permit parkingMontclair 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:

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.

9 replies on “Seth Glasser: New Train Station Parking Rules Too Restrictive”

  1. I think I read recently that the permit system has been outsourced. I would be curious to know how much the outsourcing contract is worth and if it reduces the MPU staff. Who scans the permits? The MPU or the MPD? Is there an added cost to perform the scans?

  2. Had there been a train commuter on the Council, the Council never would have let Marc Dashield adopt this new system. It may make the Parking Utility’s life easier during the one week every six months when we commuters renew our permits, but it’s no easier for commuters. Am I supposed to go out and laminate my new permit once I print it out, or should I just hope a printed page lasts for six months? It certainly can’t be easier to enforce the new system, because instead of looking at hang tags, which can be done from a car, someone now is going to need to walk the deck or lot and look at the tag on each dashboard.

    For this, we’re actually paying a contractor $25,000 more than it cost the Township to run the program itself. It’s early days yet, and I hope I’m wrong, but this looks like a mistake.

  3. Paper is a terrible idea! When you open and close your door the paper tends to blow off the dashboard. One is always trying to retrieve the ticket to place it back on the dashboard. This is the same problem that has generated criticism in NYC with their paper parking passes. This will just lead to more parking tickets for commuters ( another day off for court) will forget to place the paper on the dash.

    LEAVE THE PLASTIC HOLDERS! Hire some temp workers for the registration that 2x a year.

  4. The whole system is ridiculous and more costly than it should be. There is no reason for permits to be linked to license plates. When you pay for a permit you pay for a parking space and it shouldn’t matter how many cars you own or if you prefer to drive a different car every day of the month.

    It would be easier for everyone and simpler and much more cost effective to place electronic entry points to the parking lots that are operated by a card. You go in, you use your card. You go out, you use your card. No problem for the system to ensure only one entry and one exit per card. No need to hire people to daily check all the cars. No need for paper printouts. You can have your card loaded at a booth at the parking lot for a six month period.

  5. I’drather–Here’s the problem with an electronic card system: Such a system is fine when people come and go at different times. It’s not fine when most customers arrive and (particularly) depart at the same time. It’s already tough to get out of our commuter lots after an evening rush hour train arrives. (The Bay Street intersection was horribly designed, but that’s a complaint for another day.) A card key system would make it tougher.

    Also, although I agree in concept that a permit holder should be able to park whatever vehicle s/he is driving that day, there are two practical reasons why we have to tie the permit to a license plate. The first is to deter permit theft. The second is to make it impossible for permit holders to sell access to their permits for a profit. New residents of Montclair already have to wait unacceptably long to get a permit–a problem made much worse by the fact that Montclair, unlike every neighboring town, is forced by NJ Transit policy to sell permits on equal terms to residents and nonresidents alike. If we let people sell their permits to the highest bidder, new residents wouldn’t stand a chance.

  6. Wayne looked at parking gates and electronic entry cards for the lot at Wayne Transit’s rail + bus facility. It was decided that the cost + maintenance of the new system far outweighed the hang tag system in use at Mother’s, Willowbrook commuter, etc. Each month you get a new hologram with number for your hang tag.

    Wayne also allows daily parking (for $2) after 8.30am in the permit lots. You enter your space # at the kiosk and receive a receipt which you take with you. The inspector can print out a list of day paid spaces. No reason why Montclair can’t do something similar.

  7. Sounds nightmarish. We’re going to need to put a piece of paper, loose, on the dashboard and hope it stays there for six months?!? Also the multiple car option is fairly critical. Once again we’ve created a problem where one didn’t exist. More thoughtlessness and lack of consideration to the people for whom this is essential. Ridiculous.

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