Parking deck permits going up 30 percent

A 30-percent increase in the monthly cost of parking permits for the Lewis Street garage has sparked a petition drive.

Tina Morgan and others who use the deck are collecting signatures for a petition they plan to present to the Parking Authority. She will be collecting signatures outside the deck on Thursday from 6 to 7:15 p.m., Friday morning, and again from 3 to 5 p.m. that day.

Raising rates had been mentioned as a possibility earlier in the year, but the Parking Authority Board of Commissioners at its June meeting approved increasing the monthly rate for the new parking deck by $20 — from $65 to $85.

Permits for surface lots are going up by $10, roughly 20 percent, from $50 to $60 or $55 to $60. The only fees that won’t see increases are a lot leased from St. Mary’s Church and permits in Lot B (behind The Waiting Room), which are downtown residents and merchants, said Parking Authority Executive Director Don Andersen.

Commissioners, who meet the first Wednesday of the month, discussed fee increases at their May meeting, according to minutes. At least one commissioner suggested Rahway’s rates are “very low” compared to other towns while another said the increases “would not be as bad as originally proposed.” The garage began 24-hour operations June 3 in anticipation of the opening of Carriage City Plaza. Condo residents were expected to begin moving in this month.

Morgan, who uses the deck daily before taking a train to her job in Newark, said the only other neighboring parking deck with comparable rates to Rahway’s $85 is in Elizabeth at $90. She suggested the fee hike be staggered — increasing by $10 this August, and another $10 next August — to make it “more digestible.”

Morgan offered an excerpt of the letter she plans to present to Parking Authority commissioners at their next meeting, Wednesday, July 2 at 6:30 p.m. in the parking deck, 67 Lewis St.:

“We are at the mercy of the Parking Authority since the more reasonably priced surrounding lots have all been removed and no longer available to us. We hope that because the deck is now, for the most part, the ‘only game in town,’ that you would not treat your loyal patrons so cavalierly. We understand $3 million were contributed to the City of Rahway by NJ Transit to allow for the deck to be built. It would seem that NJ Transit’s interest in providing such a grant would be to encourage the public to take mass transit as opposed to overburdening our already heavily congested thoroughfares. We don’t think that the grant was given to eventually price-out the average person who takes the train from Rahway and raise the parking fee to become almost as high as the train fare. This does not seem fair, good business or in the spirit of community, which the Parking Authority heralds on the Web site.”

The $11-million Lewis Street deck opened in December 2004. Of the 524 spaces, 209 are set aside for condo owners at SkyView. Through Tuesday night, Morgan reported 127 signatures on the petition.