MNTRC Newsletter Vol 19, Issue 2: Fall 2012

Taking a look at TOD in New Jersey rail towns

Robert B. Noland, PhD, Professor and Dir., Voorhees Transportation Center

TOD project in Cranford, NJ.

Transit-oriented development (TOD) project in Cranford, NJ.

Rutgers News – We are undertaking a new research project, examining the benefits derived from transit-oriented development (TOD) in New Jersey. A part of our analysis looks in depth at three municipalities that have used a transit-centered model as a redevelopment strategy. Cranford, Morristown, and Rahway are all New York City suburbs that have used TOD to address unique problems.

Cranford builds two TODs

Cranford is the quintessential railroad suburb with walkable streets and a Victorian-era clock that stands in the commercial downtown adjacent to the station. Composed largely of single-family homes on small lots, Cranford turned to TOD to support its struggling downtown and to create an option for those priced out of housing – seniors who want to stay in the community and young adults who grew up there. In 2005 Cranford completed Cranford Crossing. A second mixed-use project, Riverview, is under construction. While the former project has drawn most of its residents from the town’s seniors, the second project is geared toward a younger population.

TOD helps maintain Morristown’s viability

TOD project in Morristown, NJ.

14 Maple Avenue, Morristown, NJ.

Perhaps best known as Washington’s headquarters in 1776 and 1779, Morristown has a long history that spans from colonial times through its 19th and early 20th century industrial and commercial heyday. It continues into the present, when it has emerged as a regional center. The town green lies at its heart, surrounded by a mix of commercial, office and residential uses. The rail station stands about a quarter-mile away. The town views TOD as a way to maintain its viability, and substantial redevelopment has occurred both near the green and the station. One of the most interesting projects is the Highlands at Morristown Station, a joint-development effort undertaken by NJ Transit.

Mixed results seen in Rahway

Rahway sees TOD as way to address decline in local industry and to revive its moribund downtown. Since the late 1990s, Rahway has undertaken an ambitious agenda of mixed-use redevelopment near its renovated train station in an effort to bring new residents and businesses to its struggling core. Rahway has a mixed record of success. Several projects have been completed and fully occupied, while others remain underutilized or uncompleted.

An excellent “laboratory”

These three locations are providing an excellent laboratory in which to explore the benefits that TOD can bring communities and their residents. The efforts undertaken by these communities to retain population, to grow as regional centers, and to attract new residents and new wealth will provide useful evidence that will inform our survey analysis and lead to a better understanding of the impact of TOD on communities.

We will share the results at the conclusion of our study. It should prove enlightening not only for communities in New Jersey, but for similar communities around the country.