Corridor Selection Process
Through a series of working meetings, the core group established certain criteria to help select an appropriate corridor. These criteria fell into two groups: characteristics that should be present in the corridor; and, based upon those characteristics, strategies that have a high potential for succeeding and were important to the group. The criteria groups are listed below:
From these criteria, three candidate corridors emerged: the Route 1 corridor from New Brunswick to Woodbridge, the I-287 corridor from New Brunswick to Morristown, and the Route 206 corridor from Bridgewater to Roxbury. After much discussion and thought, the participants reached agreement that the Route 1 Corridor in Northern Middlesex County was the best overall candidate for collaborative study.
This 11.6 mile segment of Route 1 between New Brunswick and Woodbridge Township is one of the most heavily used routes in the County. Running parallel to the New Jersey Turnpike, Route 1 offers a non-tolled alternative and carries, to some extent, through traffic between Newark/New York City and Trenton/Philadelphia. Route 1 also carries significant volumes of truck and auto traffic to and from major traffic generators in Middlesex and Union Counties, including Newark Airport, Port Elizabeth, and many industrial and commercial centers. In addition, Route 1 carries and is crossed by significant volumes of commuting, shopping, and other traffic generated by residential and other land uses in its immediate vicinity, including two regional shopping malls. The townships of Woodbridge and Edison, the boroughs of Metuchen and Highland Park, and the city of New Brunswick are located along the study corridor
Subsequently, the core group initiated an outreach program targeted at corridor stakeholders who have an influence on transportation and land use in the region and who felt this effort was important to them. The result was an expanded group (renamed the Route 1 Collaborative, or just "the Collaborative") of twenty-nine members that included representatives from local and state government; residential, institutional business and retail establishments, elected officials, transportation consultants, educators and non-profit groups. The Route 1 Collaborative then got down to the business of developing a scope of work that defined the purpose, processes and expected products of the study and choosing a consultant via the NJDOTs consultant selection process.
The Collaborative decided that the purpose of the study was to create a pilot project to test ideas and to give people some alternatives for getting to their destinations other than by the single occupant car. Specifically, the group sought to reduce the level of drive alone commuters and shoppers through a holistic approach dealing with demand side and supply side measures (e.g., changes in land use and design to make it easier to use transit, then provide more transit options). The study was designed to have a real impact as a high profile demonstration project and to achieve clear, practical results "on the ground" for both the short-term and long-term.
FYI, the Route 1 Corridor Collaborative Study is also part of a broader initiative called a Transatlantic Collaboration to Improve Transportation, Land Use and Air Quality Policy, a joint North American - European program to promote new transportation solutions for reducing car use, in both commute and non-commute trips. Through a series of Policy Academies, the Route 1 study will be afforded additional assistance in the area of non-traditional transportation problem solving techniques and collaborative planning. Route 1 Collaborative members will have the opportunity to come together with North American and European transportation specialists to share ideas and discuss common problems and potential solutions.
The Collaborative wanted to use two different processes for the Route 1 Collaborative Technical Studies -- a consensus-building process that was used as a decision-making tool in: choosing a corridor; developing a scope of work; determining an organizational structure; defining committee roles and responsibilities and deciding study direction and focus -- and a corridor planning process consisting of a discreet set of tasks to complete the necessary analytical and public input work for ultimately choosing a package of strategies that was agreeable to the Collaborative group.
FYI, a third process that the Collaborative kept separate and apart from the consultant-driven technical studies, is an implementation process. In this phase, the Collaborative will take all the recommended strategies, organizationally restructure itself, and attempt to make them reality.
And finally, the Collaborative agreed that the end products of this effort should include a number of short and long term strategies aimed at reducing the number of trips and the amount of miles driven; a plan for promoting the strategies, and some guidance that would benefit similar efforts.
In doing all this, the Collaborative needed a mission - what was the purpose of the group and the work ahead? Eventually, members agreed to the following statement:
In defining the mission, there needed to be intelligent foresight - a vision. Quite simply, the vision was one of "change of direction". It was clear to Collaborative members that the traditional ways of conducting transportation business - from the planning process to the types of recommended improvements - needed to be transformed. Rather than agencies planning "in a vacuum", corridor stakeholders and the general public need to be involved from the get go - and stay involved the entire course. Rather than offering just supply-side (i.e.; physical roadway) improvements, there needed to be a strategic plan of transportation and land use options to stem sprawl development and give residents and workers viable choices as to how they travel.
For the Route 1 Collaborative, this "new age" was one of achieving a sustainable transportation system that will create more livable communities and improve the overall quality of life. To that end, these specific elements of the vision came into focus:
These "vision elements" helped the Collaborative lay out its road map and "see ahead" as it progressed through the rest of the study.
For the newly - established Collaborative, there was now a purpose, a mission, and a vision. But before thinking about hiring a consultant and conducting "the study," the group needed to structure itself organizationally -- this was done through a Consensus Building Process, discussed next.
The Consensus Building Process
Consensus building among Collaborative members, stakeholders, and the general public was a cornerstone of the Route 1 Corridor Collaborative Study. Consensus-building enabled the Collaborative to improve transportation decision-making and bring a wider audience into the process, since many of the Collaborative members have diverse priorities, viewpoints, and goals concerning the impacts of traffic congestion and ways to address the associated problems. Consensus building was seen as an integral part of the study framework by enabling the Collaborative to:
The consensus building approach really began with the corridor selection process described earlier. Collaborative members reached a number of agreements during this phase that would govern subsequent work. For example, they agreed that the study should strike a balance between supply side and demand side strategies; that a way of measuring the effectiveness of the strategies would be needed; and that care must be used in approaching external partners in the corridor due to the controversial nature of some of the potential strategies.
But this earlier process was slow and difficult; with so many different people at the table, it became very hard to reach agreement. Therefore, to enhance the overall productivity of the meetings, the Route 1 Collaborative also contracted a professional consultant as facilitator. With the facilitators help and guidance, and through the consensus-building process, the Collaboratives organizational structure was defined (see Table of Organization below) and rules, responsibilities, and meeting norms were agreed to.
The Route 1 Corridor Planning Process
With the framework for Collaborative operations firmly in place, the group then proceeded through a lengthy consultant selection process, ultimately choosing a team that seemed best qualified to conduct the study. The Collaborative, working with the consultant team, then proceeded to shape a work plan to guide the effort.
Just prior to approving a final work plan for the consultant team, the Collaborative decided to schedule an intensive, interactive problem-solving meeting known as a "charrette". The charrette, held in February 1996, was designed to: 1) clarify project scope, study area boundaries, project schedules and work effort; 2) better shape the framework for the public involvement program; and, 3) gain greater insight into the Collaboratives needs and expectations.
The charrette helped the group reach agreement on a number of issues, such as: using three-tiered study area (study corridor, primary study area, influence area), establishing a public participation framework, goals and some initial outreach activities (e.g.- gain insight into public perceptions via surveys; test ideas via focus groups); and, agreeing to the desired end product - which was two or three implementable short and long-term strategies to reduce vehicle miles traveled, improve accessibility, and deal with mobility issues. Several areas of focus ("hot-spots") for technical analysis were also identified, such as parking and pedestrian access/egress problems at train stations and lack of sidewalk and transit connectivity between residential, shopping and office areas.
And the group agreed that a number of on-going studies within the area be taken into consideration, such as the Route 1 (Section - 7L) Congestion Management System (CMS) study and the Route 1 Bicycle and Pedestrian Case Study.
The Work Plan was then revised to its final form in March, 1996, and detailed each of the thirteen tasks to be executed by the consultant team during the next twelve to sixteen months.
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