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Let Me Clear My Throat

For those who either have been wondering about, or not regularly following, the private life and times of your correspondent, I believe some sort of explanation is in order for what appears to have been my abrupt and complete disappearance off the face of the Earth.  No, I did not get hit by an electric bus.  No, there were no sinkholes in my proverbial bike lane.  No, I didn't fatally discover an improperly phased pedestrian “Don't Walk” message on a recent signal timing field test.  In fact, I have not disappeared from the face of any planet; rather, I have been devoured by the political wranglings and machinations of a very complex and tumultuous mayoral campaign in my fantastic hometown of Hoboken, New Jersey.  More importantly, one week after being appointed Provisional Director of the Hoboken Parking Utility, my wife gave birth to a wonderful boy.  But – sniff – I did miss you!

Ian Sacs | November 4, 2009, 4am PST
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For those who either have been wondering about, or not regularly following, the private life and times of your correspondent, I believe some sort of explanation is in order for what appears to have been my abrupt and complete disappearance off the face of the Earth.  No, I did not get hit by an electric bus.  No, there were no sinkholes in my proverbial bike lane.  No, I didn't fatally discover an improperly phased pedestrian "Don't Walk" message on a recent signal timing field test.  In fact, I have not disappeared from the face of any planet; rather, I have been devoured by the political wranglings and machinations of a very complex and tumultuous mayoral campaign in my fantastic hometown of Hoboken, New Jersey.  More importantly, one week after being appointed Provisional Director of the Hoboken Parking Utility, my wife gave birth to a wonderful boy.  But – sniff – I did miss you!

 
If you want a healthy dose of hard core politics, look up what it took for Dawn Zimmer to become Mayor

The short of it is that I was of the opinion that during the three-month period between appointment of an acting mayor and the special election, which took place yesterday, the less material for political fodder in this heated campaign the better; hence, blog silence on my behalf ever since my appointment.  But blog silence does not mean nothing's going on...oh no!  Since as a consultant I have always been in a position to recommend, and hope others would implement, these past seven weeks having the reigns of the municipality's parking utility have been all about put up or shut up.  So pardon me while I get all provincial up in here with the past seven weeks' roll-out about which I haven't blogged:

Reinstatement of Hoboken's Downtown Crosstown Shuttle Bus: As a first step in my effort to create a city-wide transit service consisting of three shuttle buses, I followed through on the prior work of others to get our shuttle first bus up and running after being sidelined in budget cuts last year.  There will be much more to come on this front in the next few months as the pieces of a comprehensive system all start coming together.  But here's a teaser: GPS tracking, unlimited pass system, overlapping network of routes, coordination with local transit and academic facilities, and roller skates!

"Rebranding" from Hoboken Parking Utility to "Department of Transportation and Parking": With this move, the city has effectively embraced the Mayor's argument that parking and transportation are intrinsically related.  There is much to discuss on this relationship in terms of the complementary way revenue from parking demand can fund critical transportation infrastructure that, in turn, reduces parking demand.  I'll be working towards such an equilibrium and am interested in the opinions of others on this topic.

Pedestrian Safety Campaign: In every mayoral debate, the topic of pedestrian safety comes up.  Since walking represents 95% of all trips in Hoboken (that's right, read-em and weep), the place to start in making Hoboken auto-independent is by minimizing the trepidations of crossing the street.  We began the quest to polish the safety image by enforcing critical parking regulations (crosswalks, bus stops, fire zones, and too close to corners) and getting the word out regularly to drive carefully along Hoboken streets.  Also in our arsenal is the continued implementation of our "daylighting" program, where we install inexpensive plastic poles at corners to physically prevent cars from parking too close to the crosswalks.  If you have a sight-distance problem in your city, this is a very cheap solution.  I'll devote a separate blog article to this in coming weeks.
More Bike Lanes: This is also a cheap and simple to slow down traffic and expand on an underutilized mode; we're averaging two streets per month in my first two months on the job.  Bike lanes, as you likely know, are the visual invitation needed to encourage more bicycling in a community, and to track this, we're also performing the city's first screenline counts and speed studies to demonstrate their efficacy.

Switching from Gasoline to All-Electric (where feasible): In a mile-square city that is packed to the hilt with cars and essentially flat, switching out pick-up trucks for flatbed electric vehicles makes sense.  We are evaluating and budgeting the phase out of the department's daily-use, traditional gasoline vehicles for neighborhood electric vehicles (NEV's) that require 90% less fuel and maintenance costs.

On-Street Car-Sharing: Research and preparation of bid specifications is underway to seek an on-street car-sharing vendor that will provide 1-2 block proximity service between residents and vehicles.  This has been done before in other cities, but not as a city-wide transportation demand management measure.  We already know that car-sharing vehicles can dramatically reduce vehicle ownership rates; Hoboken will serve as a model city for how car sharing can be used to temper parking and traffic demand in dense, urban environments.

Multi-Space Meters: As part of the critical supply/demand approach to Hoboken's parking management, we will be following the lead of many other cities by replacing our antiquated meters with multi-space (pay/display) meters.  This will allow us to improve parking efficiency, increase customer pay options, reduce street furniture clutter, exact better temporal pricing controls, reduce maintenance costs, and eliminate some tricky enforcement problems to boot.

Bike Racks as Parking Facilities: Part of the revolution here is the concept that bike racks are not just parks amenities, but crucial transportation infrastructure.  A major complaint from our nascent bicycling community is that there are limited places to lock up a bike around town.  We will be implementing a city-wide bike rack program shortly to answer this call.

Tackling the Zoning Beast: We're ramping up the urban planning militia to do something about the weak to non-existent transportation and parking zoning codes that have hindered development in Hoboken for decades.  When you get a strip mall with a requirement for 25 parking spaces right next a "neighborhood cinema" with no parking requirement, it's time to do some soul-searching.  The world is our oyster!

Roadway Design for the Masses: We are training a strict eye towards the future design of any roadways in the city.  Whether we reach out for funding on specific corridors, or interact with other ongoing projects or developments, the focus will be human-scale streets that offer a balance of modal options and best share limited public space.

Public Participation: I am exploring some technologies new to the public sector in an effort to include a broader input group on transport topics.  For example, in addition to the traditional public forums, I am looking to operate a pilot wiki where residents can work together on consensus-building for various issues.

So, there you have it.  Just a smattering of the most relevant items for your perusal.  More detail to come, of course, I promise, and soon!  Admittedly, the above host of projects hasn't left me with much time to write to you all anyway, and then there are also all those diapers to be changed at home, but now we're happily back together so all's forgiven, right? 

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