We are a few months into the new year, and no one is going to say that New Jersey’s communities aren’t facing hard times. The economy is struggling, housing prices have lost value, job losses have been rampant, and things don’t look like they’re getting better anytime soon. As Governor Christie’s recent address on the 2011 budget reminds us, we are living in a time of fiscal uncertainty and difficult choices have to be made. But despite the gloom, this should also be a time for cautious optimism—a time when communities should be planning for the future and envisioning how things might be.

So facing the ongoing implications of the state’s economic situation, we can reflect on the past and take the opportunity to reassess priorities. As our longtime readers know, the aim of the Transit-Friendly Development Newsletter has always been to inform readers about the potential for development and redevelopment near transit stations and stops and to provide up-to-date information about transit-oriented development (TOD) throughout the state, region and nation. When we started this newsletter five years ago, TOD was a new concept for many. Now the idea of creating and supporting livable communities—places where people can live, work and play and have access to a mix of housing, workplaces and entertainment, all located in proximity to transit—has become more mainstream. TOD fits right in with the Federal Livable Communities Initiative being led by the U.S. Department of Transportation and other federal agencies.

We should take pride in the great strides that have been made throughout the state to promote TOD, to bring TOD projects to completion and to improve communities with transit. We have highlighted many of them in the newsletter. We have also noted where these efforts have started and stopped … and started again—some eventually making progress toward their goals while others have stalled. We have marked their progress and their setbacks, drawing lessons from what we see.

While many communities in New Jersey have had success with TOD, others have a way to go to create the kinds of thriving environments we envision. Communities need help in achieving their goals. This is why in this newsletter issue, we have included a sampling of resources designed to support the creation of TOD in New Jersey’s communities. These programs and efforts offer financial and planning assistance to help make TOD projects possible and can serve as resources to municipalities, developers and planners seeking to promote TOD.

We understand the process of creating TOD can be difficult. It is one of the reasons for this newsletter—so that you, the reader, can learn from the experiences of others, to learn what has worked and what has not. Navigating the available resources can be daunting. The challenge for the new state administration will be to figure out how the programs discussed below can better work together to maximize the potential for TOD in the coming year and years to come.