ROCKLAND — Metered parking not only allows for constant turnover of parking spaces in high-flow areas, it also increases customer volume and therefore retail sales within that high-flow zone.
“People are going to be able to find a space to come and give your store business, because somebody is not staying there all day,” said a sales executive for a software business within the pay-for-parking industry.
At least, this is the pitch given to Rockland City Council, March 12.
For at least a year now, the City of Rockland has been pursuing the option of charging for use of its estimated 800 parking spots within its downtown municipal lots and along Main Street.
The goal, according to Councilor Ben Dorr, who spoke during the presentation, is to keep the vehicles moving, and not just through the procedure used by various downtown employees of moving their autos to a different nearby parking spot every two hours.
Providing incentive to end the procedure, known as shuffling, has been enough of a priority in recent years that Rockland City Manager Tom Luttrell reached out to Passport’s sales executive Mollie Bolin a year ago. Luttrell has also been in talks with McKay, which sells the actual parking meters and kiosks.
“When free parking is available, business owners, their employees, residents who live nearby tend to park in high demand spaces for long periods of time,” said Bolin. “Patrons who would be spending money at these businesses are then left to find a place to park, and sometimes end up leaving without entering their intended destination.”
By charging more for high-demand locations during high-demand timeframes, parking complaints could be mitigated while the City simultaneously generates income from the meters.
The City would trial the parking on a seasonal basis, according to Mayor Lisa Westkaemper.
But how to go about it?
Pat O’Brien, of Fiore, said during the meeting that he is a proponent of metered parking. He’s watched it become the norm in Bar Harbor, and has no problem seeing it migrate into Rockland. However, Fiore customers don’t always stay very long.
They’ll park their cars, run in to the store for 10 minutes or less, and be driving away soon after. Why would they pay to park for 2 hours? And now that Fiore has decided to establish curbside pickup, he’s hoping for a parking system that would allow for momentary idling.
For Councilor Valli Geiger, the concern revolves around the Strand and its shows, which are often longer than 2 hours.
“So every time I go, I get a ticket, because it’s a 3-hour show?” she said. “We invite people to come down and watch a show. They have to be able to park for the length of the film.”
The City of Rockland must make decisions in its pursuit of pay-for-parking, and those decisions go well beyond whether to implement 2-hour or 3-hour time limits. Do they want meters at every spot at a cost of $1800 each? Or a kiosk for every five spots? Does paid parking end at the end of the business day? Do Rockland residents get a discount?
Parking is never free, but revenue can cover the infrastructure
Based on national averages, each on-street parking space is estimated to cost around $1,750 to build and $400 to maintain, according to Bolin.
Councilor Ed Glaser expressed some hesitation with those numbers.
“There will be people who make the observation that Rockland doesn’t spend anything on its roads, so therefore those numbers are way inflated,” he said.
In response, Bolin said, “And it may be because you guys don’t have the revenue to spend on it.”
Bolin’s organization, Passport, is a computer software company that maintains a mobile parking payment app for cell phones.
The application (app) allows for drivers to register their license plates and pay remotely without climbing over snowbanks, hunting for kiosks, or carrying cash and credit cards. In return, the company can provide advice on where to find parking, alerts registrants 10 minutes prior to their meter expiration, enforces non-compliant parkers in the form of issuing tickets, and provides municipalities it caters to with the statistics generated regarding high-demand days, times, and locations.
For Rockland’s presentation, Bolin made comparisons to other beach towns.
She admitted that Bar Harbor isn’t the same as Rockland due to being even more touristy and close to Acadia National Park. Yet, the statistics are still worth noting, according to her. Bar Harbor spent $148,000 for its metered parking. The town made $1.5 million in year one.
Other beach towns in the comparison included Pampano Beach, Florida; Cocoa Beach, Florida; and Virginia Beach.
Asbury Park, New Jersey, makes over a million dollars a year just from their parking application alone, according to Bolin.
Another beach town receives $300,000 in revenue per year that they tied back into city improvements.
As well, Portland was mentioned for how using the Passport app reduced yearly ticket written by parking officers from 120,000 to 90,000 per year and still increased revenue.
Ogunquit was mentioned for its use of Passport enforcement.
You should not remember your parking
If you remember your parking, it’s not a good situation, said Bolin.
“If you have easy access to parking, it’s easy to be compliant with it and pay for it,” she said. “If you do get a ticket and it’s easy to pay the ticket, then you’re not going to get as many complaints about it.”
Instead of adding a metered parking ordinance to the next Council agenda, Councilor Glaser suggested a workshop.
“Rockland residents are going to have a lot to say about this,” he said.
Bolin gave a similar presentation to the (now-dissolved) Parking Committee, and police officials. According to Luttrell, attendees of that presentation were in favor of metered parking.
Once a decision is made to commence trialing a new generation of metered parking in Rockland (Rockland had parking meters up into the 60s) RFP bids will be considered.
Getting McKay meters installed in Rockland would take approximately 6 - 8 weeks, according to Luttrell. Remote access by Passport would also take about 6 weeks.
Reach Sarah Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org