Have you ever just needed to run into Starbucks—for, like, a minute, I swear!—grab a cup of coffee and get out? No parking? Did you—ahem—make your own parking space?
Such appears to be a common theme based on preliminary results of a traffic study conducted by the town and Jonathan Rose Companies planner Phil Abramson, who presented a study on the traffic habits on Market and DeHart streets at Tuesday night's council meeting.
Calling the presentation "the beginning of the conversation," Abramson pointed to persistent issues with not only illegal parking by cars running in for a quick cuppa, but commercial vehicles parking illegally as they make their rounds loading and unloading for a myriad of businesses.
Abramson said the intention of the study, and any potential changes that may come from it, is an attempt "to work with human nature." For example, that space cars park in illegally for coffee? That's the approved commercial loading zone, which almost never gets used for that purpose. Instead, commercial vehicles are finding other areas on the two one-way streets around the Epstein's Redevelopment Area to do their business.
"I see this almost everyday," he said. What he doesn't see, however, are many signs informing drivers of where they can and cannot park. Nor does he see painted areas that clearly state the same.
One of Abramson's proposed ideas to help alleviate the problem is to reconfigure parking and commercial loading spaces to meld closer with how the vehicles are already parking. That would include changing that underutilized commercial loading zone into short term parking and creating convert-able loading spaces in some areas from 6 to 11 a.m., which would allow more space for that purpose at a time when cars are not there as much.
All changes are subject, however, to state Department of Transportation approval as both Market Street (Route 202) and around the Green and South Street (Route 124) are county roads.
Councilwoman Allison Deeb asked why Starbucks was being singled out and wondered if it was preferential treatment that their customers could see easier parking options should the changes be implemented.
Abramson said those were the habits of drivers based on their findings. "That's the loading zone, they are going to go there," he said. "They're going to park there anyway."
Deeb also questioned whether 6 to 11 a.m. for a convert-able loading zone on DeHart Street would be an impediment for anyone utilizing the nearby banks earlier in the morning. Both councilwoman Raline Smith-Reid and council president Michelle Dupree Harris also chimed in, noting they both need to go to those banks during earlier hours.
"The largest backup of trucks happen on DeHart Street," Mayor Tim Dougherty said. "It becomes very tight and congested ... we're trying to make this better."
In the meantime, council vice president Rebecca Feldman pointed out another option for people should they be parking for an extended period of time in that area. "The DeHart Street Parking Garage is right there," she said.
Abramson also said a "photo violation meter" had been suggested by the Morristown Parking Authority as a way to help curb abuse by vehicles parking in short-term parking spots longer than is permitted. Plus, a present New Jersey law notes that vehicle idling is subject to a $250 fine and is "something we could enforce tomorrow," he said.
Everything, however, is still in its earliest stages, the planner said, noting additional presentations are scheduled later this month by the Morristown Partnership for businesses and by some residents at 40 Park. The presentation also will soon be available for viewing on the town website, Abramson said.