Following years of grappling with Hoboken’s seemingly intractable parking problem with a variety of approaches such as easily rented cars and new regulations, then promoting bicycling as an alternative to the automobile, city officials are currently in the final planning stages of a new initiative to place signage throughout the Mile Square City intended to encourage an even more basic form of transport: walking.
In what is easily one of the most walkable towns in Hudson County, the city hopes the sign program will promote the ease and pleasure of walking throughout Hoboken by advertising the distances to certain points of interest, such as the Hoboken Train Station or City Hall.
The idea surfaced earlier this year when Raleigh, N.C. resident Matt Tomasulo began placing his homemade signs around that city with an arrow pointing to typical tourist attractions and listing the amount of time it would take the average person to walk to that attraction.
“We want them to know that it’s not only an easy walk to Carlo’s Bakery, but [also to] lots of [other] great things along the way.” – Mayor Dawn Zimmer
The story was picked up by news outlets around the country and eventually made its way to city officials in Hoboken.
“We have a very walkable city,” said Mayor Dawn Zimmer, who later added that city planners have reached out to Tomasulo and are currently in the finishing stages of developing a final plan for the signs.
“I think they’ve just about finalized a plan that they want to present to me,” said Zimmer, who later added that the initiative will seek the approval of the City Council.
“I would want to get their approval and buy-in,” continued Zimmer, “and it’s a way to communicate to the public what we’re doing and give them a chance to give their feedback.”
Zimmer also hinted at the potential notion of “biking signs,” which could inform bicyclists the average distance of landmarks by bike. The city is currently in the process of implementing new bike lanes on many of the major roads (see our April 29 story).
During the last meeting, the council voted 5-3 to update the city’s signage placement restrictions. According to Zoning Officer Ann Holtzman, the adopted ordinance will make the sign requirements less restrictive than the current regulation.
Officials said that the signs will also be used to promote art galleries, city landmarks, and tourist attractions, such as Carlo’s Bakery.
“We could potentially use it to support economic development,” said Zimmer.
“We want to be welcoming people who are visiting Hoboken,” continued Zimmer. “We want them to know that it’s not only an easy walk to Carlo’s Bakery, but [also to] lots of [other] great things along the way.”
According to officials, the signs could be used to promote city initiatives like the monthly gallery walk, which takes place every third Sunday and highlights new exhibits around the city from local, regional, and international artists. Zimmer said the signs could direct people toward specific galleries.
According to Zimmer, QR codes – which can be scanned by smartphones and link users to schedules, fares, and route information – could also be placed on the signs to promote city services such as the Hop shuttle buses.
“We’d promote events we’re doing, direct people to nearby parking garages, [etc.],” said Zimmer. “It’s something that could increase flexibility.”
‘A simple idea’
Tomasulo said that he did not expect his idea to be covered by the media as extensively as it has. As the founder of CityFabric, Tomasulo started with the simple intention of building resident engagement with cities and other places through materials such as signs and t-shirts.
“I enjoy walking in Raleigh, and realized that it really is not that far to walk places even though no one does,” said Tomasulo. “The signs are a simple idea and information source [that help] shift the perceived idea that it’s too far to walk from one district to another in Raleigh.
“Because I started CityFabric with the intention of building civic and social engagement with places,” he continued, “it made sense that [CityFabric] would help fuel other ideas and projects that are trying to accomplish the same [idea].”
Tomasulo said that he is excited that his idea is being spread to communities such as Hoboken.
“It is absolutely great that Hoboken is planning to adopt the signs,” said Tomasulo. “We [CityFabric] are currently working on a platform that will help cities like Hoboken create and install the signs more efficiently.”
Stephen LaMarca may be reached at email@example.com.