By LOUIS C. HOCHMAN
hochman@montclairlocal.news

Montclair is making headway on its effort to fix up hundreds of non-working parking meters — knocked out of service when Verizon started shutting off the cellular service they use — but hundreds more won't be ready until sometime in 2022.

Residents and visitors are enjoying a brief respite from a problem that's plagued them for months. Under township code, anyone parking at a metered spot is normally expected to pay, even if a meter isn't functioning. When that happens, a driver's choices effectively are to use the ParkMobile app (or call ParkMobile at 877-727-5304 to pay), to find another spot or to risk a ticket. If the meter is otherwise functioning but its coin slot is jammed, a driver can pay with a credit card as well. And with hundreds of meters out of service, drivers — in particular those without smartphones or who don't feel comfortable using the app — say they're struggling to find anywhere to park legally.

But starting late last month and through Sunday, Dec. 26, the first two hours of parking are free — an annual practice in Montclair for the holiday shopping season.

When the parking holiday ends, hundreds of meters will be back in service — 184 reconditioned to use Verizon's current 4G service already, and 204 now out with the township's vendor at the moment — Township Communications Director Katya Wowk said. There will also be a new parking kiosk online at the township's Bellevue lot, where drivers can use either the familiar ParkMobile app or the Flowbird app as an alternative to paying at the machine, Wowk said.

Still, another 614 meters will remain to be reconditioned. The Township Council plans to authorize that work as well as the installation of kiosks in for Grove Street, Maple Plaza, Valley Road and South End lots at its meeting Dec. 21, she said. Together, those projects will cost about $236,000 and should be done in the first half of next year, Wowk said.

Wowk had previously told Montclair Local all the kiosks would be operational after the holiday parking period, but she said this week she’d been misinformed. 

As more kiosks go into more surface lots, the township also plans to cycle out the 219 meters currently in use there, freeing up more for use on Montclair streets. But Wowk said she couldn't speak to the specific deployment. She said she also couldn't say exactly how many metered spots the township has.

Meters began struggling to maintain connections, quickly draining their batteries, as Verizon transitioned service away from its older 2G system before an expected December 2022 shutoff date, township officials have said.

"Given the actions to date, the township should see full meter and pay station functionality as we begin the new year," the township said in a press release issued Friday. But Wowk clarified that only applied to the Bellevue lot and the areas where meters are replaced.

"We are aggressively addressing the metered parking situation to ensure that residents, visitors and business owners have a positive parking experience in the township,” Mayor Sean Spiller said in the release. “The new pay stations, choice of payment method, and upgraded meters will certainly be a benefit for anyone who lives, works or shops in Montclair.”