In recent years, the New Jersey Department of Transportation has made great strides in better understanding the role that their transportation investments play in community livability, placemaking and smart growth. However, NJDOT’s efforts to create more livable communities that depend less on automobile traffic can only succeed with the cooperation and leadership of New Jersey’s municipalities.
With funding from NJDOT, New Jersey Office of Smart Growth, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and NJ TRANSIT, PPS and the Municipal Land Use Center (MLUC) at the College of New Jersey are training and educating local mayors, planning boards members, and other interested parties in Integrated Land Use and Transportation Planning and placemaking. After a series of focus groups with municipal and county leaders, PPS and MLUC held four day-long “Smart Choices” workshops in the fall of 2005. Each workshop featured a different aspect of innovative land use and transportation planning: Main Streets as a way to focus growth and improve quality of life; transit-oriented development; and project implementation at the state agency and municipal levels. All four workshops gave municipalities the opportunity to not only hear about NJDOT’s new policy, but also learn from each other about the innovative efforts happening around the state. Workshop participants learned how focusing on their community’s places and destinations can reduce the impact of the automobile, promote walking, and enhance public places and public life.
In 2006, PPS and MLUC are working on building a Smart Choices Leadership Institute, which will bring together many of New Jersey’s leaders in smart transportation and land use. The purpose of the Institute is to equip these local, county, state government and civic leaders with the knowledge, skills and means for successful implementation of place-based planning in New Jersey. Another critical function of the Institute is to allow these leaders to learn from each other, and join a growing network of committed individuals whose ongoing collaborations will foster smart growth solutions and sustainable community change throughout New Jersey.