Can NJ Shore Towns Improve Beach Parking?

Can NJ Shore Towns Improve Beach Parking?

Nothing spoils a beautiful summer day like a never-ending trek from the parking space to the beach chair.

Parking is often difficult to find in bustling shore communities. It’s enough to discourage some people from hitting the water altogether. That’s a problem for would-be beachgoers, merchants who rely on their business and municipalities.

From Long Branch to Cape May, the Jersey Shore has experimented with different solutions to try to cure coastal parking headaches. While some efforts may appear dated or controversial, others are downright innovative. What’s more, the brightest of these methods become even more effective when outfitted with parking guidance systems.

Why Parking Guidance Systems Can Work—Even Near The Beach

When visitors come to Long Branch, they don’t notice the four-level garage that sits steps from the beach because the structure is entirely wrapped within the Pier Village housing complex.

The deck offers paid beachfront parking to visitors. It’s also supplemented by a great deal of metered on-street parking, which helped to lower development costs and keep the garage at a manageable size. While Long Branch has at times struggled to find the most sensible meter rates and time limits for its on-street parking, the deck has remained a steady and sound solution to swelling summertime parking demands.

Parking decks, of course, are ripe for improvements with parking guidance systems. New technologies enable garage operators to observe exactly how many vehicles enter and exit the facility during any given time. Real-time LED signs inform drivers of where they may find parking, getting their toes in the sand more easily and quickly than ever before.

Trial And Error While Refining Parking Solutions

Point Pleasant Beach is one of the Garden State’s most popular beach towns. That means it’s sometimes tough to grab a spot near the boardwalk.

The borough worsened its struggles by restricting paid parking lots. What’s more, the community instituted rules barring out-of-towners from parking in certain high-demand areas overnight, upsetting business owners and loyal vacationers alike. It didn’t help that metered parking required patrons to place receipts on one side of the dashboard or face a fine, a regulation that was overturned in court.

Point Pleasant Beach has since aggressively tried to tackle its parking woes. In addition to several large municipal parking lots near the boardwalk, the borough decided last year to allow more private entities to expand and operate beachside parking lots. The tradeoff is more accessible and more expensive parking for lower revenues from municipally-owned meters.

While most streets remain closed to non-residents looking to park, sprawling municipal lots offer early birds the chance to hit the beach stress-free. The only problem is, it’s easy for drivers to forget where they parked. A video guidance system may help tired tourists find their cars more conveniently, allowing for faster turnover.

If Parking Costs Money, Is The Beach Really Free?

Wildwood City draws many summer visitors because its beaches are free to access. The tourism-savvy community highlights its limited amount of free on-street parking to prospective vacationers. But the municipality knows how to turn sand into money—and that process requires pavement.

Wildwood meters charge guests 25 cents per 10 minutes. That’s a hefty fee compared to other towns, but it provides a financial incentive for beachgoers to stay only as long as they need. When the tab gets too high, they’re apt to leave, making room for fresh visitors who are ready to swim and spend.

On-street parking doesn’t solve all of Wildwood’s problems. The city also generates $500,000 per year through a single parking authority-operated lot. In fact, more than 24 public and private lots serve visitors throughout the summer.

The lure of free beaches and on-street parking, it seems, is a strong one. But it might only work because Wildwood uses a multi-faceted parking approach to rapidly appease drivers when they realize they might not get that free spot.

On the other hand, at 1.4 square miles, Wildwood might make better use of that precious space through parking decks, rather than lots. And parking guidance systems can squeeze even more space, visitors and revenues from a system which keeps their beaches free.