Summit addresses parking issues with pilot program

SUMMIT, NJ — The city of Summit has launched a six-month trial Uber pilot program to address the lack of parking in its downtown area, specifically at the train station, where residents can purchase parking permits. The city tested the program during last year’s holiday season, and they are continuing to test it out with 100 participants this year.

The idea originated with the city’s administrator, Michael Rogers. When he entered office last year, he received numerous complaints about parking. He made it a top priority to address these concerns.

“The idea for this program originated after much discussion with various people,” Rogers told LocalSource over the phone. “I wanted to find a short-term solution to the problem that wouldn’t require something time-consuming and costly such as building a parking garage. I took a look at who was using the parking spaces and many of them were commuters whose cars would be parked at the train station all day while they were at work. Technology allowed a solution to this problem where we could essentially eliminate these cars from the lot, allowing more spots to become available. In the future, we hope to accommodate resident employees and some of their parking needs. So far we have received positive feedback with this program. I arranged a contract with Uber, who agreed it was an innovative idea as they never considered Uber could be a solution to a parking problem.”

Commuters purchase permits, but they are not assigned parking spots. They arrive at the train station for their morning commute and circle the lot in a frenzy while frantically trying to find an available spot prior to catching the train. The Uber program will eliminate 100 cars from the lot, leaving more parking spots available to the rest of the commuter population.

Residents who have already purchased four-dollar-a-day parking permits will be able to take Uber to the train station for free. Those without prepaid parking permits will pay two dollars each way. Summit will now subsidizing those commuters’ uber rides to the train station.

“The city of Summit estimates that our net cost is approximately $167,000 a year based on an actual cost of $7 per day,” Summit Public Information Officer Amy Cairns, told LocalSource in an email. “The rider will pay two dollars a ride, or four dollars a day. We estimated this based on 100 participants, if all 100 riders used the service twice a day, Monday through Friday for an entire year.”

“The city will supplement the cost of the uber rides from the parking utility fund,” Councilmember Robert Rubino told LocalSource during a telephone conversation. “We won’t need to spend tax dollars on the program. We want to reduce the amount of stress on the parking system. Building a garage or parking deck would cost much more money. If we can keep 100 cars off the parking system for the next year, we will take the data from this trial and use it to determine if we need to build additional parking lots in the future. We don’t want to overwhelm the parking system in either direction.”

There is currently a waiting list of 25 people for the trial program, and if any participants cancel their membership in the program, this will allow for those on the list to test out the program. If the program is a success, the amount of participants will also increase over time. So far, participants seems satisfied with the new service.

“The program seems to be successful so far,” Cairns told LocalSource. “We have 100 residential commuters signed up and have started a waiting list of 25 people. I made a few calls the other day. One resident reported that she is extremely happy to have this option and no longer needs to circle from lot to lot looking for a spot in the morning, as she is conveniently dropped off at the train station. Further, she is able to leave her car for her nanny to use.”

“The parking issue isn’t a bad problem for us to have,” Rubino told LocalSource over the phone. “It means we have a popular downtown with a nice sized population. While it presents a challenge for us to meet the needs of commuters, we are an innovative city that will continue to move forward with plans to address these needs.”

“We hope to learn how this program can be sustained at the end of the six-month test,” Councilmember Sandra R. Lizzi told LocalSource.

Summit Mayor Nora Radest and other council members were unresponsive when contacted by LocalSource for comment. Councilmember Richard Sun responded to LocalSource’s request but was unable to comment prior to press time.