Mobile app could solve Naugatuck parking problems

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By Andreas Yilma Citizen’s News

NAUGATUCK — Borough officials are looking at the plausibility of using a cellphone application to solve the downtown parking dilemma.

On-street parking on Church Street, between Maple Street and Rubber Avenue, has a two-hour limit and no meter system. Naugatuck Police Department has received repeated complaints about people violating the short-term parking limits. There isn’t a way to enforce the parking, Police Chief Colin McAllister said.

“This is driven by the merchants who come to us asking for us to come up with a police solution to their issue,” Naugatuck Police Chief Colin McAllister said at a Board of Mayor and Burgesses meeting Tuesday. “This is essentially the best option we could present to them now.”

PaybyPhone regional sales Director Sang Hwang gives a presentation to the Naugatuck Board of Mayor and Burgesses last Tuesday at Town Hall. Andreas Yilma Citizen’s News

Police are looking to partner with Vancouver-based PaybyPhone, a mobile payment company that uses an app to help people pay for parking. The company serves more than 14 million customers in hundreds of cities globally, according to its website. The proposal is to have people pay for parking downtown using the app. The program would include the first 15 minutes of parking for free and 35 cents for every 15 minutes. A two-hour parking fee would cost $2.80.

The proposal also includes off-street parking for $1 per hour. In addition, there would be free parking options on Old Firehouse Road, the Naugatuck Event Center parking lot, Meadow Street and Church Street north of Maple Street.

“The idea here is to get people who are parking on Church Street to go to Old Firehouse Road or elsewhere so we can have better, more effective parking in downtown,” Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess said.

Police Lt. Derek Vostinak, who is in charge of the traffic unit, said the parking program isn’t designed to rake in tons of money or break anyone’s wallet.

“It’s really designed to change the behavior of people parking downtown based on the complaints of businesses that other businesses and employees are basically taking up the spaces of customers,” Vostinak said.

If people don’t want to download the app or don’t have a smartphone, there will be a phone number to call through an automated phone system. Police also could set up businesses that would act as kiosks where people would give the business their license plate, the zone they parked in and the money for parking, Vostinak said.

PaybyPhone regional sales Director Sang Hwang said the proposal includes having five zones and each section would have 10 to 12 parking spaces. With the app, borough officials would be able to collect data regarding how long people are parking, the time, how much they are spending and where they choose to park.

“By having this information, the police department can really enact on the enforcement piece and we can incentivize different price instructions – on street electricity versus off-site on the lot or even promote the complementary lots that might be inconvenient, a block or two from Church Street,” Hwang said.

For one-hour parking at a cost of $1.40, the borough would net 79 cents after the transaction and credit card fees, Hwang noted.

“The primary objective is how we better serve our constituents with our folks who come into downtown and Church Street for the primary purpose of their visit – that they’re not inconvenienced, it’s a quick in-and-out and there’s ample parking,” he said.

Hwang said once a contract is signed, the company can get the borough up and running in four to six weeks. The startup cost is $1,000 – half to set up the app and half to set up a phone system. The company also would provide all of the necessary signs.

“I think the program to me is probably going to be an efficient one because of the people downtown – the owners of the businesses are too lazy to go park someplace else,” Deputy Mayor Bob Neth said.

Burgess Meghan Smith said she goes to Loaded Goat on Church Street in the morning and the afternoon, and she sees the same cars parked in the same spots.

Hess said he wants to get some feedback before possibly making a decision on the parking app next month.