June 29, 2023
The new parking app Stone Harbor is using this summer in place of cash payments has resulted in a massive uptick in the number of parking tickets issued to motorists using the borough's metered zones and lots. In May, Stone Harbor police issued 564 parking tickets, up from just 33 in May 2022. And at $34 a pop, this year's fines amounted to $19,176 in a single month.
During the Stone Harbor borough council meeting on June 20, the town's leaders asked Police Chief Thomas J. Schutta whether enforcement under the new system is perhaps too strict.
"Absolutely not," Schutta answered. "Absolutely not."
"From 30 to 500?" one council member responded.
"Well, don't forget, back then, we were issuing warnings, too," Schutta said. "And this system allows us more seamlessly to enforce this. It really does — (rather than) have (officers) walking around, just kind of blindly looking."
Street parking in Stone Harbor is free during the offseason, but metered zones are in effect between May 1 and October 1. This May, Stone Harbor debuted ParkMobile, the smartphone app that drivers can use pay public-parking fees, replacing the former kiosk system that had previously replaced the old-style, coin-operated meters.
ParkMobile is a widely used app in the region and the same company that developed Philadelphia's MeterUp parking app. Similar systems are used in New York and Washington, D.C.
At the council meeting, Schutta was asked if he would have done anything differently after the rollout, to avoid the huge increase in parking tickets that were issued.
"Absolutely not," Schutta said.
To use ParkMobile, a motorist must enter the vehicle's license plate number, vehicle make and model and a payment method. Alternatively, people who don't have the app can call the ParkMobile Service Line and relay the same information by phone.
Stone Harbor's parking zones are assigned five-digit codes. A driver enters the code into the app to designate where his or her car is located. When time is running out on the parking space, the app sends notifications reminding the app user to extend the parking time via the app or prepare to move the car to avoid being ticketed. Each credit card transaction on ParkMobile tacks on a 30-cent fee.
Since Stone Harbor police can easily travel between parking zones and check the app's log to know which cars have expired parking, enforcement has become simplified.
But the 1,600% increase in parking tickets in May was swift and steep, especially considering people who visit Stone Harbor are expected to adapt to the new system that had replaced the previous cash option.
The borough's website says most of Stone Harbor's paid parking zones cost $1 per hour and have three- or four-hour limits, which can be extended on ParkMobile. The marina boat launch zone costs $10 for all-day parking.
Council President Frank Dallahan did not immediately respond to an email sent Thursday with questions about the borough's parking situation and the police department's vigorous enforcement of the law.
Anyone headed to Stone Harbor this summer should download the ParkMobile app and get familiar with the borough's parking system. The days of relatively lax parking ticket enforcement appear to be in the past.