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Train lot goes digital

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City installs high-tech metering for Amtrak parking

HUDSON–Starting with the New Year the city will take over management of the long-term parking lot across the street from the Amtrak station on Front Street, with the city charging for what has been free parking until now.

Rather than meeting resistance, Mayor’s Aide Carmine Pierro said this week that the new fee system has prompted commuters to buy extended permits for reserved spaces before the pay-to-park system takes effect. He said the reserved permits, the spots closest to the station, cost $500 for six months or $900 per year. The daily fee is $3 for 24 hours.

Amtrak owns the small lot adjacent to the station, but the government-subsidized passenger rail service declined an offer from the city to install meters there, preferring instead to leave it free for brief stays while continuing to enforce a ban on overnight parking.

The city owns the lot across the street and just to the south of the station, where there are spaces for 247 vehicles. Mr. Pierro estimates that as many as 20% of those vehicles may actually be in storage rather than belonging to people who have taken a train. Amtrak has been renting the big lot from the city, although Hudson has maintained and patrolled the lot.

The free ride ends Friday, January 1, when the new pay-to-park system officially takes effect. At that point, anyone who parks in the long-term lot must pay in advance or risk getting a ticket for each day the vehicle is left there without payment.

In addition to the long-term permits, the city is offering several different ways to pay. The most obvious method is at one of the two kiosks on the left side of the entrance to the lot. The kiosks were scheduled to go online, literally, this week.

Each space is numbered, and those who use the lot must enter the number of their parking space at the kiosk when they pay. The machines will accept major credit cards as well as special “smart cards” issued by the city.

The kiosks will also accept cash, but they will not give change. Anyone who is due change will have to collect it from the city’s Parking Bureau at the Police Department headquarters on Warren Street. All data from the kiosks is transferred via a wireless connection from the kiosks to the parking bureau. Mr. Pierro said the companies that make these systems advised the city not to try to make change at the kiosks, calling that type of transaction “a pain.”

What about the breathless passengers who arrive at the station too late to pay and still make the last train of the day? No problem. As long as a customer knows the number of the space where he or she has parked, all it takes is a call to the parking bureau and payment can be made over the phone.

Another scenario anticipated by the city is a rail passenger who needs to extend a trip a by a few days but hasn’t paid for more parking time. Again, a call to the Parking Bureau will allow passengers to add days to their parking space.

Also, users of the smart cards can add money to them when they run low. “It’s really user friendly,” said Mr. Pierro, the city’s point man on the new system.

“The lot is usually filled to capacity,” Mr. Pierro said, adding that city police frequently receive calls from people who want to know where they can park once the lot is full. But he thinks that there may be more spaces available when people have to pay for them.

With the implementation of the new system, the city will lose the $14,000 rent that Amtrak was paying, but this year the city budget anticipates receiving $150,000 in new revenue, even after the personnel and maintenance costs are considered. It’s money the city can use in these tight times.

He said that in the days before the system takes effect the city has received only two complaints, but 21 people have reserved long-term spaces. He also said that making the lot a paying proposition put the city in the mainstream. Hudson was one of only two communities along the line between New York City and Albany that did not have paid parking. Now the only station where passengers can park for free is Rhinecliff, the next station south.

Brochures describing the features of the new parking system are available at the Amtrak station and at the Police Department Parking Bureau, 427 Warren Street. 

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