The conversation surrounding Haddonfield’s updated paid parking hours continued at the Nov. 13 borough commissioner’s work session, two months after the ordinance was updated in September.
The new hours include Saturdays – previously free – and weekday paid parking expanded by two hours.
Publisher David Hunter, of Haddonfield Today, published data he collected through a parking survey of 200 participants, with 83% of the respondents based in Haddonfield. The results showed that 97% of participants want to see a restoration of free parking, 68% prefer to pay using a parking meter (rather than the current kiosk or an app) and 56% will shop elsewhere on Saturdays due to the new hours. In general, 61% said they hated the new hours.
The results did not come as a surprise to any of the commissioners, but they remained firm in their stance: There isn’t enough data or the time to collect it.
“I don’t know that it’s enlightening to the three of us that people dislike paying for parking on Saturdays,” said Mayor Colleen Bianco Bezich. ” … We said we’re not going to make a decision before the end of the year.”
Commissioner Kevin Roche reminded the community that the purpose of changing the hours was not to create a surplus, but to help offset rising costs by finding alternative revenue streams and more ways to manage increased expenses downtown.
“The important thing is, how do we convert that additional revenue to be showing up in the community itself?” Roche asked. “And I think that will far outweigh if there are Saturday hours or additional hours, but that’s something we look at to help offset the cost, and ultimately to offset the cost for our shop owners.
“Because if costs go up, who’s going to bear the brunt of it?” he added. “It’s the landlords and ultimately it’s just going to flow down.”
Commissioner Frank Troy emphasized the lack of time to fully collect data that would indicate whether or not the extended paid parking hours were impacting downtown businesses. Finding the answer was among the goals in making the shift and people pushing back against it.
He added that he would be happy to make the changes (to the ordinance) if it made sense for all stakeholders, but Troy doesn’t think that “we’re at that place to make those decisions yet,” and proposed waiting until the change of season to fully understand the reaction and what businesses had to say about the issue.
Unlike metered parking, the parking kiosks and app will provide more data points, such as when demand is at its peak or how parking on the weekends compares with weekday parking in different seasons.
Since extending the hours, the commissioners have only had two months to collect data. Of those two months, Bianco Bezich noted there had been other factors besides paid parking that may have deterred people from coming downtown, such as the weather.
“In September and October, it rained every Saturday,” she noted. “That affects our downtown as much, if not well more, than parking availabilitydoes.”
Starting the day after Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day, parking will be free downtown as part of the Partnership for Haddonfield’s candlelight shopping event. Parking permits will become available in January for seniors so they can get around town without using the kiosks or apps.
In other news:
- Once study results have been reviewed by the mayors of Haddonfield, Barrington and Haddon Heights, each municipality will seek to hold public information sessions on the $75,000 Local Early Action Planning (LEAP) Grant allowing the hiring of a consultant to review all fire and EMT operations. The borough sessions will be both in person and on Zoom
- The borough got $30,000 from the Haddon Fire Company No. 1 to fund continuation of the firefighter stipend program through the end of the year
- The borough applied for a $5-million grant through the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs.
The next commissioners’ meeting will be Monday, Nov. 27, at 7:30 p.m.