Transit Villages

I recently had the opportunity to interview Ann Babineau, Esq., CRE http://wilentz.com/anne-s-babineau about her practice in redevelopment and asked her about trends in the industry. She said that most of her current work is in two categories: Transit Villages and Brownfields.

Transit Villages are residential developments at a transportation hub, most often a train station. The concept is an extension of the “New Urbanism” movement and the idea is provide village residents the ability to travel to and from work and recreation without having to use an automobile. It is a great concept and New Jersey has really been on the forefront of this movement – there are currently 26 designated transit villages according to the New Jersey Department of Transportation.

In order to receive a Transit Village designation, a municipality must:

  • Identify existing transit
  • Demonstrate a willingness to grow
  • Adopt a transit-oriented development (TOD) redevelopment plan or TOD zoning ordinance
  • Include transit-supportive design guidelines
  • Identify bicycle and pedestrian improvements
  • Identify “Place making” efforts near transit consisting of community events, arts, entertainment and cultural events

So what is next? One thing is not: high speed rail. The costs are monstrous and a critical mass of riders is needed. Amtrak’s Acela works in the northeast because there are enough riders, but in most cases it is only slighly more convenient than flying or driving, plus the right-of-ways already exist. I shudder to think what it would cost to build that line today. So all you urban planner types need to get off the high speed rail crackpipe right  now.

I think Transit Villages will be a real winner. Livable urban settings with convenient and safe pedestrian and bike spaces. And Zipcar rentals when one has to visit the grandkids in the suburbs. Maybe next we should think really old school – horses!

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