State Reaffirms Commitment to Transit Village Program; Eliminates Funding
On Monday we reported that, as part of the state’s Proposed Transportation Capital Plan for 2012, funding for the Transit Village program would be eliminated. Money from the program, which received $1 million in the 2011 Capital Plan, had been available to the 23 designated Transit Villages in the state on a competitive basis. Asked about the the program at today’s Assembly budget hearing on transportation, NJDOT Commissioner Jim Simpson insisted that the Department remained committed to the program. Indeed, he argued that the $1 million that had previously been available to transit villages was insufficient to fund all of the great projects that are applied for every year. Rather than continue to inadequately fund these projects he said, the department was eliminating funding for the program, and inviting applicants to submit their projects for consideration in other funding streams, such as the transportation enhancement program.
While it may be true that there are other avenues municipalities can pursue to get their transit related projects funded, eliminating funding for the Transit Village program sends the wrong message to municipalities that have sought designation as a transit village. To qualify as a transit village, municipalities must meet a number of criteria, including the adoption of a transit-oriented development (TOD) redevelopment plan or TOD zoning ordinance. In return, they become eligible to apply for funding for capital projects related to their transit station area. Without that incentive, towns have little reason to pursue Transit Village status, and the state loses out on the local outcomes (more transit oriented development) that were envisioned when the program was created.
If Commissioner Simpson is sincere is his commitment to the concept of Transit Villages, he should either restore (or increase, if low funding was really the problem) funding for the program, or ensure that designated Transit Villages are first in line for priority funding for their projects under alternative funding programs. Currently, all municipalities, not just transit villages, are eligible for to apply for this funding, rendering the transit village designation meaningless.