WESTFIELD, NJ — The Westfield Town Council voted Tuesday night to increase the number of hours of free parking downtown and create “express spaces” with free parking for people parking for 15 minutes or less. Both proposed changes are the result of recommendations by the Mayor’s Downtown Task Force and discussions among the Public Safety, Transportation & Parking Committee, Town Administrator Jim Gildea said at the council’s conference meeting that evening.
Ordinance 2084, which was unanimously approved by the council upon first reading Tuesday night, would change the hours of paid parking downtown for shoppers and visitors from the current times of 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. to 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The ordinance would also allow the Westfield Police Department to designate certain parking spaces as 15-minute “express spaces” for those picking up takeout orders from Downtown restaurants or running quick errands.
To start, three express spaces will likely be created along Quimby Street, Gildea noted.
“These express spaces have been successful in neighboring Summit, which started out with three express spots and now they have 27,” Councilman Keith Loughlin, chair of the Public Safety, Transportation & Parking Committee, told the council. “Please note that there is 15-minutes of free parking with the push of a button at all on-street meters, and that will remain.”
If the council approves the ordinance on second reading at its next meeting, June 20, the changes will go into effect before the end of June.
Loughlin noted that the town already offers free parking on the non-numbered spots in the South Avenue train station lot Monday through Friday after 10 a.m. and all day Saturday and Sunday.
“In addition, the town has put out a request for new parking meters that will accept credit cards, cash, tokens, smart cards and pay by app,” Loughlin said.
The town is also adding another “night-owl” parking lot to lot 5, behind the Rialto Theater, where downtown residents will be able to park their cars overnight, Loughlin said. Night owl permits are available for purchase at the office of parking services at 425 East Broad St.
“Finally, we are instituting a pilot ‘parklet’ program on Elm Street adjacent to restaurants on the Theresa’s side of Elm Street,” Loughlin told the council. “The task force heard from stakeholders that there was a need for more meeting places and additional opportunities for outdoor dining. Parklets are seasonal temporary seating platforms placed flush with the curb to create an extension of the sidewalk, thereby providing additional social space for visitors of the downtown. If this proves successful, more will be introduced.”
Loughlin said that his committee will continue to review the task force’s report and will be recommending additional changes in the coming months. He thanked the task force, Mayor Andy Skibitsky, the town council and the residents, businesses and stakeholders who helped with this process. He said he encourages all residents to read the Mayor's Downtown Task Force's report on the town’s website and to contact their council representatives with their ideas.