Woodstock launching new parking meters and app

By JOHN P. GREGG

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 01-27-2021 6:03 PM

WOODSTOCK — Starting on Monday, tourists and commuters will again have to pay $1 an hour to park in the heart of the village of Woodstock during the day. But now they’ll have more choices on how to do so.

The village has replaced its notoriously unreliable parking meters with about 50 new parking meters that can cover two spaces and also has installed pay-to-park kiosks, rather than individual meters, around The Green and in the Mechanic Street lot. And Woodstock will also become part of a smart-phone system that allows motorists to pay through the ParkMobile app for a small transaction fee.

“I think it will make a big difference in terms of the local population because there was a sense of frustration in how the older meters were not functioning,” Woodstock Police Chief Robbie Blish said this week of the new investments. “People from down-country, they are used to kiosks and apps anyway.”

Woodstock had replaced its meters around 2016, but they were refurbished and many broke down, frustrating visitors who weren’t sure how to pay to park or put more money into an expiring meter. The new meters, like the ones they replace, will take both coins and credit cards.

Village Trustees imposed a moratorium late last fall on parking fees and fines while the new meters and kiosks were installed, and the new system launches on Feb. 1.

Parking rates will remain $1 an hour, with a parking ticket also remaining at $10. Woodstock enforces its parking meters in the village from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Mondays through Saturdays.

Jeffrey Kahn, the chairman of the Woodstock Village Board of Trustees, said Woodstock spent $117,000 to install the new meters and kiosks, but it came from a dedicated parking fund. “There is no additional strain on the budget in order to do this,” said Kahn, who owns the Unicorn gift shop on Central Street.

Kahn said he tried out the ParkMobile app, which is used in Hanover, Burlington and more than 450 other cities and towns around the country, when he had lunch recently in Hanover, and liked how it worked.

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Overall, he said, the new parking system and fewer meters will make for a slight “beautification” but also serve people who are parking in the village.

“It’s going to make it more convenient and more reliable,” Kahn said.

Blish said there will be three kiosks on The Green which use a “pay by plate” system, meaning motorists punch in their license plate number and payment method at the kiosks and don’t have to return to their car with a receipt to prove they have paid to park.

The ParkMobile app also allows users to add time to their parking space remotely. The fee to use the app varies by community and is 35 cents per transaction in Woodstock and Hanover.

Hanover began using the ParkMobile system when it raised parking rates and fines in the summer of 2019, and Town Manager Julia Griffin said the app has worked well in the college town.

“We love ParkMobile,” she said via email. “The vast bulk of our users are either visitors or the younger generation that is app-oriented but we see a slow but steady upward tick in the percentage of transactions which are done over ParkMobile.  Between the pay stations and ParkMobile, we have been able to reduce the number of hours our staff need to spend emptying the meters and pay stations, freeing them up to focus on other aspects of parking operations.”

Although Woodstock is relying on digital technology for its parking, it is also retaining an old-school feature in the village.

Woodstock will still offer a “ticket validation program” that enables drivers to wipe out a parking ticket if they get it validated by a local merchant. The program is limited to two tickets per year per vehicle, but also can help ease the sting of a parking ticket for a tourist in town.

“For people who are visiting Woodstock, generally they don’t run into a problem,” Kahn said.

News staff writer John P. Gregg can be reached at jgregg@vnews.com or 603-727-3217.

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