With the township weighing its options with what to do with the parking meters downtown, Moorestown Police Director Harry Johnson went in front of the business community Wednesday to solicit their opinions.
Speaking before the Moorestown Business Association (MBA), Johnson laid out the situation: antiquated, frequently failing parking meters that cost nearly $400 apiece to replace, and a township budget of roughly $500 for maintenance each year.
“We’re getting to a point now where we have to make a decision: We replace the meters as they are, or go with newer, higher tech, where you can use cards at the meters, or go to kiosks,” he explained, adding a fourth option—getting rid of the meters altogether.
Hopefully Johnson wasn’t looking for consensus, because the responses he got were varied.
Some business owners advocated doing away with the meters altogether, while others suggested keeping them with a renewed focus on enforcement.
“I would just like to see no meters on Main Street,” said Jeanette Habina, manager at Beneficial Bank and owner of Men’s Headquarters, both on Main Street. “But I think what we need to do is do a better job of signaling people as to where parking is.”
Habina said there’s a lot behind her barbershop, but many of her customers have no idea it’s there because she lacks the proper signage.
However, Dave Lewis, owner of B.T. Edgar & Son Realtors, whose business also sits on the main drag, insisted meters are necessary to keep Main Street from turning into a parking lot.
“You need meters on Main Street,” he said. “You need to move the vehicles. They do camp out.”
He said renters who live on the second floors of Main Street shops would park their cars and never move if meters were removed, and also pointed out that a number of employees who work downtown take up some of the free parking spots on Main Street.
Another business owner sided with Habina, advocating the removal of the meters because keeping them potentially hurts shop owners who have to compete with malls and shopping centers, which have an abundance of free parking.
“In today’s environment, you can go to the mall, and park for free. You can go to any strip center and park for free,” he said. “It’s just one more adversity for any of the businesses on Main Street to try to overcome.”
MBA president Mark Morgan, producing artistic director of the Moorestown Theater Company, mentioned the parking study commissioned by the township Economic Development Advisory Committee (EDAC) as a possible solution to many of the downtown parking woes. But given the project’s price tag—between $5-6 million—it doesn’t address the immediate problem.
None of the business owners in attendance advocated the kiosk idea, which Johnson said would cost roughly $10,000 per machine.
Johnson also explained the township brings in about $25,000 a year from the meters, not including what it gets from ticketing. The police department uses part-time class II special officers to monitor the meters—issuing tickets, flagging defective meters—but hiring a full-time meter maid (which the township used to have) would likely be a money-losing proposition.
Though Johnson didn’t walk away with a clear consensus, Morgan said it would be valuable to know how surrounding municipalities handle downtown parking—which the police department is already looking into, according to Johnson.
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