NJIT graduate architecture students are developing how to improve retail and residential areas near two rail stations on the NJ Transit Raritan Valley Line in Plainfield this semester. Both stations will experience increased usage with the completion of a second tunnel beneath the Hudson River, the Access to the Region’s Core project (ARC). This rail project underway will provide a faster, more convenient, one–seat rail transit ride to midtown Manhattan starting about 2017. Some one-seat travel benefits might be possible earlier.
(ATTENTION EDITORS: Reporters are invited to class to view plans. Sheryl Weinstein, 973-596-3436, can set up interviews.)
“A project like this one is a winning situation for all,” said Darius Sollohub, an NJIT associate professor specializing in transit-oriented development, who is leading the class. “Students have the opportunity to interact with public officials and residents on a real project. They will likely see their plans come to fruition in the near future.” Sollohub has improved areas around train stations in Red Bank, Metuchen, Ridgewood, East Orange, Jersey City and more.
The study will examine how Plainfield, with almost 48,000 residents, can take advantage of the changes. Most New Jersey towns with current rail service will experience similar benefits from the ARC project. The students are enrolled in a studio design class in infrastructure planning at the NJIT College of Architecture and Design.
“Everyone benefits from this project,” said Sollohub. “Incorporating research with graduate coursework is a time-tested form of community development with several advantages. First, it is an effective way of identifying a community’s vision. Students come to the problem well-informed by teachers and consultants, but without any economic affiliation and largely without preconception.
“Second, community members respond to students in a manner different than to professionals. Third, given general computer proficiency, students can image a variety of solutions that can be reconstituted by a community to make it their own, as all work is non-proprietary. Thus, there is never a single take it or leave it plan. Finally, students have the leeway to think further out of the box, than an hourly consultant.”
The primary geographic focus of the project will be the areas surrounding the City’s two existing stations—Plainfield’s Downtown Station, and the one at Netherwood. The students will also consider the area surrounding a closed station in the city’s West End. While the study will examine the impacts of future transit-oriented development on these areas, it will also consider the impact of any changes on Plainfield’s downtown, its neighborhoods and its unique regional setting.
Transit consultant and former Rutgers University Professor Martin Robbins and the Value Research Group, LLC, of Livingston, a consulting and appraisal firm is providing additional advice. Support for the project will be provided by the NJ Urban Enterprise Program. Robbins is the former director of Rutgers University’s Voorhees Transportation Center.