McKeon Bill Promoting Walkable Communities Near Public Transit Systems Approved by Assembly Panel

(TRENTON) – An Assembly committee approved Thursday legislation sponsored by Assemblyman John F. McKeon establishing the “New Jersey Transit Villages Act” that would encourage individual municipalities to influence land use patterns, densities, and the general character of their communities improving the overall quality of life for their residents.

In 1999, the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT), working with New Jersey Transit Corporation, created the Transit Village Initiative to further “Smart Growth” objectives. There are currently 17 designated Transit Villages in the state.

McKeon’s legislation (A-2926) seeks to promote pedestrian-friendly communities in close proximity to public transit systems which have been the focus of major public investments.

“We recognize that New Jersey’s suburban landscape is still heavily influenced by automobile-dependent types of land uses of the post-War World II era,” said McKeon (D-Essex, Morris). “The creation of shopping centers and large office campuses were once the greatest source of employment for job seekers. Times have changed and so has the priorities of residents.”

“Today, job seekers prefer to work near where they live, or where they can commute by mass transit.”

The bill bases development of these communities on smart growth principles by directing transportation investments into the redevelopment of our older urban and suburban areas around transit hubs. McKeon aims to increase transportation options and transit availability, which will have the effect of reducing automobile traffic, stabilizing property taxes, and providing affordable housing.

“Projected population increases indicate that under current development patterns that encourage single occupancy vehicle automobile trips, even more significant strains will be placed on our highway and road network, leading to more congested roadways,” continued McKeon. “The goal is to provide a municipality with the necessary tools to redevelop certain areas in a way that appeals to today’s workforce and improves their communities.”

The bill cleared the Assembly Commerce and Economic Development Committee.