Privatised parking still a Garden State plan

Slowly but surely, New Jersey Transit is pushing along its private parking agenda. A RFP is likely in late autumn for a 30-to 50-year lease of some 37,000 parking spaces spread across the state.

A closely watched push to privatise commuter parking in New Jersey is making tentative progress.

A request for proposals (RFP) is set to go out in late autumn, according to Paul Wyckoff, chief of government and external affairs for New Jersey Transit (NJT).

NJT is the primary public transportation agency serving the Garden State, and has been arguing to privatise parking.

Wyckoff could not provide an exact date when NJT might issue its RFP, and could not speculate on how long NJT would need for its eventual selection process.

Wyckoff told Infrastructure Investor NJT has prequalified:

-Cintra;

-The Carlyle Group and Nexus Parking;

-Edison Parking;

-JPMorgan Asset Management and LAZ Parking;

-Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Company (KKR) and Ampco Parking;

-Macquarie Group and Standard Parking;

-Morgan Stanley Infrastructure and Central Parking.

NJT whittled down its concessionaire shortlist to its current form in December.

Privatisation would entail NJT offering a long-term, 30-to-50-year concession on a 37,000-parking space package, spread throughout New Jersey.

NJT has dubbed the privatisation project 'SPACES,' short for System Parking Amenity and Capacity Enhancement Strategy.

NJT had first positioned SPACES as a possible solution to close a $100 million budget gap. But Wyckoff said the budget gap is no longer a factor in going forth with SPACES, claiming NJT is in “very solid financial shape”.

The agency is proceeding with SPACES in order to become less reliant on state funding, Wyckoff explained, and will use revenue from privatisation to reinvest in its transit system.

In New Jersey, a state where 10 percent of the workforce is dependent on public transportation, SPACES emerged as a hot-button issue.

Commuter concern centred on potential increase in the cost of parking. The question had also been raised that NJT might lease its parking for a fraction of its true value.

Chicago, itself a hotbed of privatised parking, underwent an average parking fee hike of 178 percent in 2008, with the increased cost occasionally nearing 350 percent.

In New Jersey, privatisation plan dovetailed with a record-setting 25 percent fare increase NJT enacted in May 2010 – a decision that stoked commuter outrage evidenced in a heated public hearing in Newark, N.J., where NJT is headquartered.

Wyckoff pointed out NJ Transit is now seeking to stabilize its fare.