Monday, April 7, 2008

You know your community ate paint chips as a baby when it can't even get a parking lot right. Here's the recipe for a perfect parking lot: Take one parcel of land, cover in asphalt, paint lines. Then leave it alone, you're done!

The year you get your driver's license is always the year your high school messes up the parking situation — they had no idea so many juniors would be driving to school! — and I've been touchy about parking injustice ever since. There was this permit system with stickers and registration numbers, so different people could park in different spaces in different lots at different times. The inevitable daily result was that all of your available spaces were filled, plus there'd be plenty of open spaces that you couldn't use since you didn't have Alpha Level 2 Code Black privileges. I suggested an alternate system, where whoever arrived at the space first got to park there — you know, just like in every other parking lot on the planet. But I think it was less about the parking and more about the power trip, which is so egregious. I mean, I'm already driving to school in a beige 1988 Ford Taurus station wagon, how much more humiliated do I have to be?

Ever since, I've been waging a one-man protest against parking meters and their partners, the two-hour residential parking limit. I'd rather the signs just
say outright Fuck You, Commuters!

Here's how things stand right now: Last year, the daily parking rate at the train station was three dollars. The Borough Council, or whatever cranky old people make the decisions in this town, raised the price to a round $3.25 — claiming that they had to raise the price to cover increased sales taxes. Sales taxes went up 0.25% but the town council raised the parking fee by 7.6% to cover it? Someone needs a new calculator. But that happened without too much incident. Then, maybe a month ago, the train station ghosts put signs around the building that the machine outside that eats your dollar bills and shits parking tokens and change was now out of service, because the town was "in the process of selecting a new system." I don't know — I would've probably waited until the new system was installed, or being delivered, or at least chosen, before decommissioning the current system.

We have a temporary system in place. A police officer stands by the parking meters with one of those metal cash boxes, and civilians hand cash over to a cop in exchange for parking rights. I'm not saying anything unscrupulous is going on with people paying a police officer to avoid getting a ticket, but it doesn't look that good. Maybe if I slip him a twenty, he'll let me park in a handicapped space?

On March 29, the town raised the price of daily parking again, announcing that as of April 1, keeping your car in the lot for a day would cost five dollars, a healthy 54% increase... and, I guess they chose their new parking meters, because the same promulgation made clear that the fee was five bucks in quarters. For those of you doing the math at home, that's a hundred quarters a week. Video arcades don't have that many quarters. There's a part of me that's really looking forward to the first of the month, when all the daily parkers head to the bank across the street to exchange a hundred dollar bill for two thousand quarters.

Fanwood (rightfully) claims it needs the extra revenue after the governor cut the state aid available to small towns, but it turns out our town seriously overestimated the demand for inconvenient five-dollar parking, especially after consumers are already being gouged by New Jersey Transit, the Port Authority, the MTA, and oil companies. The lot, which used to be filled to capacity, now operates at about forty percent... so now the town is making less money off the lot than they were before.


Mike said...

Raising parking fees lowers total revenue? Impossible. What kind of voodoo economics are you playing with Jay?