Cabs are here!
Sea Girt grapples with summer taxi problem at Parker House
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SEA GIRT — The taxi cabs picking up and dropping off patrons during the summer at The Parker House, located at the corner of First Avenue and Beacon Boulevard, here, serve a positive role in the community. But for many local residents, the taxi cabs are also causing headaches.
THE CABS ARE HERE…
During last Wednesday night’s council meeting, Mayor Ken Farrell and the governing body were met by a crowd of residents who wanted to discuss the taxi cab situation.
There may not be a perfect solution, but Mayor Farrell said the borough will work vigilantly in finding some common ground with residents regarding the issue.
According to Mayor Farrell, The Parker House general manager Tony Sofia said this past summer, local residents complained about the amount of taxi cabs circling specific blocks close to The Parker House.
“This is a major quality of life issue,” Mayor Farrell said. “And the public has spoken.”
NO PERFECT SOLUTION
Councilwoman Ann Morris, who chairs the council’s public safety committee, said she held a meeting in August with concerned neighbors and representatives of The Parker House.
Mayor Farrell said suggestions were made by residents to consider, including staging taxis in other parts of Sea Girt, such as at the elementary school parking lot.
By moving the taxis to that location, Mayor Farrell said the town would be “exporting the problem” as taxis would then have to travel on Bell Place to access the school parking lot.
The board of education also has the final say on whether vehicles can park or loiter there, he said, noting there are also “laws against idling.”
“We need a better solution, we can’t put 20 cabs in the lot out there,” Mayor Farrell said.
Discussions were also made whether to stage taxis on First Avenue, however that is a county road and would need country permission.
In the past, Mayor Farrell said there have been issues with “nonsense” after people leave The Parker House, including break-ins, numerous cases of people urinating or defecating on nearby lawns, fighting and stealing.
“Taxis serve a purpose,” Mayor Farrell said, as they help to move people along to their next destination safely.
Councilwoman Morris said public safety is the “number one issue.”
The Parker House is empty and closed by midnight most nights, she said.
“There is a solution and we are looking to find it,” Councilwoman Morris said. “If anyone has a solution, we will consider it.”
Councilwoman Morris also said there had been a meeting with taxi cab owners to address issues such as playing loud music, charging exorbitant fares to people who wish to travel to nearby towns and throwing garbage out of their windows.
Mayor Farrell said there has been a lot of cooperation by The Parker House in the past, and the establishment has worked in partnership with the borough on various issues.
“They have not objected to what we have asked,” Mayor Farrell said. “We would be remiss not to say that.”
Councilman Michael Mulroy also asked how many taxi licenses have been issued in the borough.
According to borough clerk Lorraine Carafa, there were 16 taxi cab owner licenses issued last year. Each owner then receives five individual vehicle licenses, but they may go up to 10 licenses, for an additional fee.
On any given night, up to 80 taxis, or more, could service The Parker House, Ms. Carafa explained.
“We have a lot,” Councilman Mulroy said. “We need to look at the number of licenses we are issuing.”
Mayor Farrell said the borough has met with The Parker House to talk about ways to keep their patrons on their property and man the taxi line. The patrons are controlled by their employees, he said. They also check their bar for people who have had too much to drink, and if so, they are no longer served alcohol that evening.
“Those actions have been a great improvement,” he said.
Mayor Farrell said one idea was to contact Spring Lake Mayor Jennifer Naughton about the borough-owned parking lot on Brown Avenue as a staging area. However, residents live across from that lot, as well.
RESIDENTS SHARE CONCERNS
Resident Joe Martini said he and his wife have counted the taxis circling, which are numerous times per night.
“Taxis are entering our residential neighborhoods. They don’t have fares, they are looking for fares,” he said.
“I can’t move them to some other area of town,” Councilman Bill Foley said. “Where do you stage them?”
“It’s a bad situation, there’s too many cabs,” the councilman said. “We’re worried about residents of Sea Girt and what goes on there on a Friday and Saturday night. It’s a zoo.”
“You will see the same cab going around and around,” Mr. Martini said. “They are waiting in cue.”
Resident Bill Walsh said he has also sat on his porch and watched the taxis.
“It’s an accident waiting to happen,” Mr. Walsh said. “Mark my words.”
Mr. Walsh said many of the cabs are making left turns aggressively trying to get to the fare. An ideal place would be a staging area, he said.
“There’s not a perfect solution … but it’s a safer option at this point,” he said.
A left turn from Chicago Boulevard onto First Avenue “is an accident waiting to happen,” Mr. Walsh added. “It’s not safe and that needs to change.”
“I was a taxi driver,” said resident Chris Carhart.
Mr. Carhart said a staging area would never work.
“I’m not going to wait here while other guys are getting fares,” he said. “A solution could be no turns down First Avenue. Other than that, you will have to wait until The Parker House goes away.”
The Parker House, he said, is very popular.
“Everybody knows The Parker House,” he said.
Mr. Walsh said maybe a solution was to tighten up the exits coming out of The Parker House.
“It’s the left hand turns,” he said.
Local taxi driver Tyler Waltsak, of Wally’s Transportation Co., said taxis from Asbury Park and Neptune don’t bring people into town but come in to pick up fares.
Mr. Waltsak said his company “may be lucky” to pick up 40 patrons from The Parker House on a busy night.
Mr. Waltsak said perhaps the lot between the pavilion and the lighthouse could be used as a staging area.
He also suggested at least 15 taxis could park along Beacon Boulevard, instead of circling around.
“I think things have come a long way … but things can be improved,” Mr. Waltsak said.
However, Mayor Farrell said the parking lot between the pavilion and the lighthouse serves as someone’s driveway. Also, there are residents on Beacon Boulevard.
“People have the right to park by their houses,” Mayor Farrell said. Parking on that street could have residents potentially asking their guests to park a block away.
Councilman Paul Cerami asked if there is ever a point when cabs are not available.
“I don’t think we are ever out of cabs,” Sea Girt Police Capt. Kevin Davenport said.
Councilman Cerami said it could lead to problems if cabs ran out, if licenses decreased.
Mr. Martini also suggested taxis logging in with their plate number at the end of the night, to see how many different taxis come in.
“That would be good data to have,” Mr. Martini said.
Mr. Carhart stressed the number one concern here should be safety. When taxis are turning, the driver is looking out for people and trying to get into line.
“We have been trying to come up with a better idea,” Mayor Farrell said. “Should the borough buy several houses next to each other and build a lot.”
There is “not an abundance of good ideas,” Mayor Farrell said.
“I welcome everyone’s suggestions,” Mayor Farrell said, noting there is a greater risk if the borough moves the problem a mile away.
“I’m stumped. I really don’t know where to go with this,” Mayor Farrell said.
Mayor Farrell said he had spent an entire Saturday night watching the taxis.
“I watched to see how many guys were running stop signs, speeding,” he said.
Mayor Farrell said, however, he did not observe any of those activities.
The Parker House employees “were doing what they were supposed to be doing,” Mayor Farrell said.
Councilman Mulroy said he lives across from The Parker House and sees many of the concerns first-hand.
“We will be vigilant,” Mayor Farrell said, “to come up with the best, safest scenario we can.”
PARKER HOUSE OPEN TO IDEAS
“Our stand is we are open to any suggestions to alleviate the problem,” said The Parker House’s Mr. Sofia, following the meeting.
A taxi stand is located on Beacon Boulevard where the taxis pick up their fares, he said.
“The problem is after they pick up their fare — it is a one way,” Mr. Sofia explained. The cabs then have to go up Ocean Avenue in order to get back to First Avenue, where they then make a left or right.
The taxis get people out of The Parker House in less than 15 minutes. Closing time is 11:30 p.m, he said.
“And by 12 [a.m.] there is no one on the street,” Mr. Sofia said. “We put extra guys out front, anything they ask us to do,” Mr. Sofia said. “If they have another suggestion, we will be more than willing to try it.”
Between the hours of 11 and 11:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights, “we need all the taxis we can get,” Mr. Sofia said, noting 500-plus people are using the taxis each of those days.
Sundays or during the week is not that busy, he said.
A problem with a staging area is there are other residents living where the taxis would be staged.
“The taxis are just sitting in another area,” Mr. Sofia said.
“It really is only two days a week, two hours each night,” Mr. Sofia said. Out of the 16 weeks The Parker House is open, his establishment is really only busy 12 of those weeks on the weekends.
“When the drinking and driving laws were not as strict, parking was an issue,” Mr. Sofia said. “I would rather people are taking taxis, than walking several blocks to their cars.”
“The town has required them to have licenses,” Mr. Sofia said. “We can’t stop people from dropping them off, but they have to have a license to pick up. It helps to deter taxis from out of town and circling the block.”
“We have town police we [The Parker House] pay for who make sure they have their license, they stand out front,” Mr. Sofia said.
Mr. Sofia said he will work with the town on the taxi issue.
“We will do anything they ask us to do,” Mr. Sofia said. “I don’t have a solution to the problem.”