This week’s decision by the Ocean City Mayor and Council to lower the free roam time at the Inlet Parking Lot from 30 minutes to 20 is not a big deal.
Although it’s been labeled as a money grab by some, the reality is it’s a practical matter that will only impact a small percentage of users.
Going into this week’s meeting at City Hall, word was the changes planned for the Inlet lot were not going to pass due to the absence of a council member, Tony DeLuca, who was one of the four who supported the changes last month. With DeLuca’s absence, it appeared the 4-3 vote from last month would become a 3-3 stalemate.
That never became an eventuality, however, because Public Works Director Hal Adkins presented some compelling statistics that ultimately resulted in a 6-0 vote to adjust the paid parking fee system.
The resolution before the council sought to alter the fee structure to 20-minute increments from the current 30 minutes, including the initial free time. The goal is to speed up the exit lanes at the lot by eliminating the need for coin change to be made when customers are paying cash.
According to statistics presented this week, only 21 percent, or 92,000, of the 442,100 total transactions at the parking lot involved the 30-minute grace period. Of that 92,000, about 80 percent reportedly came and went in less than 20 minutes. Adkins maintains the remaining 20 percent, or about 18,000 vehicles, will adjust to the 20-minute change without much aggravation.
We think this change is worthwhile if it accomplishes the goal of improving the efficiency of the exit lanes. Visitors are understandably frustrated when they are literally paying extra money to wait in long lines to check out of the lot. This is an attempt to curb that common complaint and it’s worth a shot.
The key will be informing the visitors as they enter the lot of the change. New signage will be key and a note on the ticket disbursed at the gate would be worthwhile, if possible.
Like any change, the city should review this after the season to determine if it accomplished the goal of speeding up the exit lanes. After looking at the numbers and gauging success, a further evaluation for the following season can then be conducted. In the meantime, we see it as a change that’s worth implementing if it improves efficiency.