Eight proposed loading zones — one on each block of the downtown business district — have been delayed over placement confusions: whether to situate each in the corner or in mid-block.
City officials had eight ordinances before them on Tuesday evening to place a loading zone on each side of every downtown Main Street block between Broadway and Smith Street. The commercial loading zones would be active from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the weekdays and return to public parking during the weekend.
“This is something the merchants can work with,” said Jamie Dykes, president of the Greater Paterson Chamber of Commerce, which represents a large number of businesses in the city. He met with the city’s traffic engineer Hongchao Yu two weeks ago to discuss the loading zones; however, the takeaways from the meeting were starkly different for both.
Yu’s recommendations place the loading zones in the corners of each of the blocks. However, Dykes understanding of the meeting’s discussion was that the loading zones would be placed in mid-block, said the president.
“I don’t believe the functionality is there for mid-block loading zones,” said William McKoy, 3rd Ward councilman. Ruby Cotton, 4th Ward councilwoman, concurred. She said the varying size of delivery trucks will make mid-block loading zones difficult if not impossible.
Yu struggled to explain where the loading zones would be located. His resolution attachments that showed Google Map images of areas where the loading zones will be located, but council members wanted exact locations of each of the zones.
McKoy said he is not vested in either one of the two placements. He said he would like to see downtown’s traffic woes addressed in a manner that considers the “totality” of factors to ensure one fix does not result in more problems.
McKoy suggested creating a turning mechanism to prevent congestion when a motorist is making a left turn. Dykes suggested a left turn signal which would do much the same. McKoy also suggested a bypass lane which would allow a motorist to pass a vehicle that’s making a left turn which cannot be done at this time due to vehicles being parked at the parking meters.
Council members understood the need for loading zones for businesses that have been suffering since parking meters were installed along Main Street last year by the Paterson Parking Authority at the behest of mayor Jose “Joey” Torres.
Businesses welcomed the meters, but it left them without loading zones. Alex Mendez, councilman at-large, who has been pushing for one loading zone per block, said he has received numerous traffic complaints from motorists. He said one day he was forced to spend 20-minute in traffic while a double-parked truck unloaded merchandise.
Without loading zones trucks have no place to park in downtown. Some simply double-park to quickly unload merchandise. Those that do not double-park are forced to park blocks away from the unloading location.
Dykes said hauling merchandise from blocks away to a business creates not only a hazardous condition for shoppers, but also increases the likelihood of workers compensation claims against businesses.
Mendez said it’s impossible to drive through downtown during the week due to the traffic congestion that results from lack of loading zones.
“We understand the need to have these loading zones, but we want to make sure they are set appropriately so that way when cars are turning right or left you don’t have big trucks obstructing traffic or even visibility,” said Maritza Davila, councilwoman at-large. “There are times when you have huge trucks making deliveries and they are in the corner and you can’t make a right or left.”
A downtown property owner Irwin Bailey who has been doing business on Main Street for 35 years proposed a simple solution: a mixture of corner and mid-block loading zones.
“Some loading zones should be in corners; some loading zones should be in center blocks,” said Bailey. He was out in the rain on Tuesday measuring the blocks and meters. He said the loading zones would result in a loss of 12 meters.
On Van Houten Street loading zones in the corner would be appropriate, for Main Street motorists cannot make right turn into that street, said Bailey. However, Main Street between Market and Ellison Streets should be mid-block, he said.
Bailey used his keen instincts to observe the flow of traffic as well as the amount of vehicular activity at a given intersection to make the suggestions.
“Some of the best laid plans not properly thought through get mixed up and screwed up,” said Bailey, who sits on the Downtown Special Improvement District’s board. He said the meters do not need to be removed, but must simply be adjusted. He said about the meters: “It’s the best thing to have happened to the retail community in 30 years.”
The loading zones which first appeared on the council’s agenda at the beginning of last month have been effectively postponed until the end of this month. Council members want a thorough presentation from the city’s traffic engineer before considering the eight ordinances.