Hudson County Commissioners Bill O’Dea (D-2) and Yraida Aponte-Lipski (D-4) hosted a community meeting in Jersey City focused on transportation issues and safe streets last night.
By Daniel Ulloa/Hudson County View
“We all have a brave vision of where we want to be from a traffic and safety perspective. We can all have a cooperative conversation on what works best,” Hudson County Executive Democratic nominee Craig Guy said.
“We’re embarking on a countywide Vision Zero plan,” he added, noting that they’re assembling a Vision Zero task force that consists of traffic safety professionals and community members.
Guy also said bike lanes would be completed soon from Bergen Avenue all the way to Pavonia Avenue in Jersey City.
“Moving slowly doesn’t mean dragging our feet. Progress incrementally comes along,” he added.
Hudson County Engineer Thomas Malavasi noted they’re working on narrowing John F. Kennedy Blvd by painting new lines to narrow lanes, which should make drivers more cautious.
They’re also extending the bike lane into Journal Square from Bergen Avenue and they want to ban right hand turns when there is a red light on JFK Boulevard, Malavasi said to applause.
Hudson County Division of Planning Chief Bryan Nicholas also further discussed the Vision Zero plan.
“We’ve provided some public education campaign flyers on … how the public will be part of that process in the coming months,” he said.
NJ Transit Government and External Affairs Chief Paul Wyckoff said they’re excited to be working with city and county on buses.
“There’s a lot of work to be done. Space on the Boulevard is at a premium and very valuable to different groups. We have sufficient supply to handle the demand. In fact, the frequency would be very, very good. We’ve been adding trips to the city.”
Wyckoff said they increased the number of buses serving Jersey City and Bayonne.
“We are keeping up … We have a program to review and reassign bus routes throughout the state,” he added, noting that the longer buses allow for more passengers per trip.
Wyckoff said several routes haven’t changed in almost 70 years.
“We always want to hear back from PATH riders. There are issues. We are working through those,” chimed in PATH Chief of Staff Morgan Keane.
PATH wants to work on capacity, thus they increased their cars from eight to nine per train, with individual trains also making more trips, she added.
“We’re trying to squeeze as much capacity as this 115-year-old system as we can,” Keane explained.
“Changing roadways is only one way to start fixing our problems. We need to go back to no more right on red, Bayonne Mayor Jimmy Davis said to applause.
Davis was not part of the official program, but was invited to speak by O’Dea.
Malavasi said they’re working on improving the county road bike lanes to make people safer. They hope to start late and summer, and the year-and-a-half project will increase safety.
“We’re a 24/7 city we need 24/7 service. We’ve seen a steady deterioration in off-rush hour,” stated local resident John Paul.
He asked if PATH had a commitment to maintenance and service to applause.
“I notice all the applause. We’re a 24/7 city. Unfortunately, that means there’s not a lot of time for maintenance,” Keane noted, also claiming that had been underfunded.
“We are working to get our infrastructure … a step change increase. We haven’t had enough investment in our tracks. We’re working to get our infrastructure up to speed.
Jersey City resident Elvin Dominici complained that police officers rarely pull anyone over for speeding on JFK Boulevard.
“With an increase of people living in Hudson County … are you considering creating public parking?” he also asked.
“The county doesn’t have jurisdiction over parking. We’ve received millions of dollars to conduct safety audits. Most of those improvements are geared toward pedestrians,” Nicholas replied.
“We’re all committed to improving pedestrian safety and all modes of transportation.”
O’Dea said they’d talk to Ward C Councilman Rich Boggiano, who represents the area, and the Jersey City Police Department on working on better speeding enforcement.
“Hudson County will be under an air quality alert again. It’s only been three weeks since we saw those orange skies. Has the board … centered climate in these conversations?” recent County commissioner candidate Stephanie Martinez asked.
Malavasi said they received two grants from the New Jersey Department of Transportation to address air quality, which Hoboken also received. He pointed out that working on traffic flow cuts down on emissions.
“The key to Vision Zero is having a system. We’re talking about the folks on the dais. Do you individually feel personally responsible?” asked Kevin Bing.
“We work for … all the folks in Hudson County. We all feel personally responsible. We listen to everybody. It’s not a smoke-filled back room where these decisions are made,” replied Guy, who has no opponent in the November 7th general election.
“The reason we now have a planning grant is because advocates came and spoke to us. We can work together,” O’Dea said.
“We want to hear you. We want to collaborate. We are here, and we are trying,” Aponte-Lipski added.
Journal Square Community Association President Tom Zuppa noted that Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop, Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise, and U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) had endorsed a Marion PATH station last April.
“Can PATH comment on that?” he asked.
“This has been a conversation between PATH and the city of Jersey City for about 30 years. We’re still in active conversations,” Keane said, adding that they’re working with developers and engineers on the area.
“No wonder America is becoming an empire in decline. What could we do in Hudson County do for transportation for everybody?” asked Jim Vance.
Malavasi said the U.S. Department of Transportation gave them the Vision Zero grant to make a plan, which is in the works.
North Hudson Community Action Corporation Executive Director Joan Quigley asked what they’ll do about the effects of New York City’s congestion pricing, to which Wyckoff said they want to encourage people to use NJ Transit.
Bike JC President Ayla Schermer said Hoboken and Jersey City had their Vision Zero plans praised by U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. They implemented “quick build” using low-cost materials which don’t need grants nor require traffic studies that take time.
“Do you envision the county’s Vision Zero plan including quick builds?” she asked.
“Doing demonstration projects is something we’re going to consider,” Nicholas responded.