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JERSEY CITY ADDS REALITY
TO THE PLANNING PROCESS
Aieal vie of Liberty Skyline

Mayor Healey K. Toolan
By Jerramiah T. Healey
Mayor, Jersey City
& Kevin Toolan, President & CEO, T&M Associates

Jersey City, one of America’s most diverse urban centers and New Jersey’s fastest growing city, recently won top honors from the American Planning Association, New Jersey Chapter, for developing a comprehensive circulation element for the municipal master plan that seems to have accomplished the impossible—coming up with a transportation plan that is based on real needs, recognizes real costs and identifies potential funding.

In short, Jersey City wanted a plan that was based on reality and could be put to real use, not simply a dream that sits on a shelf and ultimately doesn’t get implemented.

The plan, known as “Jersey City Mobility 2050,” developed with the assistance of T&M Associates of Middletown, was a collaborative effort that included the city planning staff, a varied consultant team and an advisory committee that drew on the expertise of representatives of public and private entities in the city and the region.

The key to success, and part of the reason that the American Planning Association selected Jersey City Mobility 2050 for this year’s honors, was the process that included public hearings introduced by the mayor. Support from an elected official, they noted, is paramount in the process.

In addition, the general public was actively engaged throughout the planning stages. Surveys were distributed to residents and commuters, and a focus group with neighborhood leaders was held. This was done to make certain the voices of the people who will benefit from these improvements were heard and included in the final document.

The process also relied upon a technical advisory committee that included input from entities as diverse as NJ Transit, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Jersey City’s Economic Development Corporation, the Division of Engineering, the New Jersey Department of Transportation and the Hudson County Division of Planning. In total, 14 city, county and state agencies provided technical expertise to make sure that the circulation element would be realistic, coordinated and integrated.

The result is an action-oriented 40 year plan that was unanimously adopted by the Jersey City Planning Board in April, 2009. It addresses the complexity of a rapidly growing municipality with a highly diverse ethnic, racial and linguistic population, and multi-modal transportation system. Jersey City residents and visitors can choose from roadways, extensive bus service, the PATH Train, Hudson-Bergen Light Rail, jitney and ferry services, and bicycle/pedestrian accommodations. With implementation already underway, Jersey City Mobility 2050 will serve as an evolving blueprint for the maintenance and development of Jersey City’s transportation infrastructure for the first half of the century.

Light Rail at Exchange Place
At the outset, a tangible set of goals, objectives, and strategies were established to address the unique challenges of nurturing a highly intricate transportation system of rail, road and waterway.  Photo by Ted Ritter.

Indeed, coming up with a winning circulation element was no easy feat. At the outset, a tangible set of goals, objectives, and strategies were established to address the unique challenges of nurturing a highly intricate transportation system of rail, road and waterway.

These goals included reducing the city’s carbon footprint by creating a bicycle and pedestrian friendly environment, enhancing public transit service, integrating and connecting neighborhoods, easing congestion, maintaining and replacing obsolete infrastructure, and improving overall quality of life.

Within each set of goals a specific action plan was devised that includes the potential lead agency, potential funding sources, rough cost estimates and a timeline for implementation. Having all of the relevant parties at the table during the planning stages ensured that each individual action was thoroughly vetted before being adopted into the plan. This will ultimately lead to quicker implementation, since the agencies supported the initiatives, and again, made certain that the Plan was grounded in reality.

Several other aspects were critical to the plan’s success, including the creation of a functional classification system for newly proposed and existing local city streets. In addition, we created proposed typical roadway cross sections that will shape future roadway design. The plans serve all users, including bicyclists, motorists, and pedestrians, and a thorough “traffic calming” strategy that identifies appropriate speeds, traffic volumes and the widths for their installation. Lastly, the plan incorporates mapping and detailed descriptions of locations that can be used for roadway grids, trails, walkways, rail lines and train stations. A series of indicators, targets and benchmarks have been built into the plan to measure the progress of these initiatives.

See caption below

Jersey City recently won top honors from the American Planning Association, New Jersey Chapter for developing a comprehensive circulation element for the municipal master plan. Pictured (L to R, front) are Jeff Wenger (Jersey City), Sandra Sung (Jersey City), Maryann Bucci-Carter (Jersey City), Stan Slachetka (T&M), Haseeb Ahson (TechniQuest), Jaclyn Flor (T&M), Robert D. Cotter (Jersey City), Douglas J. Greenfeld (Jersey City),and Courtenay D. Mercer (NJ APA)and (L to R, back) Councilman Michael Sottolano (Jersey City), and Scott Kafarski (T&M). Not Present in Photo: Naomi Hsu (Jersey City).

Like all municipalities in New Jersey, Jersey City’s vision is to foster a safe, accessible and comfortable transportation system that combines pragmatic planning with sensible public policy and spending. Jersey City Mobility 2050 is the realization of this vision. As each action goes into effect, a greener, more progressive place will be created. Congestion will be eased through the development of existing and new modes of mass transit, which link Jersey City and the surrounding region, and further connect the many diverse neighborhoods within the city itself. The end result will be a community that respects and preserves its inherent character, but is adaptable to the challenges of tomorrow.

We hope other municipalities will look to Jersey City Mobility 2050 as an example of a comprehensive and truly integrated public and private partnership. While complex and data driven—composed of text, maps and graphics—it is bound by the simple, unified vision of elected officials, professional planners, government agencies and the general public to make Jersey City a better place for future generations. Based on real needs, combined with prudent decision making, it is a
purpose-driven circulation element that addresses current issues while forging a path into the future.

We invite everyone to see for themselves.  Visit www.jerseycitymobility2050.com

 

 

 


This article appeared in New Jersey Municipalities, Volume 87, Number 2, February 2010

 

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