December 7, 2015
Amazon shows New Jersey a thing or two about traffic
by Liam O'Brien
The fury of activity and commerce that constitutes Amazon holiday fulfillment means frenzied business as usual for those intimately involved in the retail giant’s warehouse division. The company hires thousands of part-time workers to handle the December rush—but the pesky thing about people is that they take up physical space.
The seasonal hiring boom, and the resultant influx of bodies, has caused serious traffic problems for non-Amazonians near a fulfillment center in Robbinsville, New Jersey (a state well-acquainted with traffic problems). At NJ.com, Cristina Rojas reports:
Bins full of orders move along 14 miles of conveyor belts, but outside, traffic grinds to a halt for miles when more than 4,000 employees are going in and out during rush hour.
“Since this holiday season, it’s gotten horrendous,” said Debbie Lange, whose Lynwood Estates neighborhood in Upper Freehold bears the brunt of the traffic gridlock. “It’s really bad.”
School buses get caught up in the traffic, kids who drive to school arrive late and it has become nearly impossible to get in and out of the neighborhood that sits across the street from the Gordon Road entrance.
Lange said the drive to Allentown High School would normally take four minutes, but is now a half-hour.
Reportedly, the initial plan for traffic routing was thwarted when Amazon’s seasonal hiring binge landed twice as many employees as originally approved by the city.
Robbinsville’s mayor, Dave Fried, and several other city officials called a meeting with Amazon representatives to address the gridlock, which has caused the local accident rate to shoot up 300%. Amazon effectively stood them up, and Fried vowed to sue.
The attorneys for the township and planning board are working to schedule a court hearing to hold Amazon to the number of trips it was approved for and if a judge finds the retailer is not in compliance, Robbinsville will attempt to block the warehouse from operating until it is in compliance, Fried said.
Amazon’s previous concessions to municipal harmony have included hiring off-duty cops to direct traffic and paying for shuttles to bus in workers from Trenton. This week, Amazon will begin staggering the shifts of their workers to clear up bottlenecks that occur at the beginning and ends of shifts. The alliance between municipal government (which gets to continue celebrating all the jobs Amazon has created) and Amazon (which comes across as magnanimous in their decision to not overtly exploit the town) remains intact!
A reminder: Amazon doesn’t pay annual taxes on the Robbinsville facility. Rather, they arranged a flat 20-year annual payment in lieu of tax with the town when the facility opened. And along with disrupting local emergency services, a traffic gridlock like this one also effectively dis-incentivizes residents from shopping local during the holiday season.
After all, why spend an hour in your car traveling to the store in horrific traffic, when you can get your gifts delivered by the horrific traffic source itself?
To quote Jack Donaghy: “Vertical integration.”
Liam O'Brien is the Sales & Marketing Manager at Melville House, and a former bookseller.