Lettiere presents check to support
South Orange Transit Village initiative
Stresses importance of program to Smart Growth planning
(South Orange) - State Transportation Commissioner Jack Lettiere today presented the Village of South Orange with a $720,000 check for expansion of its commuter shuttle service within the community. The service is part of ongoing improvements associated with South Orange’s designation as Transit Village.
"Drivers in New Jersey lose 261 million hours a year to congestion - an average of 45 hours per driver," said Governor James E. McGreevey. "New Jerseyans deserve a quality of life that is not diminished by congestion and endless sprawl. That is why we are improving transit villages throughout the State and providing assistance to towns like South Orange who are planning around mass transportation, and not the automobile."
“Through the revitalization of its downtown and the increased promotion of public transportation, South Orange has become one of New Jersey’s model communities for smart growth,” said Lettiere. “It is through the support and commitment of local officials, like President Calabrese and the Village trustees, that this administration is able to make good on its promise to ease congestion on our roadways and improve the quality of life for New Jersey’s residents. Transit Villages, like South Orange’s, are an integral component of Governor McGreevey’s Smart Growth initiative.”
In his State of the State address, Governor McGreevey outlined ways to improve the overall quality of life in New Jersey, such as fighting sprawl, preserving open space and protecting our drinking water. The Governor has made New Jersey a leader in farmland preservation with over 112,000 acres permanently preserved, and has moved aggressively on his promise to improve 200 local parks. He has also taken the unprecedented action of applying the highest protection possible-C1 designation-to over 40 percent of the State's drinking water.
The South Orange Commuter Shuttle Service began in August 2002 and has been an overwhelming success. Each weekday morning and evening, commuters are picked up in two Village neighborhoods and transported to and from the South Orange Train Station – increasing access to mass transit and reducing the need for parking in the downtown area. The shuttle service coincides with the Midtown Direct and Hoboken Express train schedules.
The $720,000 award allows the Village to expand its shuttle service further into the evening and purchase four new buses. The new evening routes will transport residents to the performing arts center and the expanded retail stores, while also alleviating traffic and parking issues downtown.
“We believe South Orange Village is a model for suburban living in the new millennium,” said Village President Bill Calabrese. “Thanks to our partnership with New Jersey Transit, South Orange commuters are able to access our train station with ease, while at the same time improving air quality and alleviating traffic congestion. We hope that other municipalities will have the opportunity to follow our lead and have the benefit of working with agencies like NJT and NJDOT.”
"The grant being awarded to South Orange today is in recognition of the municipality's hugely successful community shuttle service," said Democratic Senate President Richard J. Codey (D). "The shuttle allows residents easy access to NJ Transit rail lines, and is a prime example of smart growth initiatives in practice, cutting down on commuter congestion in South Orange and improving air quality. These funds will help expand the shuttle service to more of South Orange's residents, and are important in maintaining this popular program."
The Transit Village program is designed to spur economic development, urban revitalization and private-sector investment around public transportation. A designated Transit Village is a community with a bus, train, light rail or ferry station that has developed a plan to achieve its goals.
A municipality must demonstrate a commitment to smart growth planning and transit-oriented development, as well as a commitment to maintain the architectural history of the area, and create housing, cultural and commercial opportunities within walking distance of the facility.
South Orange is among eight municipalities in New Jersey to have the Transit Village designation. The other municipalities are Metuchen, Morristown, Pleasantville, Rutherford, South Amboy, Riverside and Rahway.
“If we are to encourage the use of Smart Growth principles within our state’s communities, then we must provide the necessary tools and build upon successful initiatives such as the Transit Village program,” said Assemblyman John McKeon (D). “I commend South Orange for its vision and commitment to making New Jersey a better place work and live.”
The Transit Village initiative seeks to provide much-needed congestion relief on New Jersey roadways through the promotion of public transit expansion and partnerships with the private sector. Municipalities designated as Transit Villages will be given priority consideration for funding and technical assistance by the participating agencies.
Other participating agencies include, the NJ Commerce and Economic Growth Commission, NJ Department of Community Affairs, NJ Redevelopment Authority, NJ Department of Environmental Protection, NJ State Council on the Arts, NJ Economic Development Authority, NJ Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency and the NJ Office of Smart Growth.