LTE – Looking Closer at the Commuter Parking Issue

Now that the elections are over, one of the most recent election day issues can and should be addressed without politics getting in the way. The issue of commuter parking – or lack thereof – in the Copper Tree Mall.

coachusaSuggestions have been floated on alternative parking for commuters in town. On their face, some seem like great ideas but when you dig in a bit further, you’ll see there are many problems with these ideas.

The ideas of parking in Great Oak Park or Shoprite present more traffic through downtown at crush hours. Definitely not ideal but perhaps (if either location is being used) the bus route could be changed to bypass Oakland completely and take West Oakland Avenue to Skyline, make a left, go to Doty Road, make a right and come back to Ramapo Valley Road. Great Oak Park could be accessed there and then the bus could proceed to RVR, make a left and head back to the Copper Tree. For Shoprite, the bus make the left after the park and come up to the driveway on the right. However, this will still create traffic issues unless the buses would exit Shoprite using the truck exit and come around on Post Road onto RVR. They would (mostly) avoid shoppers by doing this I think and could then proceed to the Copper Tree. Either location will add to traffic downtown during crush hour but I think the impact would be minimal.

Parking in Great Oak Park – while sounding like a great and simple solution – presents some issues that would need to be addressed. For one thing, there’s no lighting in the park. These buses pick up early in the am when it’s still dark and drop off in the evening when it’s dark. Being able to see clearly in the park needs to be addressed. This includes both the entry and the actual parking lot.

During the winter, the lot and entry/exit would need to be plowed. One would assume the DPW would be responsible for that so where would that come into their plowing schedule when they’re also responsible for the schools, emergency services and other public roads?

If the buses will drive directly into the park, will there be enough room to turn around and get out safely? If they’re not, where will they pick up/drop off passengers and will the passengers have a safe walking area to/from the parking lot?

How much later will the park open/close and who will be responsible for that? What happens to vehicles still in the park after closing? What, if any, insurance issues could this arrangement create? If vehicles are damaged or stolen while parked there, who’s getting sued?

Overflow parking at Shoprite. Again, for the same reasons as using Great Oak Park for overflow parking this is a good idea, but I think a few issues need to be addressed. Using the lower lot at Shoprite for parking, where would the buses enter and exit? Will they fit underground and if so, how will their presence affect shoppers at the store who use the underground parking? If not, will they have to turn right at Long Hill and then left into the outer portion of that lot? That could be problematic and will require changes to that driveway as it’s designed to prevent left turns into it (curved). Also, that driveway is one-way so if the buses are going to exit there, that will have to be changed which means anyone can (and will) use it. More traffic issues on Ramapo Valley Road especially in the evenings.

Lower lot at OLPH. I think this is a better idea since it’s already on the bus route on Franklin Avenue and would cause no additional traffic in town. One issue is that the lower lot at OLPH is not well-lit. The only light comes from floodlights attached to the school and the parish office building. Not ideal but workable. Access to and from the lot is good since there are numerous entry and exit driveways that would not interfere with the NJ Japanese School or the Early Childhood School at OLPH.

As has been mentioned elsewhere, Ramapo Valley Baptist church might be the best solution. It too is on Franklin Avenue and the bus stop is right outside the parking lot. This would require no changes whatsoever to the bus route and traffic in town would not be affected at all. Perhaps this is the one that should be pursued first with the others as alternates.

With the exception of Great Oak Park, all liability issues would fall on the property owners (much like Copper Tree) so that would need to be addressed.

Everyone wants an easy and fast solution to this issue but I think it’s far more complicated when you look closer at it.

Keith Ahearn