Sag Harbor Nets More Than $57,000 With Paid Parking Pilot Program

There's plenty of parking to be had these days on Sag Harbor's Long Wharf now that a paid parking pilot program has ended for the season. STEPHEN J. KOTZ

Sag Harbor Village’s experiment with paid parking on Long Wharf earlier this year netted the village $57,531, Trustee Aidan Corish reported to the Village Board last week.

The proceeds will be earmarked for transportation improvements, such as sidewalks and bicycle lanes.

The pilot program, which was offered through the ParkMobile app, ran from May 15 through October 15. During that 22-week period, there were 12,589 recorded transactions, or an average of 572 motorists each week who were willing to pay $4 an hour for the privilege of parking on the wharf.

“I think it was a success. Obviously, there was some grumbling. Nobody wants to pay for something that was free,” Corish said this week, “but I was surprised there were so few complaints.”

The Village Board did not discuss Corish’s report, but is expected to make a decision in February about whether to continue the program.

Mayor Jim Larocca, who opposed the idea of paid parking last year but supported the pilot program nonetheless, said “I still don’t like it, but I’m in the real world.”

He said paid parking was being used overwhelmingly by visitors to the village who were essentially being asked “to contribute to the public services they take advantage of while here.” And the potential for a growing revenue stream was also attractive, he said, adding that the village has already spent twice the $35,000 it budgeted for sidewalk repairs in the current budget.

Still, he would not say whether he would support making the program permanent when the board takes up the discussion after the new year.

Corish said that of the more than 12,000 transactions, 40 percent included ZIP codes. The largest number of vehicles that were parked on the wharf — 4,070 — came from New York State. Of that number, only 230 were from the 11963 zip code, he said.

Corish noted that according to the post office, the village itself only accounts for about a third of the number of residents in the 11963 zip code, so he extrapolated that only 77 transactions, or about 1 percent of the total, were made by village residents, meaning parking fees were largely borne by outsiders.

He said he thought it was a fair sample size to come to that conclusion but he said it was meant as an estimate “and was not actuarial by any means.”

“Over the years, I’ve heard a lot of complaints that the summer people come and then they go, using the village as their playground without contributing anything to it,” he said.

“If I could build a sidewalk to the east of the school with that money, I think it would be great,” he said. “If people could go biking more safely, I think that would be great.”

Corish said an unforeseen dividend from the paid parking program was that during most days, even on busy holiday weekends like the Fourth of July, some spaces were available on the wharf during the day.

“Before we instituted this paid parking, you could park at a minute past 3 and stay until midnight on Long Wharf,” Corish said. “If I was working a night shift on Main Street, that’s where I’d park.” Instead, he said, it appeared employees parked away from downtown, opening up spaces for visitors.

Until this summer, the wharf was limited to three-hour parking, but the village did not enforce the limits after 6 p.m., allowing someone to remain in one spot until the midnight cutoff hour for all parking.

During the pilot program, people could park for three hours between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. and for up to 5 hours from 6 p.m. to midnight. The first hour was free, and each additional hour cost $4. However, drivers were required to sign in to the ParkMobile app, even if they planned to stay for a few minutes while running a quick errand.

Corish said he had only received three written complaints about the program, and two came from people who had been ticketed. He said he asked the Sag Harbor Chamber to poll its members for their feedback as well.

Of the 135 Chamber members, 22 responded. Nobody said the pilot program had a positive impact on their business, but 28 percent said it had had a negative impact, 41 percent said no impact, and 31 percent said they did not know.

Another 58 percent said they fielded complaints, and 79 percent said people were confused with how the ParkMobile app worked.

Corish said early on, police did not enforce the parking rules “because we wanted to have a transitional period.” Early problems with cellphone service and WiFi on Long Wharf were improved over the course of the summer. To help out, village traffic control officers left leaflets on car windshields that explained the system and showed where free parking could be found elsewhere in the village.

In addition, the village had a phone available at the Long Wharf dock office for those who could not get cellphone service or did not have their own phones.

If the program is continued, Corish said he would like to see more informative signs erected to help people figure out the system.