Wednesday, March 18, 2020

We’re building a lot more highway miles than transit miles

A while back I reviewed the TRB Interstate highway report, which I gave high marks for documenting the need for rebuilding the system, but low marks for being wobbly on the issue of adding lane miles to the system at a time of climate crisis (my posting here).
The flip side of too much highway expansion is too little transit expansion.  Yonah Freemark captures the comparison in this graphic (yes I know these numbers are not in some respects equivalent).  His story is here.
Dramatically ramping up the number of transit miles built is not easy, but something we need to address in the next surface transportation (Green New Deal?) bill.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

The New Jersey State Plan is Back!

Or at least the State Planning Commission is back, with a mandate to finally update the State Plan.
New Jersey’s State Development and Redevelopment Plan, an ambitious, comprehensive, state-of-the-art planning document for guiding public policy and investment in the nation’s most densely populated state, was published in 2001 (it’s still available here).  But later attempts to update it – as required by statute – languished, largely for political reasons.
Now New Jersey’s current governor, Phil Murphy, has funded the State Planning Commission and given it new members and a renewed mission.
As Donna Rendeiro, executive director of the planning office, stated at a presentation at the recent Redevelopment Forum sponsored by leading state thinktank New Jersey Future, the commission is systematically attacking the work that needs to be done, beginning with updating policies and procedures and rules.  They are in a “listening” mode, taking in views as to how the old plan should be updated.  A core issue is how to respond to the criticism that the old plan was too detailed, too prescriptive, and too burdensome, especially for small towns with little or no professional staff who needed to comply with its provisions.  A related issue is whether or not to include a detailed map – as the old plan did – showing where development was to be encouraged and where discouraged.
There are lots of details to be resolved, but I (a veteran of many New Jersey State Plan battles) am glad it’s back.  Statewide planning is an enormous challenge but can have enormous benefits!  Good luck NJ State Planning Commission!

Complete – and Green – Streets in New Jersey

Fans of the “Complete Streets” concept will welcome New Jersey’s latest contribution: “Complete and Green Streets For All.”  (For the uninitiated, the idea of “complete streets” is that streets should be designed to be safe and welcoming for people walking, cycling, boarding buses, sitting at sidewalk cafes, and doing other human activities beyond hurtling along the pavement in automobiles.)
The guidebook is published by New Jersey DOT (available here) but is the product of a very successful collaboration (led by the Tri-State Transportation Coalition) of advocacy groups, government agencies, academics, and others.  As presented at the recent Redevelopment Forum sponsored by New Jersey Future, a leading state thinktank, the group sought to weave health, equity, economic development, safety, and other concerns into a model of Complete Streets development.
Perhaps most significantly – from a design standpoint – the guide explicitly advocates making green infrastructure a key element of future Complete Streets, with direct benefits for climate change resiliency.
The new publication is not a design handbook.  NJDOT has other manuals for that.  It is, as the subtitle says, a “Model Complete Streets Policy and Guide.”  It provides local officials and citizens with a model policy, a model resolution, public participation guidelines, checklists, references, and other practical information for making Complete Streets happen.
Congrats to Commissioner Diane Gutierrez- Scacetti and my old colleagues at NJDOT for pushing this effort forward and for opening their doors to this wide coalition of people who can add so much to the future of transportation.
“Complete and Green Streets For All” helps define a vision that all of us should pursue!