A community in the state of New Jersey announced they would be fining out-of-town commuters driving through their streets.
The reason—to decrease the traffic and congestion the drivers bring.
Officials from the small town of Leonia said they will close 60 streets to out-of-town drivers. Police officers will be able to fine commuters $200 if they drive through those streets between 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., according to NJ.com. The new rule will go into effect on Jan. 22.
For residents who live or work in Leonia, the city hall will provide them with a bright yellow tag to hang in their rearview mirror. Police officers will not fine drivers with a yellow tag.
“It’s an extreme initiative, I’ll be the first to admit that,” Thomas Rowe, the city’s police chief told NJ.com. “However the traffic that we deal with is completely extreme.”
The town’s traffic problems stem from navigation apps like Waze and Google maps that lead highway drivers through their streets as a shortcut.
The traffic is reportedly so bad that during rush hour, police categorize the traffic the way one would hurricanes. Leonia is located about a mile away from the George Washington Bridge, which leads directly into New York City.
Rowe said that about 15,000 cars travel through the town every day. The town’s population is only about 9,200 and they employ 18 police officers in total.
The new move is legal, according to Leonia Mayor, Judah Zeigler, who told NJ.com that said the measure has been “thoroughly” researched and that they have “no doubt the ordinances we passed are legal and would withstand any potential legal challenge.”
Executive Director of the NJ League of Municipalities, Michael Darcy, also stressed the rule was legal, even though it was an “extreme” form of “traffic calming.”
“I think they’re certainly within their rights to do this,” Darcy told NJ.com. “They aren’t just doing this to gate off the community, for example. They’re talking about the safety of the residents, emergency vehicles having access. It’s a problem there.”
According to the New York Times, town residents of Leonia have difficulty pulling out of their own driveways.
One such resident, Melissa Soesmann, said she would even “plead” with drivers, so she could get out.
“It’s horrific, and it’s all the time,” she told the newspaper. “They will see that you are trying to get out, but they won’t let you. People are cranky; it’s the morning. By the time they are up here, who knows how long they have been sitting in traffic.”
Officials from the town said they are also working with Waze so their software will not direct drivers through Leonia.
Steve Carrellas, director of government and public affairs for the New Jersey chapter of the National Motorists Association has a different opinion.
“This ordinance is illegal and it will be a matter of which force ends its reign of wishful thinking: the courts, political pressure or the expected inability to enforce it, which will be overwhelming,” Carrellas told NJ.com.
Carrellas said the new rule is outrageous and that drivers have “a right to public roads subject to reasonable regulations, like speed limits and turn signals.”