landscapers, essentially getting three full days of free parking, I ask, why should they get to park three days for free, at a cost to village residents?”

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