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Downtown Parking Deck Options Revealed

Construction for either plan would cost more than $8 million.

Engineers unveiled two options for parking decks in downtown Millburn Thursday night. Each option would cost more than $8 million and create enough spaces to eliminate all 150 valet parking spaces and create an additional 64 to 70 spaces above what is currently available now, including valet.

One option is to create a deck on Municipal Parking Lot #2, which is located at the corner of Lackawanna Place and Essex Street. It would have a total of 362 spaces and cost $8.11 million ($22,410 per space), said Jim Zullo, vice president of Tim Haahs & Associates, an architecture and engineering firm that specializes in parking.

The façade would be designed to fit into the character of downtown and would have space for one additional retail business along Lackawanna. It would be 28 feet tall, except for the elevator tower, which would be 42 feet tall.

The upside to Lot #2, Zullo said, is that it is closer to downtown and could be used more easily for folks who want to do business in town, go shopping or out to eat.

“It serves both the commuters and the downtown district,” he said.

The downside, some residents thought, was that the plans had no elevated walkway from the garage to the train platform.

Zullo said that the walkway was not  worth the cost because if it “impacts” New Jersey Transit’s platform at all, NJ Transit will make Millburn pay to make the entire platform accessible for those with disabilities, which could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The other option discussed is to build the deck on Municipal Lot #7, which is at the train station itself, behind the Millburn-Short Hills Volunteer Rescue Squad. The total construction cost for a deck on Lot #7 would be $8.44 million, but the lot would have 431 spaces at a cost of $19, 575 per parking space, Zullo said.

Because there were railroad spurs at the station between 1900 and 1930, there would have to be further study of the land on Lot #7 to make sure there’s nothing town officials would have to do environmentally if they dig up that site for a deck, said  Mario Iannelli, a land development department head with Dewberry, a firm working with Tim Haahs on the plans.

Commuters would be the ones to shoulder the cost of the parking lot because their parking fees would go from approximately $360 per year to about $540, said Township Committee member Robert Tillotson, who is on the parking subcommittee.

“Taxpayers aren’t funding it,” Tillotson responded to someone who suggested they would be. “If you don’t park there, you won’t pay for it.”

Some in the audience suggested that if a deck is to be built, the town should move all the commuter-only spots from other municipal lots to the deck and free up spots elsewhere in town for shoppers.

Others suggested that perhaps a deck isn’t needed at all, that the town has enough parking if officials  reallocated the current parking more efficiently.

“The biggest need is commuter parking, although people do say we need more parking in downtown, too,” Tillotson said.

Parking in lot #7 would do nothing for downtown, said some business owners, as it’s too far away.

Bill Deane, a vice president and traffic consultant with Dewberry, studied traffic patterns in Millburn and said that either way, the intersection at Lackawanna Place and Glen Avenue is going to be adversely impacted by a deck. However, he said, an all-way stop placed at that intersection would solve the problem.

“I would recommend the town do that whether they put in a parking deck or not,” he said. “I know there was talk about a signal there at one time but I wouldn’t spend the money on a signal at this point. You should try an all-way stop and see how it works.”

Construction for a deck would take 10 to 12 months, and township officials are looking for other parking options to use during that time – possibly at the recycling center or the site of Rimback Building after it is torn down, Tillotson said.

The public’s next view of the plans will likely be June 16, and Tillotson said he hopes to bring it back for a vote by the Township Committee on June 21.

The Power Point presentation that Zullo made will be posted on the Township’s website sometime Friday morning.

MarkDS June 03, 2011 at 09:58 AM
I am really unsure how I feel about this deck. Valet parking works well but it is a yearly expense and if the number of cars increases will be overloaded, as on many days it already overflows into lot 2. But a deck is a large outlay and does have access and safety issues. So on this issue I remain to be convinced either way.
Charles June 03, 2011 at 11:53 AM
Best comment from a downtown business owner was that there are too many reserved parking lot spaces for business permits; they are underutilized and they should be changed to consumer parking spots. Really a true statement - why our town has the most business/24 hour reserved prime parking spaces of any town in the U.S. I've ever been in is a mystery. The 24 hour parking/business permit parking should be moved to the outskirts (as in Rimbach perhaps) and the spaces reallocated to consumer and commuter parking. The business parking permits should have a higher charge and be subject to tighter controls.
Charles June 03, 2011 at 11:54 AM
And the business permit holders should not be allowed to park in the commuter lots, I should add.
Damian June 03, 2011 at 09:01 PM
Parking fees would increase 50%! Tillotson is being coy; the taxpayers who commute will be paying for this! This is a solution to a problem that doesn't exist.
mollyb June 03, 2011 at 09:30 PM
If we can put the parkers in the recycling yard or Rimbach during construction, why not put them there now/forever and spare the $8 million? For an extra 220 spaces or so, the price is just way too high for such a small number of extra spots. There have been so many other viable solutions presented that would add more surface parking THROUGHOUT THE DISTRICT (more than half of the people parking in Millburn actually live in Short Hills) that this should be the absolutely, positively last resort. There are far too many spots at the recycling yard (reserved for business) that aren't used every day...which means more business-permit parkers could be vacating spots in Lot 2 for commuters/shoppers. What ever happened to people carpooling to the station? Why must we feel as though a parking spot must be created for every commuter? And don't forget that the train station lot is never full during the summer and not as full on Fridays--we will be paying so much for a 10-month a year "problem" that may only be a problem for a small number of people.
MarkDS June 03, 2011 at 10:09 PM
Mollyb, there is no such thing as Short Hills. We all live in the Township of Millburn. And much of 07078 is physically closer to the Millburn train station than the Short Hills train station. I get angry everytime someone repeats the old canard you did.
Damian June 03, 2011 at 11:34 PM
Mark, throughout the parking debate there has been a feeling downtown that certain people in one part of town are pushing for a downtown garage, keeping their neighborhood area pristine and unaltered. I think everyone (and I've lived in 07078 and 07041) should be against this plan when massaging what we have now can get us through the near future. Going forward a true study of parking demand should be commissioned.
Charles June 04, 2011 at 04:50 PM
Damian, we too have lived in 07041 and 07078 but presently live in 07078. As should be clear from my posts I do not think the parking deck can presently be shown to be necessary or appropriate simply on the basis that there is demand for valet parking (as Mr. Tillotson is reported to have suggested). However, if other things had been tried first, such as the reforms of the business/24-hour parking permits and spots and the use of Rimbach, and there were still an excess, then I would think Lot 2 and Lot 7 would be appropriate options. However, at this time the need has in no way been proven.
Damian June 05, 2011 at 02:19 AM
Charles, we're totally in agreement. Incremental gains can be made at both train station areas using just the things you suggest. For all the people in town who pride themselves on being green you'd think the outcry against a concrete box in the center of downtown would be somewhat louder though.
Damian June 05, 2011 at 02:21 AM
I think next Wednesday I'll take a walk and count how many business permit owners are parked in commuter lots rather than business permit lots, for grins and giggles.
Charles June 05, 2011 at 02:35 AM
I want to see the analysis of how you get a 20 year payback period on an $8 million outlay using strictly parking permits. One of the assumptions is that you are going to increase all commuter permits (including SH lot parkers) $200. Maybe the assumption is also that you are going to increase the business parking permit fees too since they can and do park at the SH lot. I believe the assumption would be that you will have the same number of people getting the permits. Right now, we pay for one of those permits and park at SH. However, we could easily walk and many of our neighbors do so. Some people in our position might just give up the permits. $500 per year is quite a lot to pay for parking when it is just a convenience luxury. (By the way, we NEVER have any problem finding a spot at the SH lot.) Also, the second permit for a household is what, $600? If you add $200 to that permit, you'll be paying $800 per year and perhaps the assumption is that you'll have the same number of people paying for two or three cars in a household. Given the need for permit increases, why doesn't the town just increase the permit fees and see if the demand drops sufficiently so as to eliminate the need for the deck? $8 million seems like quite a lot to spend for an extra 60 spaces. You could about those many by simply moving current daily, business, and 24-hour spaces further away from where they are presently located (both at the SH and Millburn lots).
Charles June 05, 2011 at 03:17 AM
Don't forget to check the permit-only street parking. They tend to get some of the best spots. And maybe take some photographs and post them here. If you do, don't miss the guy who parks with a police cap on the car's back shelf in lieu of the parking permit.
Charles June 05, 2011 at 03:49 AM
Actually, when you walk the SH lots and permit-only street parking, see if you think it odd that while 10% of the cars show business permits, 20% show NO PERMITS AT ALL (not even incorrectly placed on a windshield, etc., or dangling from the rear view mirror). When I walked the lots on a weekday a couple of months ago, the 20% showing no permits seemed really odd. (These were not parked in the daily pay spots.) I am aware that you can call in a replacement car when your vehicle is being serviced, but to have 20% of the cars on the lot be replacements? What gives there?
MarkDS June 12, 2011 at 06:26 PM
Now that I have thought about this a while it seems to me the cost is not worthwhile. The best argument is that the deck would let us get rid of the cost of the valet. But is a permit is going to go from "approximately $360 per year to about $540" and since the current expense includes the valet, which works well, why spend the money for a deck that will require more maintenance than a lot and maybe have access and safety issues? Certainly the additional number of spots that would be created are small enough that they could be created by better space and valet utilization.
Charles June 12, 2011 at 09:55 PM
Re the valet. So we currently have a valet, and where does the valet park those cars? It seems, does it not, they now park the vast majority of the cars in lot 7 where those cars would be parked anyway? I thought the valet would park them away from lot 7, but what I saw on inspection suggested that the valet can park maybe 10 extra cars in lot 7 over what could be parked there by the public. Then the valet parks an extra 10 or so cars in the library lot, where they block all the available daily meter train parking. Seems like a big waste.
MarkDS June 12, 2011 at 10:07 PM
It is far more than 10 cars in lot 7. Basically cars are valet parked perpendicular to the self parked cars along the aisles on both sides. That is a lot extra cars that would not be able to be parked if these was not a valet. The number in the library lot is lower as it is a smaller space but in lot 7 it is substantial. Valet parking works. And it does not cost non commuters a dime. So to denigrate it is unfair and wrong, especially when based on incorrect facts.
Charles June 13, 2011 at 12:23 AM
Ok, Mark settle down. I was not denigrating valet parking based on incorrect facts. I'm sure I did not see what you know to be the case, evidently since you park there. I can rather say for sure that many library daily meter spaces are blocked off by the valet (as Mr. Tolletson actually pointed out at the demo meeting), but I guess if someone really wants to park there he or she can ask the valet to move the valet parked vehicles. Those empty spaces it seems along with the empty spaces at the SH lot can be immediately reallocated.

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