Transit Village Not Enough to Achieve Smart Growth

Sunday, December 25 by JerryFoster

This post was published as a Letter to the Editor in the West Windsor Plainsboro News December 16, 2011.? In response to Lucy Vandenberg’s letter in the West Windsor Plainsboro News December 2, 2011, WW Transit Village a Model for State. As I expect Ms. Vandenberg would agree, the Transit Village is a good start, but more needs to be done to achieve the benefits of Smart Growth.

It’s not enough that the Transit Village will “make it possible for people to get out of their cars and walk, bike, and take the train to their destinations.” We must be able to safely walk and bike to and from the Transit Village.

It’s not enough to have compact development – we need a grocery store within walking distance, like the Acme that used to be in downtown West Windsor. Land use law and/or policies must require diverse uses – we need more than banks and real estate offices downtown, so that people have a variety of walkable destinations.

It’s not enough that compact development could be environmentally beneficial – we need specific open space preservation tied to specific dense developments like the Transit Village. It’s irrelevant that other space in New Jersey is already preserved.

It’s not enough to have Smart Growth policies for land use – transportation policy must support land use policy, by implementing the flexible standards in the New Jersey Department of Transportation’s (NJDOT) Smart Transportation Guidebook.

It’s not enough that NJDOT and West Windsor Township adopted Complete Streets policies – Mercer County must also adopt the policy, which requires roadway improvements to support walking and biking. Otherwise major roads like CR 571 in downtown West Windsor are subject to expensive but counter-productive “improvements” that don’t meet the the township’s goal for “pedestrian-friendly, village scale development.” There’s nothing pedestrian-friendly about a wider road with 30% more cars going 45mph, with no place to safely wait in the middle when crossing.

The Rt 1 Regional Growth Strategy is not enough, since it doesn’t sufficiently support redevelopment in Trenton and New Brunswick, the two already-compact but underutilized “developments” anchoring the region. With the right policies, much of the region’s growth could fit into Trenton and New Brunswick with far less environmental and traffic impact. Without supporting our cities, the strategy’s Bus Rapid Transit system will effectively encourage sprawl in outlying areas, contrary to its stated goal.

Respectfully, it’s wrong to promise reduced congestion by implementing Smart Growth, even with Smart Transportation and the Bus Rapid Transit system. Like water, the transportation network balances itself as people choose to walk, bike, drive, or take the bus or train, depending on the cost and convenience of each. If there is less congestion, people will switch to driving until there is enough congestion to make it better to take another way.

The Transit Village is a good start, but doesn’t exist in a vacuum. We need complementary supporting policies to achieve the benefits of Smart Growth. If Smart Growth just means new and denser development, then it has already failed to achieve its goals.

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Bikeways and Master Plans

Tuesday, December 7 by silvia

Two New Jersey towns are working on some big bicycle-friendly improvements.

New Brunswick is close to building a 1.9-mile bikeway. As WalkBikeJersey explains, it should help residents of Highland Park reach the train station and will connect Rutgers’ Douglas campus with downtown, among other things. The bikeway will go from the intersection of Lafayette Street and College Avenue near the Route 18 John Lynch Bridge at its western terminus, to George Street and Bishop Street at the edge of the Douglas Campus to the east. From Lafayette Street, the bikeway would run on College Avenue to Huntington Street, then down George St to Albany St (NJ Rt 27). At Albany, there will be a spur that will run south to the train station while the main route would head north to Neilson Street. Then the bikeway would head east along the entire length of Neilson Street to Bishop Street, where it will turn right for a few hundred feet back to George St. This is more than just paint on the road, and one feature will be on-street, contra-flow bike lanes. See BikeWalkJersey’s blog for more details.

Hoboken is developing a bicycle and pedestrian master plan that includes narrowing extra-wide car lanes as a way to calm traffic and adding bike boxes, which put cyclists in front of cars at a red light for safety reasons. There also would be more police enforcement of speed limits and of laws requiring motorists to yield to pedestrians. The plan is now open to public comment. Read more on Streetsblog.

The WWBPA will be watching developments in both communities with interest and to see what might work in West Windsor.

Finally, an idea from Pennsylvania that can be easily copied: writing to our elected officials in Trenton and Washington asking for effective legislation to ensure that those motorists who injure, maim or kill pedestrians and cyclists are properly punished. This letter notes that all too often, they don’t face criminal charges.

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