Harsimus Cove Association Priority Intersections for Traffic Calming

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Councilwoman Candice Osborne asked us to come up with our three priority intersections to be addressed with traffic calming measures.  While we are firm believers that traffic calming requires a holistic study, we understand that this is just the beginning of a long term effort to make the streets of Harsimus Cove safe for pedestrian, bicyclist and driver alike.  Below is the report as submitted to her office on July 15.

Our priority intersections in order of priority:

  1. Erie Street & First Street
  2. Grove Street & Christopher Columbus Drive
  3. Jersey Avenue & First Street

Not only are these intersections problematic, they also all represent unique compositions and will require unique solutions. It is hoped that if these intersections are adequately addressed, they can serve as case studies for other intersections of the same or similar composition.

What follows are suggestions for the consideration of the traffic engineers.

Erie Street & First Street

If the frequency of accidents at this intersection was not enough, the number of near-misses is alarming. Just today (July 14, 2013) I witnessed one, horns blaring. The eastbound motorist on First Street blew the stop sign. This is commonly the case at this intersection. Just last month I spoke to a motorist who was struck by a motorist who blew the stop sign. While we can't cure stupidity, we can mitigate its effects.

Quick wins:

  1. Immediately reprint the cross walk, stop stripe and "STOP" word on the roadway
  2. Ensure that the stop sign is clearly visible and that a stop sign is installed on both corners. There is significant foliage in the area.
  3. Prevent illegal parking on the SW corner by installing "daylighting" pylons
  4. An aggressive ticketing campaign by JCPD should be adopted at the intersection for speeding and motorist who do not stop at stop sign

Long term considerations:

  1. Install a stop sign on Erie Street for northbound traffic making this an all-stop intersection
  2. Construct a bump-out on at least the southeast and southwest corners to prevent corner parking and prevent drivers from quickly taking right turns onto First Street. This is a problem as they often do not see pedestrians in time, resulting in some hair-raising situations. The presence of a catch basin exactly on the corner will add to the cost of the project. But instead of moving the catch basin, engineering should consider using steel flooring to allow rainwater to pass through as San Francisco has with their "parklet" design as seen below.

Jersey Avenue & First Street

Eastbound motorists regularly turn left onto First Street in order to avoid the light at Jersey Avenue & Newark Avenue. Also, the angle of the intersection (roughly 40 degrees) allows motorist to keep their speed up. Motorists often blow the stop sign at Jersey Avenue or stop well into the crosswalk with disregard to the pedestrian right-of-way.

Quick wins:

  1. Ensure that the stop sign is clearly visible and that a stop sign is installed on both corners
  2. Ensure that the painting is fresh and clearly visible to motorists
  3. Install flexible, "daylighting" pylons to prevent parking on corners, increasing visibility for motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians alike

Long term considerations:

  1. Reverse traffic direction on First Street between Newark Avenue and Jersey Avenue. This would have three positive effects:
    1. Prevent eastbound traffic from short-cutting through that section to avoid the light at Newark Avenue/Jersey Avenue as you describe.
    2. Eliminate cross traffic at the intersection of First Street/Jersey Avenue as both are now outbound streets from Jersey Avenue
    3. Reduce the congestion at the traffic light for southbound cars on Jersey Avenue as they can now turn right on First Street

At the same intersection, northbound and southbound traffic also poses a problem. Motorists are often observed breaking the speed limit. Driver distraction is exacerbated by the fact that an intersection is in such close proximity.

Quick wins:

  1. Ensure that the cross walk is adequately painted and visible to motorists
  2. Install in-street pedestrian crossing signs to alert motorists to their obligation to share the road and to the fact that pedestrians are often present. A study done Miami, San Francisco and Las Vegas indicates that this is a very effective method of getting motorists to stop for pedestrians: "Based on the results of these studies, in-street pedestrian crossings signs are highly effective at increasing drivers yielding to pedestrians."

Grove Street & Christopher Columbus Drive

This intersection has the challenge of being at the center of the downtown Jersey City transit and recreation hub: Fitzgerald-Holota Plaza, Grove Street restaurant row, Grove Street PATH Station, a New Jersey Transit bus stop, a taxi stand and a four lane expressway, Christopher Columbus Drive. Note that similar challenges exist for Marin & Christopher Columbus, which is an absolute nightmare for motorists and pedestrians alike.

Quick wins:

  1. Reconfigure the lighting sequence so that northbound motorists get the green light first. The pedestrian walk signal is tied to the northbound light. Since the southbound motorists get the green light first, pedestrians are subconsciously prompted to walk since they see traffic moving in their direction. For those that aren't acting sub-consciously, they may rationally conclude that the cycle missed them. The fact that the intersection has a pedestrian request button further communicates this if they haven't pressed the button themselves.
  2. Station a traffic police officer at this intersection during peak commute hours
  3. Install "daylighting" pylons on all corners where illegal parking is a possibility. Install bike racks in these areas to accommodate the growing demand on the bike racks in Fitzgerald- Holota Plaza. Note DPW wrongfully installed bike racks a year ago without consulting the Dept of Planning. The bike racks significantly impede the flow of walkers on event days, especially the farmer's market. I have had several meetings and countless emails on this topic with Planning, Grove Pointe, DPW and Historic Downtown SID and still nothing has been done. I can give you a more thorough description of what's happened at another time.

Long term considerations:

  1. Reconfigure the lighting sequence so that pedestrians get an "all walk" before northbound or southbound traffic gets a green light. For practical reasons, maybe "all walk" only happens during peak hours. The fact is that even when crossing on the green, drivers are turning left onto Columbus and often narrowly miss pedestrians. It's an unwelcoming scene to say the least. Annie Kessler was successful in getting an "all walk" programmed for the light on Marin at the Shop-Right intersection when a pedestrian pushes the walk button. I'm recommending that the walk button not be required to be pressed for this intersection since the volume of pedestrians is always high.
  2. Install bump-outs to prevent motorists from cutting the corners and endangering pedestrians who have stepped off the curb. Consider installing bike racks on the bump-outs as is suggested for when "daylighting" is installed.

Beyond the Top Three

Newark Ave / Barrow St / Erie St

Since Grove Street & Christopher Columbus Drive is shared between Harsimus Cove and Van Vorst Park, I am going to put a fourth intersection out there for consideration. This is a tricky one since it involves traffic coming from the south on Barrow Street, turning right on Newark Avenue and then an immediate left on Erie Street. Cars tend to whip around these corners without looking for pedestrians or only yielding after already making the turn.

Quick wins:

  1. Install the "daylighting" style pylons within the double-yellow line. This would prevent the motorist from turning left too early, allowing more time for the motorist to see any pedestrian. I have attached a photo that shows the double yellow and the intersection in general as indicated below.

  2. Install flexible, "daylighting" pylons to prevent motorists from cutting the corner at the stop sign on Barrow Street.
  3. Enforce the no parking zones. I have sent many emails to Mary Spinello about this area and while she says she's dispatching interceptors, I shouldn't have to call. This should be a highly frequented area for them to ticket. Yet I see a certain SUV parked in this area constantly.

Long term considerations:

  1. Bump-outs to narrow the street which will slow traffic and add to congregation areas for enhanced street life for pedestrians.

Pavement to Parks

New York City and San Francisco have both pioneered the idea of taking "slack" in the roadway and reclaiming it as public space. Charles Kessler pointed out that there is an opportunity to do this with the at the corners of Newark Avenue and Bay Street, Newark Avenue and First Street. Due to the angular way Bay and First intersect with Newark, they create a very long crosswalk that often causes tension between pedestrians and drivers. I always feel rushed to move in front of a stopped vehicle or worse, motorists blow the stop sign because they don't want to wait.

The photo below shows one idea of the possible "park" area at Newark Avenue and Bay Street.

Edit:  Since the submission of this report, Charles Kessler posted a fantastic list of ideas on his website including a different configuration for the pavement park seen below.  Kessler's proposed configuration is better because it slows traffic coming from the angled street onto Newark Ave.  Note that Kessler is pointing out the intersection of First Street and Newark Ave instead of Bay Street and Newark Ave, but no reasons come to mind that would prevent this configuration being effective at both locations.



San Francisco's case study involves the intersection of 28th Street and San Jose Street.

New York City has done with this with the Pearl Street Triangle in DUMBO to great effect.

Speeding Corridors

It's well known to residents that Erie and Jersey Streets are speeding corridors for motorists trying to improve their time to the Holland Tunnel. My concern in addressing any single intersection along these streets is that it won't appropriately factor in the aggregate issue. I urge planning to keep the macro issue in mind when addressing the micro issues we've highlighted above.

This was report is the culmination of various conversations over the years about our chronic traffic issues within the neighborhood.  President Stephen Musgrave was the primary writer with assistance from the board in determining the top three problematic intersections.  Contact us via the link in the footer of this page.

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