Moorestown considers replacing old Main Street parking meters with kiosks

The Moorestown Economic Development Advisory Committee held a meeting to gain input from residents in regards to parking.

It’s no secret that most of the parking meters on Main Street don’t work. Despite this, many residents aren’t completely sold on the idea of replacing them.

During a parking meeting held by the Moorestown Economic Development Advisory Committee last week, a few residents called the replacement effort a “money grab.” Others were concerned over where Main Street residents will park when parking rules are more heavily enforced.

“It doesn’t reflect well on the town when meters don’t work,” said Chris Chiacchio, chairman of the Moorestown Economic Development Advisory Committee. “It’s an issue we need to address.”

Township Administrator Thomas Merchel repeatedly assured those in attendance the township is not interested in making money off parking.

“I wouldn’t get hung up on the cost,” Merchel said. “We’re not trying to make money off of this.”

Chiacchio presented three ideas, the first being replacing the meters with “smart” parking meters. The meters would likely be solar-powered, and drivers would have the ability to pay with a credit card and add more time from their smart phones. Police officers would be able to see, via their computers, whether a car is paid or unpaid, as opposed to walking Main Street. The software would also allow the department to see when a meter is out of order. There would still be an option to pay with coins on the smart meters.

The second option would be to replace the meters with 11 parking kiosks that would operate similar to the smart meters, and the final option would be to remove the meters altogether and use manual enforcement.

“It’s probably going to be an expensive option if you have to hire somebody full time to do that,” Police Chief Lee Lieber said on manual enforcing parking. “We would like to prioritize how we use our manpower.”

All options would include a “free time” of somewhere around 15 minutes, according to Chiacchio. This would allow people to park and run into a coffee shop or pizza shop without having to pay.

Another concern was parking turnover, or lack thereof, on Main Street.

“The overnight parking for residents often turns into taking parking spots for businesses that are needed during the day,” said Mike Locatell, council’s liaison to the Moorestown Economic Development Advisory Committee.

A few residents felt parking is a bigger issue than how long people are parking there, saying the spots are extremely inconsistent in size, leading people to squeeze into a spot that is already taken and ultimately blocking driveways. One resident suggested making spots smaller to create more spots. Another wide concern was local businesses are losing foot traffic due to the lack of parking outside their establishments.

The general consensus from residents at the meeting was kiosks are an undesirable option. Reasons such as looking inconsistent with the town and causing confusion to those unfamiliar with the devices were cited.

Many residents requested more information on what the options would cost, but the representatives were not yet ready to provide that information.

“The revenue will exceed the expense for this, but the point is not to make revenue,” Merchel said. “The point of the meters is really to regulate the parking.”

The purpose of the meeting was to gain input from residents, as Chiacchio says planning is in the preliminary phases. Residents were provided a survey with questions, including which parking plan best suits Moorestown businesses, what the time limit for parking should be, when time limits should not apply, whether municipal parking lots should have paid parking, what prices for parking should be and whether business owners and employees should be given parking permits to waive parking costs.

Once a more concrete plan is in place, it will be presented and voted on at a Township Council meeting.