Ride-share ordinance introduced

Council also seeks Ward A parking changes and approves bridge at end of Jersey Avenue

City Council introduced an ordinance governing ride shares in Jersey City.
City Council introduced an ordinance governing ride shares in Jersey City.

City Council members Richard Boggiano and James Solomon voted not to introduce new rules requiring ride-share vehicles to display signs, saying the ordinance may not go far enough to protect potential riders.

But the council voted 6 to 3 to introduce the ordinance anyway, pending additional information.

This comes in reaction to the death of Samantha Josephson, a college student in South Carolina, who was killed after she mistakenly stepped into a vehicle she believed was an Uber ride on March 22. She died as a result of multiple stab wounds.

The ordinance updates the local cab regulations to meet new rules set by the state that require a lighted sign on these vehicles and a clear identification marker. The ordinance also requires companies to provide names and other information about the drivers to the city.

Sign of the times

Currently, no New Jersey regulations or laws require ride-share vehicles to display identifying signage. The ordinance would require vehicles that operate in Jersey City to have illuminated signs that identify them.

Boggiano and Solomon opposed the resolution on the grounds that requiring signs was not enough.

A published statement from Uber said the ordinance may put people at greater risk, and existing safety measures such as providing descriptions of the vehicles and license plate numbers are better.

“I use Lyft a lot,” said Councilman Jermaine Robinson, who also voted no. “I always check the license plate before I get in. I think we need to educate the public to do the same.”

Boggiano said that anyone can put a sign in the window or buy a blue light. “We need to have proper identification of the driver with the person’s name,” he said.

Solomon said he needed to see better data on the use of ride shares in Jersey City. He checked EBay and found he could buy an Uber sign for $25.

A public hearing on the ordinance will be held on April 24 at City Hall.

Ward A gets parking relief

The council introduced two ordinances on April 10 authored by Councilwoman Denise Ridley to help deal with parking issues in Ward A.

The first would repeal parking restrictions on the west side of Sullivan Drive, allowing for a minimum of 24 parking spots for public parking and overnight parking for residents. Parking was the single biggest complaint Ward A Councilwoman Denise Ridley received during her recent community meetings.

A separate, parking-related ordinance enables a study of angled parking on the south side of Mercer Street from Grove Street to Marin Boulevard to create more parking opportunities.

“Residents have made it clear to me, parking is a pertinent issue that affects their lives on a daily basis,” Ridley said.  “It’s a quality-of-life issue. It’s an ever-growing problem in cities nationwide, but in this case, we’re working with residents to rezone and reassess areas that need parking the most.”

Bridge project gets key approval

The council adopted an ordinance that will help clear the way for the construction of a new bridge at the foot of Jersey Avenue, connecting it with Phillip Street across the Morris Canal in Liberty State Park.

A memorandum of understanding between the city and the New Jersey Turnpike Authority signed last year will allow the authority to construct the bridge. But to move ahead with the project, the council needed to approve an ordinance granting the city easements from property owners in the area.

The Turnpike Authority hopes this will moderate traffic caused by motorists who use downtown streets as a shortcut to the waterfront, the Holland Tunnel, and Hoboken.

Solomon voted against adopting the ordinance. “I’m concerned that diverting hard traffic off the turnpike onto local streets will encourage even more traffic,” he said.

He also reported that the city is paying $3 million toward the project, and he feels the money would be better spent on other traffic-safety projects elsewhere in the city.

Turnpike Authority backs the bridge

Turnpike Authority officials acknowledged that the bridge won’t reduce traffic using Liberty State Park as a shortcut to avoid backups on the Turnpike Extension. But it believes that the bridge will create a more direct route through downtown and increase safety for pedestrians and cyclists.

Currently, traffic using the park must turn left, west off Phillip Street, take Johnston Avenue, cross the Hudson Bergen Light Rail tracks near the Liberty State Park station, and turn onto Pacific Avenue to reach Grand Street.

Residents living on side streets along Grand Street have often complained about cars turning off Grand onto relatively quiet residential streets.

Officials said that the new bridge would eliminate this wide zig-zag and allow traffic to go straight past Audrey Zapp Drive, over the new bridge, and onto Jersey Avenue, a direct route through downtown to the Holland Tunnel area.

The stop sign at Phillip and Zapp would be replaced with a traffic signal that would help regulate traffic.

The $13 million project, which is being funded by the Turnpike Authority and the city, would also modify the existing intersection of Grand and Pacific to reduce turn lanes and construct new sidewalks and additional bike lanes. The two lanes that currently turn onto Grand from Pacific will be reduced to one.

City officials said these changes will fit well with a possible reconfiguration of Grand Street, considered one of the most dangerous streets in the city.

For updates on this and other stories check hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Al Sullivan can be reached at asullivan@hudsonreporter.com