Summertime in South Jersey is for warm weather, beach time, seasonal restaurants, outdoor entertainment and, of course, the never-ending search for good parking.
As beach towns see a swell in population thanks to summer renters, daytime visitors and seasonal homeowners, the parking situation can get tough for everyone, and it all started on Memorial Day weekend.
“We used to come down to our house, park on the street and take a bus or Uber anywhere we needed to go,” said Gail Berman, who owns a summer home in Ventnor. “With our new house, we have parking, but I’ll still ride my bike or walk to a lot of places. It’s not worth trying to park the car.”
City and town officials said parking citations increase during the summer months, especially when visitors don’t pay attention to the local street signs and laws, like specified permit parking, street sweeping days and beach-block zone restrictions.
Anticipating the influx of summer residents, many Cape May County towns have come to rely on money made from parking meters and lots in the summer.
Frank Donato, director of financial management in Ocean City, said the city collected more revenue last year from its parking lots than from the meters.
Of the more than $3 million collected in parking revenue, nearly $1.9 million was from parking lots, many of which are near the beach. The meters are spread throughout the island and are in service between May and part of October.
And while officers are busy in the summer tucking tickets under windshield wipers, Donato added parking tickets do not add much revenue to the city because some are dropped by the court or go unpaid.
Todd Burkey, chief financial officer in North Wildwood, and Connie Mahon, administrator of Wildwood Crest, both said their towns purposely anticipate lower revenue in parking to avoid a shortfall in the budget.
The extra money brought in over the anticipated amount goes into surplus that can be used for tax relief or other important projects in the towns, they said.
“We’re conservative because these things can fluctuate year-to-year depending on how many people come to the shore,” Burkey said.
This year, Wildwood opened the beach at Baker Avenue as a parking lot for the first time.
Atlantic City spokesman Sgt. Kevin Fair said city parking may differ than that of other shore towns because there are plenty of lots and garages for people to park in if they are going to the free beaches. Issues come up when people park in residential areas and don’t read up on the parking restrictions.
Atlantic City officials have said in previous years it generates about $500,000 per year from parking operations, up from a $70,000 loss in 2013, and were hoping to increase that amount with improved parking plans, according to a prior report.
Brigantine City Clerk Lynn Sweeney said the town doesn’t have some of the same issues that Margate and Ventnor experience because the houses are not as close together and residents can buy $25 seasonal or $8 daily permits to park municipal lots.
Bob and Pauline Vogelsong have lived in Ventnor for four years, and know that by this time of year, they either have to park a couple blocks away from home and walk or not move their cars at all.
On Memorial Day, the couple walked two miles south of their home to get lunch at Hannah G’s on Ventnor Avenue only to turn back around when they found the waiting list to get into the packed restaurant was too long.
“We’ll have to try a weekday,” Pauline shrugged and walked away.