METUCHEN – When the Traffic and Transportation Committee was started in the 1970s and 1980s, platforms at the Metuchen Train Station were raised to create space designated as the “kiss and go” area for people getting dropped off and picked up.
“One of the things we wanted to do is provide an adequate space for those people that were coming and getting dropped off. It was called a ‘kiss and go,'” resident Victor Guarnera said before the Borough Council on Feb. 11. “That doesn’t seem to be provided for in this ordinance, it seems to be eliminated.”
Guarnera addressed his concerns about an ordinance amending ride-share pick-up and drop-off zones, which the council approved in December. His concerns also included an inadequate number of handicap parking spaces, accommodations for people buying train tickets and people getting dropped off and picked up with luggage, and accommodations for people getting dropped off or picked up by private buses and jitneys, he said.
The amended ordinance designates two parking lots — Halsey Street and Pennsylvania Avenue — for dropoff and pickup for ride-share vehicles within 500 feet of the train station from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays. The Halsey Street Lot is located directly next to the sidewalk and fence line adjacent to the railroad tracks, and the Pennsylvania Avenue Lot is located in the easterly direction.
All buses, shuttle vans and vehicles holding five or more passengers will use the Halsey Street Lot. The Pennsylvania Avenue Lot will not allow buses, shuttle vans and vehicles holding five or more passengers.
A provision in the ordinance provides an exception clause for if a good cause is shown to drop off and pick up in a different location.
The penalty for violating the ordinance is a $49 ticket.
The passing of the amended ordinance was the borough’s first step in addressing congestion problems during dropoff and pickup involving ride share services at the Metuchen Train Station.
Police Chief David Irizarry had said the theory behind the amended ordinance was to move cars away from the front of the train station. He said when a train is delayed for any reason, the area gets congested and causes major delays.
The chief said the key is education and his officers have been conducting an education blitz on the amended changes.
Mayor Jonathan Busch said the adopted amended ordinance is not perfect and brings many different opinions.
“At least my goal was to keep things moving there as much as possible as we continue to look for ways [to address congestion problems],” he said.
Busch said since the inception of the amended ordinance, there has been significant police enforcement at the station.
“The police chief has said there have been improvements in the flow of traffic in the area since the enforcement,” he said.
Busch said there needs to be a continuous dialogue with traffic officers and the traffic and transportation committee to take in resident suggestions and figure out the best way to combat the congestion.
Councilman Todd Pagel said the amended ordinance is on a pilot basis.
“We are continuously making this better and more functional for every user,” he said. “There are some things we need to definitely address as we continue to listen and field resident complaints about this ordinance.”
Councilwoman Dorothy Rasmussen said she believes it is important to see how the amended ordinance plays out.
“It is an experiment to see what works and what people’s needs are,” she said.
Councilwoman Sheri-Rose Rubin suggested through Metuchen Media they could create a “Kiss, Ride and Educate” program to help educate the public on the amended ordinance, including when to buy tickets and what is the appropriate pickup and dropoff procedure.