All of the pay stations/kiosks will be activated after the free holiday parking period is over. COURTESY PETER YACOBELLIS

By JAIMIE JULIA WINTERS
winters@montclairlocal.news

UPDATE, Dec. 15: Township Communications director Katya Wowk told Montclair Local in November all of the township’s parking kiosks would be online by the end of December, as described in the story below, but she said later that she’d been misinformed. Only kiosks in a Bellevue Avenue lot will be active by that point. The township is expected to authorize the purchase of more kiosks, for more lots, at a Dec. 21 meeting.

Montclair’s plan to install kiosk parking payment stations at all surface lots — replacing the meters used for individual spots — is expected to roll out in late December.

“All of the pay stations/kiosks will be activated after the free holiday parking period is over, at the end of December,” Communications Director Katya Wowk said.

Meters that had been in place at the lots will be redistributed to streets, to help mitigate the township’s ongoing problem with broken meters.

Montclair began allowing drivers to park for up to two hours free on Saturday Nov. 27, for the holiday season. The two-hour free parking ends on Dec. 27. 

Drivers who park in the lots will also optionally be able to pay with a new app — Flowbird — or the same Parkmobile app that has been available in the past, and continues to be used for on-street parking. 

“The utility is simply giving customers another option, so they can use the app they prefer,” Wowk said.

The kiosks at the Fairfield Lot behind the stores in Watchung Plaza are already up and running. 

In October, the Township Council nixed a proposal to stop ticketing at dead meters. In June, 4.5% of the meters were reported broken, according to parking utility officials. By fall, that number was closer to 11%. But Jason Gleason, executive director of the Montclair Center Business Improvement District, and some council members have said they believe 60% of 1,300 meters throughout Montclair are broken on any given day.

Councilman Peter Yacobellis said in October he thought 80% of the meters on Walnut Street and more than half on Bloomfield Avenue were dead.

Some meters are jammed by users with gum, coins and other materials. But many of Montclair’s broken meters fail because their batteries drain while they try and fail to get cell signals, after provider Verizon upgraded networks 2G to 4G service earlier this year.

According to Wowk, Verizon wasn’t expected to make the switch until December 2022. Hundreds of meters stopped working after it went into effect. 

Due to the number of broken meters, in October Yacobellis proposed ceasing tickets to drivers who park at broken meters. Instead, the township planned to combat the increasing number of dead meters by installing payment kiosks at lots throughout town. 

At the Oct. 20 council meeting, Council Member Robin Schlager said the conversion from meters to kiosks at the lots would free up 500 meter heads to be used as replacement heads throughout the streets of Montclair. 

According to Yacobellis, township staff are working with Verizon to have the 2G service turned back on. In the meantime, Yacobellis said in a message to constituents Nov. 11, approximately 120 meters had been sent in for repair and replaced with 4G chips at that point. At least 280 new batteries had been received or were on order, to get meters working again, Yacobellis said at the time.

The township has posted stickers on all 1,300 meters throughout town that warn motorists to pay or risk tickets, and that include ParkMobile app instructions.

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