Rahway getting pay-station parking with other changes

RAHWAY, N.J. — The city will be abandoning its stand-alone parking meters for pay stations later this month, joining many other municipalities across the county, and additional streets will be open to paid parking in the downtown area as part of an overall plan to increase visitors.

The changes were approved as an amendment to the traffic code at the city council’s special meeting on Aug. 21.

“Rahway has grown a lot,” city spokesman Joe Brown said in an interview. “After the city took over parking on Jan. 1, we hired a consultant for a detailed parking study. … What they found is that there’s not enough parking to accommodate the current demand.”

Brown referred to the dissolution at the start of the year of the city’s parking authority, a largely autonomous body that set rules and regulations and collected revenue from parking.

Rahway officials say the city has experienced a revitalization over the last 10 years, and its parking needs to modernize to accommodate commuters and pedestrians, and bring more tourism into the city.

Rahway, which touts itself as an art mecca centered around the Union County Performing Arts Center main stage in the old Rahway Theater at the intersection of Hamilton and Irvington streets and Central Avenue, has experienced a 10-percent population increase since 2010. The city has its own annual day-long “culture crawl” set for Sept. 21 this year.

Part of the attraction of Rahway is its train station, making transportation convenient for commuters, Brown said.

“The train station is a real asset,” Brown said. “Rahway is the place where two major train lines come together: Northeast Corridor Line and the Shore Line. Commuters started coming here, developers started coming here because of the Shore Line.”

Although traffic has not shown to be a significant problem inhibiting growth, a shortage of parking has. The pay stations, which will be accompanied by signage to explain the new system, hopefully will make parking easier by allowing for payments with cash, debit cards or credit cards. A mobile phone app also will be made available to further increase convenience.

Moreover, Hamilton Street between Central Avenue and Gordon Place, and Central Avenue between Irving and Campbell streets — all in the downtown area adjoining the UCPAC — will be made open for street parking.

The pay stations have already been installed, yet remain covered, and will become live on Sept. 23. Currently, the parking meters have a four-hour limit. There are parking spaces near the train station that are permit-only.

To aid pedestrian traffic, intersections have been raised in certain areas, bringing streets to the sidewalk level in efforts to slow traffic. There are currently no bicycle lanes, though there are signs called “sharrows,” which tell drivers to be mindful of cyclists.

Besides adopting changes in parking, the City Council also unanimously approved an ordinance to submit a grant application to the New Jersey Department of Transportation for improvements for its streetscape projects as part of its 2020 transit village plans. Transit villages are mixed-use areas with a heavy component of residential units.

“If we get the 2020 village grant, we will use it specifically to make improvements on East Cherry Street and Main Street,” Brown said.