The “Complete Streets” Redesign plan for Washington Street is a divisive issue. It involves business owners, pedestrians, bike riders, bus riders, car owners, and vehicular commercial visitors.
This plan should make sure that the functionality and flexibility of Washington Street is kept intact while correcting the safety issues (such as upgrading lighting and traffic signals so that they work efficiently) and any cosmetic issues that need to be resolved. It is understood that eventually the water lines will be replaced and the road repaved. What concerns many people is the removal of double parking along our main street.
Hoboken is a very small, densely populated city which cannot be compared to larger cities with multiple major roadways that help move their traffic and pedestrians around. Hoboken cannot be everything to everyone because of its unique position between the two tunnels into New York. Fortunately, we have a very wide main street and we must utilize it properly and realize we cannot cram everything into it without considering the ramifications in other areas.
This plan wants to put each bike lane in the street, along the sidewalk curb, with a two foot buffer separating it from the parallel parked cars between it and the traffic lane. This leaves only one north and one south traffic lane and eliminates the double parking lane. This creates the problem of where all the commercial vehicles, such as postal, FedEx, UPS and other delivery trucks, moving vans, hearses, ambulances, fire trucks, police cars, utility trucks, dumpsters, garbage trucks, and run-in shoppers can be allowed to temporarily park. Many of these vehicles are on one block at the same time and they all cannot be relegated to only two designated unloading zones on each block.
Washington Street is a very organic street that is always moving with constantly changing elements within its borders. Every day is different because of the commerce on the street, the renovating of buildings, the public service problems that might need to be addressed, and the moving in and out of residents in the apartments along the street. Will everyone who needs to park along Washington Street have to queue up and make an appointment to do their business? How will the loading zones be assigned? Can we restrict deliveries to only a certain time of day? Will Washington Street be shut down more frequently due to police or fire department activity? How much traffic will spill out onto the side streets and interfere with the residential areas?
My solution is to use Shared Lane Markings (“sharrows”), which are road markings used to indicate a shared traffic lane for bicycles and automobiles. These shared lane markings will reinforce the legitimacy of bicycle traffic on Washington Street and will eliminate the many problems resulting from restricting vehicular traffic to just the two 11 foot lanes. Washington Street’s Redesign cannot work if we eliminate the double parking. Too many variables are involved and the drivers cannot know what they are expected to do.