Parking. It’s one of the first things we learn to do when driving and, once we learn how to drive, parking is something we do every day.
In Scarsdale, parking is among the biggest long-term topics of discussion alongside keeping the village’s businesses thriving. In fact, the two subjects are often discussed in tandem.
Village Manager Steve Pappalardo said the village’s parking management plan is to maintain a focus on providing long-term parking opportunities for both commuters and merchants in and around the village’s downtown, “preferably in parking lots.”
The addition of the Christie Place Garage that features four-hour meters was a big step in 2009. The latest effort — a tryout of eight-hour parking between the Scarsdale Police Sub-Station and the Merchant Parking Lot on East Parkway — reserves 34 spaces for permit holders during specified times, but the spaces are available to the general public after 11 a.m. Monday to Friday and 8 a.m. Saturdays. Those who pay $85 for the permit are not guaranteed a space, and all users of those spaces, including permit holders, must pay at the pay station during designated hours.
The permit may also be used at the 12-hour meters along Scarsdale Avenue in the event the East Parkway spaces are occupied.
While long-term parking for commuters and those who work in the village is a priority, Scarsdale also wants to provide a myriad of short-term — meter-based — parking opportunities to make sure businesses can maintain successful operations in the downtown.
“To a great extent, Scarsdale is a bedroom community serving residents working and commuting daily, via rail, to Manhattan,” Pappalardo said. “As such it is important that these residents have a place to park within a short walking distance to and from the train station.”
He added, “Our long-term lots and valet parking options [such as the lots on either side of the Scarsdale Train Station, the private lot on East Parkway and the Freightway lot] afford this opportunity and the majority of parking permit holders using these lots are Scarsdale resident commuters.”
Short-term parkers, on the other hand, must come to town armed with rolls of quarters for meter parking. Soon, however, that will no longer be a problem. Scarsdale’s Board of Trustees voted unanimously Feb. 26 to enter into an agreement with with Pango, an app-based parking management solution.
“This was the most cost-effective solution to allow residents to pay with a credit card with an app,” said Trustee Justin Arest. “I’m very optimistic and I think it’ll be great for all residents.”
While he believes Pango is a good solution, “there will be a bit of a learning curve,” Arest said, and the village has an agreement to exit the contract in case it doesn’t work as well as anticipated.
Assistant Village Manager Ingrid Richards told the Inquirer the village staff is “doing a lot of prep work internally” and expects to get the new system up and running within 90 days.
“As some of the parking meters are old and not functioning at full capacity, the internal mechanism of the meters will be replaced in fiscal year 2019-20,” Richards said, and replacements, estimated for $100,000 in the capital budget, will not include the outside housing.
According to Richards, the village will keep 100 percent of the parking fee, but the vendor, Pango, will charge those parking an additional “convenience fee” that will equate to 16 percent of the parking rate paid by the parker. The credit card processing fee will be included in the convenience fee.
Parking fees will remain at the current rate: 25 cents for every 15 minutes.
But not everyone is satisfied. Far from it.
Michele Napolitano, a Yorktown resident and Scarsdale merchant, said the town should figure out a way to offer free parking.
“They should offer two- to three-hour free parking and then start charging,” Napolitano said. “Other towns offer it, like Katonah and Chappaqua. Scarsdale should, too. Let people shop. Let it be friendlier to merchants. We lose business all the time because customers are deathly afraid of getting tickets.”
Pappalardo said the village has already tried its hand at free parking throughout the downtown. However, the results were not favorable.
“The village in the past has offered free two-hour parking during the Chanukah and Christmas holiday season to encourage holiday shopping in the downtown business district,” Pappalardo said. “We ran this program again in December 2017 and received complaints about the lack of turnover of vehicles during the two-hour free parking program.”
Pappalardo noted the village does offer free parking on Saturday and Sunday in the lower levels of the Christie Place Garage, in the Freightway Garage, Freightway Open Lot and in the Beatty Lot.
Pappalardo also said offering too much free parking may cut into nontax revenue.
“The village has not otherwise considered free parking for a variety of reasons, primarily the opportunity to abuse the privilege resulting in increased enforcement, which is a frequent complaint,” said Pappalardo, “and the loss of nonproperty tax revenue for this user fee which is important to maintain acceptable tax levy increases and for the overall operation of the village government.”
Then there’s the aforementioned parking enforcement. No one likes to get hit with a parking ticket — especially when the enforcers have been, on occasion, accused of being rude and quick to write tickets — but Pappalardo said village’s enforcement of the parking rules actually translates to better business.
“Many of [the] merchants count on frequent parking space turnover for the convenience of their customers and, due to the extensive short-term meter feeding occurring in the village on a daily basis,” he said, “achieving this objective requires time limit enforcement by village parking enforcement officers.”
The parking philosophy in the village manager’s office isn’t unique to Scarsdale. In the neighboring village of Mamaroneck, the village manager’s office shares some of Pappalardo’s views.
Village of Mamaroneck assistant village manager Daniel Sarnoff told the Inquirer each village has to juggle the parking priorities for residents, business owners and shoppers.
“It’s the eternal struggle of parking in the downtown,” Sarnoff said. “No one ever has enough and it’s an in-demand resource.”
According to Sarnoff, the amount of available parking in a municipality’s downtown has a correlation to the types of businesses you will attract.
“If you want to support a vibrant downtown you need parking,” he said. “If you have a lack of parking you end up with [a lot of] businesses [like banks] that don’t need a large turnover to be successful.”
Sarnoff added, “If you want a community that has mom and pop stores that are vibrant and need a higher rate of turnover to survive, you need adequate parking and adequate enforcement of your parking regulations.”
In Bronxville it’s more of the same. Bronxville Village Manager Jim Palmer said it’s the village’s job to manage the “competing interests between commuters, shoppers and merchants.”
So, the question becomes how do you manage those competing interests when it comes to parking?
Palmer said parking from a municipal perspective is about giving the merchant, shopper and commuter choices when it comes to paying for parking. He touts that Bronxville was “one of the earlier communities in lower Westchester to implement a pay-by-phone app.”
Bronxville completed construction of a 203-space parking structure, which takes a lot of the parking off the street. In additon, the new garage has allowed the options of 24-hour reserved parking for Bronxville residents who don’t have access to a home garage or a parking lot at their apartment building.
Mamaroneck, said Sarnoff, like Scarsdale, is planning a deep dive into parking.
In sort of a circle-of-life method of events, Mamaroneck did its own pilot parking meter program a couple of years ago and Scarsdale reached out to Mamaroneck to learn the success of their pilot program before Scarsdale began their own version.
Unfortunately, Sarnoff said, their turnout was very small with less than 50 residents responding to the survey that accompanied the pilot program.
Scarsdale’s pilot program testing four different types of meters throughout the village ran from October through December 2017. The village included two single space models and two multispace models.
The program allowed residents to both call in and go online to give their opinions on which models they liked and the various types of struggles they may have had using the new models.
“Over the years we replaced mechanical meters with electronic meters, increased the time limit on the majority of the short-term meters from 60 to 90 minutes based on user feedback and demand [and] installed 20-minute meters in front of the post office on Chase Road and on Depot Place and 30 minute meters on Freightway Avenue to facilitate the retail businesses in these areas and increase turnover of the spaces,” Pappalardo said.
In 2014, the village hired a parking consultant to view the parking conditions in the village and research ways to implement 24 new multispace meters in the downtown and add a pay-by-phone app.
A test of the multi-space meters as part of a parking meter pilot program led the village to forgo that option in the downtown because, according to public feedback, the meters were “too inconvenient, confusing and time consuming” for village drivers.
Now that the village has finally settled a 21st -century automated parking vendor, visitors to the village center will soon be able to pay-n-go much more easily.
— with reporting by Catherine Ferris