Saturday, March 2, 2024
Transit Village News

Transit Friendly Spotlight: Dunellen Active Transportation Planning Study

The NJ TRANSIT Transit Friendly Planning (TFP) Program is working on an Active Transportation Planning Study in the Borough of Dunellen as part of the Program’s technical assistance initiatives.

Technical assistance follows a planning process that is comprehensive, collaborative, equitable, and sensitive to community and capacity constraints. This process can help Dunellen envision a future that is more pedestrian and bike friendly, while focusing on the station area to improve access to transit.

BACKGROUND

Located in northwest Middlesex County, the one square mile Borough of Dunellen offers residents access to both rail and bus. Dunellen Station lies at the intersection of the Borough’s two main streets-North Avenue and Washington Avenue-and provides service on the Raritan Valley Line. Two NJ TRANSIT bus routes connect riders to Plainfield and Newark via the route 59 bus line and to New York City via the route 113 bus line.

The TFP Program, with on-call consultant NV5, is planning an active transportation network for Dunellen with proposed pedestrian improvements, bike routes, and bike facilities. The work for the proposed network will provide the community design guidance and a conceptual bike facility plan that can be used to spur the development of an active transportation network. The network would prioritize safety, comfort, convenience, and continuity for travel by pedestrians and bicyclists. The study will also identify ways to improve connections to transit and to promote the quality of life of those living in the Borough. Community engagement activities will help the team to understand the needs of residents and commuters and gather feedback on proposed improvements.

The NJ TRANSIT Transit Friendly Planning (TFP) Program assists communities with creating an environment around transit facilities, such as rail stations or bus terminals, that supports and encourages transit use. A transit-friendly environment can be achieved by proactively planning for development and circulation patterns that support safe, clean, and active places that are accessible to people of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds.

NJ TRANSIT staff works with a resident to fill out a questionnaire at the Music in the Park community event. Credit: Kevin Perry

The Borough is advancing several other planning initiatives, including the re-examination of the 2011 Borough of Dunellen Master Plan. Moreover, Dunellen is the recipient of a North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority (NJTPA) Complete and Green Streets for All Policy technical assistance grant, supported by the efforts of Sustainable Jersey and the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center at Rutgers University. The TFP Program is working with the Master Plan Re-Examination team, the Complete and Green Streets for All Policy team, and the Mayor’s office to effectively engage with the community.

LEARNING FROM DUNELLEN RESIDENTS

The study’s public outreach plan seeks to engage a diverse range of community members and organizations to ensure inclusive representation and equitable outcomes. The plan includes an open house, as well as other engagement events, and a survey.

TFP Program and NV5 team assists a resident at the NJ TRANSIT table during the Music in the Park event. Credit: Jared Aisenberg

On August 18th, staff from the TFP Program and NV5 visited the Dunellen rail station to engage with passing commuters and active transportation users during the afternoon rush hour. Later that evening, NJ TRANSIT and NV5 tabled at the Music in the Park community event at Washington Park. The staff sought community input on walkability and bikeability in the Borough, and on locations where residents feel unsafe as pedestrians or cyclists. The event attracted dozens of Dunellen residents and visitors from neighboring municipalities. Mayor Jason Cilento joined the TFP Program staff and NV5 team at the outreach table and encouraged residents to provide their thoughts for the Active Transportation Planning Study. The team heard from a diverse group, including local families, older adults, middle school students, and Spanish-speaking residents.

At both locations, the outreach team shared maps with community members where they could mark where they like to walk and bike, and where they find it difficult. They also sought input via a survey that could be completed in person or via a QR code at a later time. To engage with the community’s younger residents, the team set up a children’s table with coloring activities showcasing active transportation.

TFP Program and NV5 team engaged with Dunellen residents at the Harvest Fest event. Credit: Corey Hannigan

Through these activities at the rail station and at the Music in the Park event, the team gathered a few key insights. Residents identified dangerous walking and biking conditions in areas with heavier vehicular traffic-specifically near the intersection of Washington Avenue and North Avenue-and expressed a desire for traffic calming measures to address these conditions. The Dunellen rail station pedestrian walkway serves as a major passageway for pedestrians and bicyclists moving from one side of the train tracks to the other even when they are not using NJ TRANSIT services. Residents identified popular destinations for walking and biking such as Columbia Park, the public library, and local convenience stores.

NEXT STEPS

The Music in the Park event was just one of several outreach events for this study. The TFP Program team worked in conjunction with other planning projects and hosted a Planning Open House on September 14th and attended the Dunellen HarvestFest on October 9th to gather more input from community members. The team will continue the study through early winter 2022 and continue engagement with the community throughout the project. Together, the NJ TRANSIT TFP Program team, with NV5 and the Borough, will work to develop the active transportation network, design guidance, and conceptual bike facility plan needed to create a safer, more transit-friendly community for all residents.