Montclair has a well-earned reputation as a desirable place for New York City commuters to live and raise a family. This is due in large part to the town’s proximity to Manhattan and its varied public transportation options, underpinned by six Midtown Direct train stations. So it comes as no surprise that new train station parking permit rules are stirring up controversy among residents.
The Montclair Parking Utility (MPU) has been implementing a new train station parking permit system during the past month. With the new system, a permit holder will no longer receive a plastic hang tag in the mail. Instead, the holder will renew her permit online and print out a document which she will be required to display on her dashboard.
While easier and more cost effective in some respects than the old hang-tag system, many residents are crying foul over one very restrictive aspect of the new system. Previously, for a small additional fee, each parking permit could be registered to two cars owned by a household. As the new system was initially proposed, permit holders would be able to register only ONE car, and that would be the ONLY car they could park at the train station.
For many residents, this is a meaningful quality of life issue. The restrictive nature of the new policy indicates that MPU officials lack understanding of the flexibility that residents need. With hectic family and professional lives, driving members of any given household may frequently need to swap cars depending on travel plans, weather conditions, what is happening with the kids, one car needing service on a given day, and for many other reasons. Life just became a lot more complicated for families in this camp.
Resulting from widespread dissatisfaction with the new proposed rules, I created an online petition to which residents have flocked express their unhappiness. The petition link is as follows: https://petitions.moveon.org/sign/multi-car-train-station?source=c.fwd&r_by=9210330
To the credit of the MPU, there was a quick response to the petition. In fact, the MPU is now exploring ways to modify its online interface to enable a permit holder to again register up to two vehicles per household, at an additional (and quite reasonable) cost of $40 per year, or seven percent more than the cost of the base $600 permit. There has been no formal confirmation yet that this will be the outcome, but the wheels seem at least to be in motion.
While this outcome would represent progress, I believe it still falls short of providing the maximum flexibility that some families need. Many households – when including an extra car (or cars) for a nanny, grandparent, or driving-age children – may actually need to register more than two cars to their permit. Previously, the permit holder could “take her chances” parking a third or fourth car at the station, because the plastic hang tags were not easily matched up to registered plates on a parked car. Now, with the new system, the printed permit will display all plates registered to the account. An enforcement official will be able to scan the permit, and quickly compare it to the tags on the parked car. Thus, it becomes more critical that all vehicles in a household are properly registered.
To many, it does not make sense to turn away a permit holder who is willing to pay an additional $40 for each additional vehicle that he might want to register. The permit holder would still be entitled to use only one parking space at the train station, and the daily scanning of permits will ensure that multiple copies cannot be printed and used. Thus, any additional fees collected by the MPU would represent pure extra revenue that could bolster its budget or keep costs down for other permit holders. Why, some are asking, would the MPU turn this down if it had customers willing to pay more for the same usage of one parking spot? If 100 permit holders each added one additional car, this would equate to an incremental $4,000 of annual revenue for the MPU, not an insignificant amount.
Given that lack of a resolution on this issue persists, I urge you to sign the online petition, and let MPU officials know that you support maximum flexibility with regard to the new train station parking permit rules. Please add your comments to the survey as well, as this will add texture to why the parking permit issue matters to you.
Seth Glasser lives and was raised in Montclair, where he is now raising his own two boys. He is a product of the Montclair public schools and works in the financial markets in Midtown Manhattan.