Transit Village Not Enough to Achieve Smart Growth

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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6 Responses to “Transit Village Not Enough to Achieve Smart Growth”

  1. JerryFoster says:

    It appears NJDOT is solving the downtown West Windsor Rt 571 congestion problem for us, at least for eastbound traffic. On Wednesday we observed no congestion during the time we counted bicyclists and pedestrians, while last year it was congested enough that for 20 minutes cars at the Wallace/Cranbury light could not proceed through the light for the full time it was green (see the web posting). I’m interested in the assertion that 4 lanes is safer than 2, the road diet studies indicate the opposite, as does the NJDOT/PennDOT Smart Transportation Guidebook. It’s true the suburbs have issues going forward wrt congestion as we become built out, but continual roadway expansion will not solve them, see the work done by Anthony Downs.

  2. brian says:

    one of them*

  3. brian says:

    And I have no problem with that, but you have to understand that this is a very heavily suburbanized state….there are going to need to be major corridors. 571 is definitely want of them. I find it better to expand those corridors (two lanes each way) with some pedestrian safety improvements and use traffic calming/trails on smaller roads to create a community that helps both sides. Traffic calming on major volume roads just snarls things. Ironically, 571 would probably be safer if it had two lanes each way because traffic wouldn’t be so messed up. That and some of the surrounding areas are poorly planned. There are other ways to walk/bike thru the area than going on 571.

  4. JerryFoster says:

    It’s hard to know how to respond to these comments in a thoughtful way, perhaps just point out that the WWBPA is a group of concerned citizens who share many of the reservations re: central planning expressed above. That said, some (good) planning is crucial to better development, as long as it’s done to achieve with a broad range of desired goals.

    In the suburbs, denser development alone (multi-use developments, apartments), without supporting transportation (biking, walking, transit) and environmental (open space) improvements is just poor planning. All it does is pack in the people until a desirable area like ours becomes undesirable, and we all lose except the developers and those who work for them.

    The WWBPA is made up of average citizens who are firmly committed to the idea that by making our community more bicycle and pedestrian friendly, we will enhance our individual property values and enjoy a great place to live and work. To achieve this we have to work with our public officials, including planners. Our built environment today is the direct result of our past and current government policies, so to improve it we need better policies – we hope you’ll join us to help make it happen.

  5. Brian says:

    Global warming isn’t a hoax, anyone who believes that just watches too much fox news and lives in a bubble.

  6. Another Opinion says:

    Yeah,
    You guys never GET ENOUGH of over-reaching over-burdening centralized soviet-style planning… you are NEVER SATISFIED unless you can totally enforce your ideologic non-sense of “Smart Growth” which is being found out to be really dumb…

    You will ultimately suffer for buying into this UN “one-world” centralized “we’ve got to save the planet” global-warming hoax to socialize the entire world…

    but, average citizens who value the Constitution and individual property rights are on to you… and you will not prevail…

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