NJ Transit study to determine light rail's impact along line
Thursday, February 22, 2007
By DORINE BETHEA
JOURNAL STAFF WRITER
It was only a hunch when plans began, but there is no doubt today that the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail is spurring the unprecedented economic development that is driving Hudson County's extraordinary renaissance, officials and experts say.
According to one transportation expert, building along the light rail line is proof that public transit is a powerful tool in shaping development. NJ Transit, which operates the line, has commissioned a study of the light rail, its effect on surrounding areas and its connectivity to nearby transit systems.
"We want to show New Jersey and the rest of the world what has happened and why the $2 billion that's been spent here is so well invested," said Martin E. Robins, senior fellow at the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center at Rutgers University.
The study's findings so far are "re-proving a theory that was in existence before the automobile age," Robins said.
"A lot of that occurred about 100 years ago," he added. "People have lost track. There was no experience in New Jersey."
The light rail system evolved through an innovative public-private partnership that has already received numerous national honors.
The light rail is a modern system of old streetcars and trolleys. It connects with PATH trains and NY Waterway's ferries. It makes it easy to get to and from locations. And that has translated into economic gains for local property owners.
Property values in Bayonne have gone up by more than 140 percent since the light rail system began, according to Joseph Ryan, the city's public information director.
"That's because it makes Bayonne a convenient community for people commuting to work and to school and other nearby communities in New Jersey and in New York," Ryan said.
Robins said the study is expected to be completed in April.
"If you don't document, people can say these are boondoggles," he said. "These kinds of systems promote a very positive lifestyle.
"It is very important for public investment," Robins said. "From a matter of public policy it is to show people that it really works."