Smart growth plans reduce the growth in traffic congestion by focusing on intra-regional transit services and an extensive feeder system in selected transportation corridors.

Background/Issues

Although New Jersey’s transportation resources – parkways, highways, rail lines, ports, and airports – are often cited as some of the best in nation, traffic congestion is listed one of the state’s biggest challenges. Major investments over the past decade have improved bottlenecks in most of the region’s north/south corridors, which connect New York City and Philadelphia. There are significant deficiencies, however, in east/west connections, hampering service to the north/south corridors.

The most significant factor in congestion is land use. Most of the development over the last 50 years has been built in auto-dependent patterns. At the same time, resources available to increase the capacity of highways and transit services have been shrinking.

In addition, truck traffic has increased significantly, and will increase even more when plan improvements to the Port at Elizabeth are implemented to allow bigger container vessels to dock. This increase is due in part to New Jersey’s strategic location with excellent access to markets, but also due to just-in-time inventory practices and an increase in warehousing and “big box” retail operations in many parts of the state. Although goods movement is a major component of New Jersey’s economy and must be accommodated, unless we plan carefully, the expansion of this activity could destroy New Jersey’s quality of life.

PlanSmart NJ Position

Reducing traffic congestion is a supply and demand problem and must be addressed by:

  • Increasing resources invested in transportation such as re-authorizing the State’s Transportation Trust Fund and increasing New Jersey’s motor fuel tax, currently one of the lowest in the country,
  • Increasing the capacity and connectivity of the road and transit network such as building Route 92, the Penns’ Neck Area Improvements, and the Central Jersey Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system,
  • Providing incentives to reduce congestion and auto travel by supporting travel demand management strategies, such as telecommuting, ridesharing, flextime, etc.,
  • Changing land use patterns from auto-dependent sprawl, to pedestrian and transit-friendly centers.

PlanSmart NJ has also explored how to improve highway access management to make it more consistent with the State Development and Redevelopment Plan, making the right choices about by-passes and separating regional truck and commuting trips from local streets.

Projects

PlanSmart NJ has developed a state-of-the-art computer model to demonstrate the impacts of zoning to non-planners. Goal Oriented Zoning (GOZ) tests VISION 2050 is a concept plan to integrate land use and transportation decisions in such a way as to build growth capacity, increase property value, and reduce the growth in traffic congestion. Less land will be consumed, more resources protected, and more housing and transportation choices provided. Infrastructure will be provided more efficiently and equitably. GOZ also allows the user to compare the advantages of changing zoning to produce more compact development and see how it may support new transportation options and offer more choices for a changing population.

PlanSmart NJ believes that an intra-regional Bus Rapid Transit system should become the key component of planning for the future. Such a system, a type of modern trolley, is no more visionary or costly than the interstate highway system built over last 50 years. It should work well here if centers are sited on these transit corridors, growth is targeted go there, and regulations, policies and investment decisions change to make it happen.

PlanSmart NJ is also working with a consulting firm hired by NJDOT to develop a Smart Growth assessment for highway investments and with another firm hired by NJ Transit to do the same thing for transit investments.

Achievements

Since being established in 1968, PlanSmart NJ’s achievements in transportation have included:

  • Out and About: A Guide to Sustainable Local Circulation Planning
  • NJT Transit Score Guidebook
  • Route 1 Regional Growth Strategy: Vision for a Prosperous and Sustainable Future
  • Managing the community involvement process for NJDOT’s Route 1 Corridor Study in the early 1980s, which led to a plan to invest over $125 million in new construction, while redirecting spending from inappropriate areas such as the Sourland Mountains
  • Mercer County was hired PlanSmart NJ to use GOZ to measure the volume of traffic that can be expected from current zoning and develop a plan that will better manage the capacity of County roads
  • Establishing the East Coast’s first private Transportation Management Association (TMA), now called the Greater Mercer TMA,
  • Conducting a federally-funded land use/transportation study demonstrating the effectiveness of changing from sprawling growth pattern to more redevelopment and center-based growth. The study showed that centers would reduce the growth in traffic congestion by as much 60%. The study remains breakthrough in the field and continues to demonstrate the magnitude of change we can expect from reforming land use, investment decision-making and design practices
  • Managing two separate corridor studies – Routes 1 and 130. The projects involved mayors from half of the central Jersey region’s municipalities and resulted in a number of improvements in land use, truck traffic management and “traffic calming” to slow improve pedestrian mobility

To learn about current Transportation issues in NJ, please refer to our blog- Speaks Out. Recent posts:Port Authority Toll Increases: Were They Enough to Modernize Our Infrastructure?THE Tunnel: An Investment in NJ’s Economic Future and More!

Please click here to see past projects in our Archives. 

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