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PARKING KIOSKS PROMPT GRUMBLES, TWEAKS

Parking director Gary Watson, left, guides Lou Gaspari of Lakewood through his first encounter with Red Bank’s new parking meter system in the English Plaza lot. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Day One of Red Bank’s new system of collecting parking fees was a learning and, sometimes, patience-burning experience.

Visitors to some of the five locations where centralized pay stations replaced traditional meters queued up while waiting for those ahead of them to follow computer-screen prompts leading them through the payment process Monday.

“Well, first of all, there’s a line,” one woman quipped when redbankgreen showed up to solicit feedback.

The kiosks require patrons to make note of the number assigned to the parking space they’ve taken and enter it into the pay station via keypad. Fees may be paid in single dollar bills; coins other than pennies; by borough-issued Smart Cards that were also usable with the old meters; and by credit card. Credit card users are asked if they’d like to receive a text alert letting them know when time is about to expire, and allowing them to buy more time remotely.

But in just a short spin through two of the locations, grousing could be heard about some of those functions, and more.

Several parkers, for example, said the machine they used would not accept the dollar bills they tried to feed into it. Parking director Gary Watson, who wandered the downtown offering assistance and gathering feedback, said the problem was similar to that in any vending machine, and suggested users try a different bill.

A woman who works in a nearby store said she opted for the text alert – and two hours later received a text telling her she could not extend her stay remotely.

Andrew Gennusa, owner of restaurant Zebu Forno, said he’d heard complaints from no fewer than 10 customers that the minimum payment allowed on the meters was now 50 cents, double that of the meters, which allowed for half-hour stays. That’s effectively a doubling of the rate for most of his morning customers, he said.

“They may not come back,” Gennusa said of those customers. “This really hurts a grab-and-go business like ours, where people run in to get a cup of coffee and run out.”

Watson, though, said many of the default settings on the central computer were being modified based on feedback.

“There are things we’re learning and fixing right away,” Watson told redbankgreen. “This is brand-news. It’s a learning experience for us, too.”

And some of the users gave the system a thumbs-up. “It’s nice that they text you” when your time is about to run out, said Barbara Valis, visiting from Long Island with Lou Gaspari, a Lakewood man who found the prompts easy to follow.

“I like it better than the meters,” said Amity Martin, an employee at Good Karman who patiently tried and retried to get a machine at Union Street and Wharf Avenue to accept a dollar bill. “This way, I don’t have to have a million quarters with me when I come to work.”

The kiosks cover parking spots in the lots at White Street, English Plaza, North Maple Avenue (Maple Cove), Marine Park, as well as Union Street and Wharf Avenue. The East Side lots are to be equipped with the pay stations at a future date, officials have said.

A team of green-vested “greeters” hired by the borough to provide assistance worked the lots until early afternoon, and would be on-site for two weeks, Watson said.

 

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