By DUSTIN RACIOPPI
In the absence of projections, forecasts or even conservative estimates, Red Bank officials appear to be going on hope when it comes to a plan to compensate for a shortfall in parking revenue.
Contrary to a claim by Mayor Pasquale Menna that borough Chief Financial Officer Frank Mason had worked up projected revenue gains from a proposed doubling of fees for street meters downtown, Mason says he has not yet made such forecasts.
As the Borough Council moves forward with a plan to boost non-lot parking to $1 an hour, and jack up yearly parking permit fees to $800, from $600, the only figure that’s clear is how much money has been lost since lifting Saturday parking fees a year ago. Mayor Pasquale Menna says it’s about $10,000 a month, or $120,000 a year.
Unknown is how the plan might affect the dynamics of downtown parking. Will it push downtown employees into the lots? Officials contend downtown workers have been bogarting prime street spots for entire shifts, forcing shoppers into the lots, making for a longer walk to stores, or driving them out of town altogether.
More immediately, will it make up for the shortfall resulting from free Saturday parking?
“My guess is as good as yours,” Mason told redbankgreen Tuesday. “These are tough questions with tough answers.”
There are too many factors involved to be able to put a number on what to expect if the rates double, Mason said.
“It’s difficult to do an analysis,” he said. “There’s lots of variables in there.”
But he’s willing to take a shot at it. Mason is working on getting some sort of projection ready for the council. Meantime, a previous effort, to extend meter hours, appears dead and buried.
In a more long-term approach, Menna said he’s researching a way to upgrade the entire parking management system in town. Specifically, he wants to purge the borough of parking meters altogether as an antiquated payment system.
He’s in favor of pay stations and making the currently available smart cards easier to replenish, perhaps by cell phone and credit card.
“It boggles my mind that nobody really uses smart cards,” he says.
He’d like to see them banished from Red Bank sooner rather than later.
“There’s no reason why we have meters in the streets. It’s an impediment,” he says.
If approved, the minimum fee at affected meters would also rise, from 10 cents to 20 cents for 10 minutes, according to the ordinance on the borough website.