Go to Hoboken... Just Don't Drive There

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The 37 Hoboken Parking Enforcment officers drive ahead of the cleaning trucks ticketing cars illegally parked duirng street sweeping. (Sarah Gonzalez/WNYC)

At 8 o’clock on the dot, residents parked along Washington Street in Hoboken, N.J. back their cars out of the angle-parking spots, and idle in the middle of the road. They’re bundled up in pajamas with a cup of coffee or in a business suit eating a breakfast sandwich.

The street sweeper goes by, and one by one, residents pull back into those angle spots.

“It was planned very perfect because let me tell you, you leave it for 5 min, they’ll give you a ticket,” says resident Freddie Flores. “Forty-five bucks they charge you. I remember when it used to be $15.”

To park for more than four hours anywhere in Hoboken you need a parking permit.

More than 15,000 permits have been issued this year for less than 9,000 street parking spots, which means some residents have to park in a neighboring city and cab back to Hoboken.

Some of the temporary parking permits may not be active on any given day.

As of October of this year, the city has generated $150,000 in residential parking permit fees and more than $3.5 million in parking tickets – issued whenever residents park during street sweeping.

Last year the city collected $4.6 million in tickets.

Trenton keeps $11.50 of each parking summons, and the rest goes to Hoboken’s general fund.

Hoboken is just one square mile in size, and street cleaning rules leave several blocks unavailable for parking every day. Hoboken City Council member Ravinder Balla says sometimes there is no other option but to park illegally.

“That’s not unheard of for both myself and other residents,” Balla says. “But we always try our best to find parking, and legal parking, too.”

And some residents say it may be time to re-evaluate how much street sweeping there is.

“They used to do the sweeping only once a week on Washington Street,” says Flores, who has lived in Hoboken for 56 years. “Now they do it every day, every day, every day.”

Resident Kristin Stahl says she has had a lot of time to watch the street being cleaned.

“And it really doesn’t do all that much," says Stahl. "It just kind of pushes around leaves and debris and doesn’t really do anything. It’s not like a vacuum.”

When the truck passes, it leaves two large streaks of debris behind. 

But reducing street sweeping, and making it easier to park, wouldn't necessarily solve the parking congestion, says Rachel Weinberger. She’s a parking expert with Nelson/Nygaard Consulting Associates. 

“When you make it easier to own [cars], you're going to get more car ownership,” Weinberger says.

Only 20-percent of Hoboken residents own a car – the same percentage as Manhattan households. And Weinberger says the city has to balance the needs of all residents.

“If it's a parking lane it's not a bike lane. If it's a parking location it's not a bus stop. So there are lots of demands that are made on the curb,” she says.

It’s a problem for any desirable city. Hoboken attracts a lot of visitors from all over Jersey. And it has among the highest number of bars per square mile in the country... which is the other big parking issue in the city.

The mayor of Hoboken, Dawn Zimmer, says she is trying to create a parking master plan to ease some of the frustration and meet more of the demand.

“We can try to incorporate adding more parking garages,” Zimmer says.

She has already added 850 street parking spots at corners and through multi-space meters.

But she has focused on encouraging residents to ditch their cars by bringing in a bike-sharing program, bike rentals and cars you can rent by the hour and by the day.

She says her goal is to make it easier for residents and visitors to park, "and then get around the city in a different way.”

For now though, you may have to kiss your bumpers goodbye; accept that the face of a leprechaun could be carved on the hood of your car; and, invest in strong tape to hold your busted rear view mirrors up.

Click on the audio to hear Hoboken residents describe their parking horror stories. 


Comments [15]

edward meehan from Brick nj

I lived in Hoboken for 40 years my hole family was born & raised there my father is a retired hoboken firemen of 30 years & my mother was a teacher in olg for 21 years. And as far as I van remember parking in Hoboken was always hard and one day I will come back to visit my home town because I will be a redwing for life.

Nov. 03 2014 06:26 PM
Judith Targove from Highland Park, NJ

Small point but important for a writer: "fewer" than 9000 parking spaces. If you can count something, use "fewer."
If you can't count something, use "less."

Examples: Most houses have fewer than six bedrooms.
Two bedroom houses have less space than six bedroom houses.
Two bedroom houses have fewer square feet than six bedroom houses.

Nov. 28 2013 03:25 AM
Melissa Wolf from Astoria, NY

Have you explored Flushing. Thousands of apartments were built there without any consideration for Parking. Never mind that it's at the end of the 7 Train line and they assumed that everyone would take public transportation. Come on! It's just near the beginning of Long Island. I had a friend who lived there and she had to wait 3 years on a lottery just to get a parking spot on the street. Ugghh!

Nov. 26 2013 07:57 PM
John from New Jersey

I wish you could find out how many persons with cars in Hoboken really need a car to get to work and back everyday. Hoboken has very good mass transit connections and the PATH and light-rail should be in walking distance for most residents. The taxi's are reasonable, too. My daughter and her family have lived in Hoboken for several years. They got tired of the parking hassle and cost and sold their car. When they have to drive out of town they rent a car.

Nov. 26 2013 05:49 PM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

That's nothing compared to NYC. The NYC budget is predicated on income from parking tickets, which is the largest source of funding in the City. NYC Department of Finance even targets certain neighborhoods because there are so few parking spaces and so few people will contest tickets that it's like shooting fish in a barrel.

Nov. 26 2013 10:53 AM

Well, I don't know about Hoboken but if there wasn't street sweeping in JC the place would be completely filthy in about a week. Any time there is a little wind it lifts up all the trash out of trashcans and spreads it around the neighborhood. The street would be paved with a layer of cardboard and plastic bags. I don't think it's a scandal that some working class guy gets paid a living wage to drive around a street sweeper. If you can afford to live in Hoboken and drive a German car (you'd think Hoboken was Berlin by the cars) you can afford to either rent a parking spot or pay the ticket.

Nov. 26 2013 10:31 AM
david wilson from cliffside park

Thanks to Gina from New York for posting that youtube video about parking. That got me to search out this Slim Gaillard-Slam Stewart (Slim and Slam) tune "Looking For a Place to Park." You'll need access to Spotify, but it is worth a listen.

Nov. 26 2013 10:30 AM
Gerald Halloran from Hoboken

In order to understand the reasoning behind this aggressive ticketing against it's own residents, one must understand that the Hoboken property tax rate is artificially low. It is held artificially low by the revenue that is brought in by these and other parking fines.

One would think that the streets and sidewalks of Hoboken are paved in gold, with $4.5MM generated by the parking utility. The opposite is actually the case. Hoboken's infrastructure is a mess. Potholes litter Washington Street, traffic lights are outdated and scarce and as mentioned above parking is at a premium.

Where is the money going? To fund budget gaps with the idea of keeping property taxes low.

Nov. 26 2013 10:27 AM
Cathy from Hoboken, NJ

Ha! Tell us something we don’t know!
The parking/street sweeping is a big money scam, fueling incompetence & corruption on a massive scale!

Nov. 26 2013 10:18 AM
david wilson from cliffside park

I don't want to minimize the importance of parking management and planning. But one aspect of the problem has not be discussed--patronage and revenue for the city.

One person interviewed for your piece mentioned the street sweeping. It is debatable that daily sweeping is effective. What it guarantees though is that some politician's relative has a full-time job and that the city earns revenue that goes into the general fund.

I draw the conclusion that it is a money game since the city has done next to nothing to solve the problem by either planning or committing resources. Instead the responsibility is thrown onto the residents. If the figure your story mentioned is correct--15,000 parking permits issued for 9,000 spaces--then something is rotten in Hoboken. Instead of developing a new policies or investing in infrastructure the situation is allowed to get worse for residents from year to year.

Nov. 26 2013 10:11 AM
Morgan from New York City

Maybe Hoboken could do what London did when they wanted to lower the number of cars in the city: tax big cars for entering the city, and give electric vehicles free parking spaces. Its amazing when you walk around downtown London and you see how those reverse incentives work - there are more tiny electric cars there than anywhere I've been to.

Nov. 26 2013 09:55 AM
Douglas John Bowen from Hoboken resident, 30 years

Ah, that fine Hoboken whine: Give me my (preferably "free") parking. Right now. No exceptions. Or else ... what, exactly?

Nov. 26 2013 09:50 AM
Gina from New York, NY

As a former Hoboken resident, I remember this routine well. I called it 'driving & crying' while I searched for a parking space.
Next time you're searching, hum the tune in this funny spoof video:

Nov. 26 2013 09:43 AM
Brian Van Nieuwenhoven

Hoboken has always had this problem. It's a very densely-populated town. It's good that the political leaders are trying to think their way past the race for more parking/more cars, because private car ownership as a general transportation system just doesn't work in places as crowded as that. But they can absolutely do it. Some people may not like the boundaries that are set, but it's better to take the problem head-on than look the other way when no one can find parking for emergencies / temporary uses and when surrounding towns have to accept as many as 6,000 additional street-parked cars.

Nov. 26 2013 09:39 AM
Beth Heinsohn from Jersey City, NJ

When I moved to Jersey City from Hoboken 15 years ago, I was happy to leave behind paying for a parking lot space and barhoppers' loud street conversations that would wake me from a sound sleep in the wee hours. Unfortunately, it seems that Hoboken's barhoppers, unable to find parking in Hoboken, have discovered my quiet neighborhood in Jersey City Heights, which is easy walking distance from Hoboken's west side. Not only am I again being woken in the night by soused revelers on the street, but street parking has become a nightmare. On most nights, every legal and most illegal spots will be gone by 9 p.m. Good thing I'm a morning person because that is becoming the only time a neighborhood resident can find a legal parking space in this neighborhood.

Nov. 26 2013 08:49 AM

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