New Jersey may be known as one of American’s original suburbs- but in recent years, walkable urban places have eclipsed car-dependent suburbia for many potential homeowners. Although sites like ‘NJ Future‘ and ‘Walkable Princeton’ have focused on the benefits of compact walkable living, the idea hasn’t quite gone mainstream in the Garden State. Last weekend, New Jersey’s Star-Ledger group- which runs the ‘Trenton Times’ and NJ.com website- published two articles that indicate how walkable urbanism is increasingly becoming the ‘new normal’.
In the article, “Sprawl withdrawal: Young NJ residents push toward cities and away from suburbia“, the preference of young adults to live in activity centers was discussed, focusing on towns like Morristown, Maplewood and Montclair. The article notes statistics indicating that more car-dependent areas show a trend towards increasing age of their residents, whereas walkable places are showing stable or declining median age.
The story is half-right: younger people prefer places where they don’t have to get in a car to complete every daily task. But older Americans also like walkable places, and having things close to them. These shifts in attitude are not surprising when we consider the grind of traffic in the Jersey area. The freedom of the road is currently, a mirage, because land use and transportation planning decisions have failed to keep up with the times, as household size decreases, and the population and economy have grown. Walkable alternatives are set to become increasingly popular.
In other news, NJ.com reports that Jersey City is planning a new pedestrian plaza on Newark Street, which would provide more space for outdoor dining and events. Chilltown is following the lead of Somerville, NJ, where a pedestrian plaza was recently set up to great acclaim. Princeton made a half-hearted effort to pedestrianize part of Palmer Square in the 1970s, before re-dedicating downtown streets to cars, creating an environment of regular pedestrian-vehicle conflicts, and limited sidewalk dining options (see photo above).
Do you see a future for walkable town centers in New Jersey? Should we aim to accommodate the demand for walkable urbanism? Or is the car still king? Have your say in the comment section below.