Leonia, N.J., is going to extremes to avoid navigation app-derived traffic jams

Dec. 26, 2017

60 streets will be shut to all but local residents during peak travel times

The extreme always seems to make an impression, and town officials in Leonia, N.J., are banking on it being just that.

According to a recent piece in the New York Times, the roads cutting through the Jersey borough of less than 10,000 souls are a regularly suggested alternate route on popular navigation apps such as Waze. The result of this is such traffic congestion that local residents sometimes must wait for peak travel periods to pass before they are able to reasonable traverse their own community.

Now the borough has decided to fight back: In mid-January, the Leonia police force will close 60 streets to all drivers other than residents and people employed in the borough during the morning and afternoon rush periods, effectively taking most of the town out of circulation for the popular traffic apps—and for everyone else, for that matter.

“Without question, the game changer has been the navigation apps,” Tom Rowe, Leonia’s police chief, was quoted in the Times piece. “In the morning, if I sign onto my Waze account, I find there are 250,000 ‘Wazers’ in the area. When the primary roads become congested, it directs vehicles into Leonia and pushes them onto secondary and tertiary roads. We have had days when people can’t get out of their driveways.”

Ringed by I-95, and in the shadow of the George Washington Bridge, Leonia sits next to some of the most congested roadways in the country.

The borough plans to issue residents yellow tags to hang in their cars, and nonresidents who use the streets in the morning and afternoon will face $200 fines. The police department has already alerted the major traffic and navigation apps to the impending changes, which will take effect on Jan. 22 from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m., and from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week.

“It’s basically all or nothing,” Chief Rowe said. “It’s a very extreme measure for very extreme traffic. Would I prefer not to do this? Of course. But I would rather try something and fail than not try anything.”

Roads & Bridges readers are recommended to click through to the article, as the photos serve another clique: The pictures are worth a thousand words.

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