What’s the Best Use of Street Space in an Urban Area?

Hoboken, Inc. reports that the fate of a much-anticipated Trader Joe’s supermarket in the north end of Hoboken may come down to 24 on-street parking spaces.

That’s right: street parking spots. The thing that may prevent or hinder Trader Joe’s, along with its good jobs, affordable food options + the enormous positive effect it has on property values? The loss of some street parking.

Trader Joe's is planned for the ground floor space in a mixed-use development at the corner of 14th Street and Willow Avenue.

Trader Joe’s is planned for the ground floor space in a mixed-use development at the corner of 14th Street and Willow Avenue.

Roads and streets existed long before cars, and the notion that a public good should be made available for free or below market prices to a single class of private users is a pretty unfair distribution of public resources. The idea that a small reduction in on-street parking could be an obstacle to the addition of a much-desired and much-needed business shows just how much we miss the mark when parking is considered the highest-priority use of street space in an urban area. Hoboken, Inc.:

Street parking spots are some of the worst allocations of city resources. If residents or the city really wanted more parking, we should increase the price of a Hoboken resident parking permit, which currently stands at an insanely undervalued $15 a year. Such a low price encourages everyone to have a car parked on the city streets – which we all subsidize.

Parking is not a guaranteed right, and the street space used for on-street parking can accommodate so many other uses that benefit a larger number of people. In this case, providing adequate access for deliveries to a new Trader Joe’s would benefit thousands of Hooken and Hudson County residents who would shop at the store, be employed directly by the store, or be employed as a result of the store’s presence. There’s no way that 24 parking spaces can provide equivalent benefits to as much of the population. They only directly benefit a maximum of 24 vehicle drivers at a time, and indirectly benefit a maximum of 96 vehicle passengers, assuming every vehicle using these spaces carries four passengers in addition to a driver.

If you live in Hoboken​, please attend the City Council special meeting – April 26, 7PM at City Hall, 94 Washington Street – to support the conversion of these parking spaces to create a delivery zone for the proposed new Trader Joe’s. We need a new supermarket to support the growing north end of the city, and the City Council needs to hear voices that support equitable use of public resources.

UPDATE: You spoke, and the City Council listened. Enough residents spoke at the April 26, 2016 meeting to convince the City Council to vote to approve a resolution to convert parking spaces to accommodate deliveries. The new Trader Joe’s is scheduled to open in May 2017.

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