An initiative that began more than 20 years ago to promote the idea of smart growth and walkable downtown areas is becoming increasingly popular in the Garden State.

The Transit Village program, overseen by the New Jersey Department of Transportation, seeks to reduce traffic congestion while increasing transit ridership by improving areas around transit stations that are pedestrian-friendly.

It can mean a lot of money

If a municipality meets certain criteria and is designated as a Transit Village it can result in millions of dollars in funding for planning assistance and grants for revitalization projects in that town.

Tim Evans, the director of research for New Jersey Future said Transit Villages feature clusters of housing, shops and restaurants where people don’t need their cars to get around.

“There are some people that don’t want to have to drive everywhere and a Transit Village serves those people very well, even if you aren’t using the transit system,” he said.

He said the program is beneficial in a number of ways.

Good for New Jersey

“The more you can get people to get around by means other than driving, the less congestion you have on the roads, and less driving means less greenhouse gas emissions,” he said.

“It’s not just people taking transit (to work) instead of driving, and people walking instead of driving, but also in places where destinations are close together like that, even people that are still driving are generally driving shorter distances.”

Evans said another benefit is “generally these Transit Villages also include a wider variety of housing types than you’re going to find out in the suburbs, so they create housing options.”

Popular with millennials

He noted this kind of living environment has become very popular with millennials, who like the idea of a centrally located walkable downtown because they don’t want to have to drive everywhere.

Evans said in New Jersey, “there are 34 municipalities in the program right now, and together their population is a little over 1.5 million people.”

He said Transit Villages can be located in towns where there is a train station, a bus terminal or even a ferry terminal, but not all residents necessarily live within walking distance to the station or terminal.

Recently the city of Newark was designated as a Transit Village.

“It’s really important that we try to put more of this kind of development out there, increase the supply so that more of the people that want it can have it," he said.

The list of Transit Villages in New Jersey:

Pleasantville (1999)

Morristown (1999)

Rutherford (1999)

South Amboy (1999)

South Orange (1999)

Riverside (2001)

Rahway (2002)

Metuchen (2003)

Belmar (2003)

Bloomfield (2003)

Bound Brook (2003)

Collingswood (2003)

Cranford (2003)

Matawan (2003)

New Brunswick (2005)

Journal Square/Jersey City (2005)

Netcong (2005)

Elizabeth/Midtown (2007)

Burlington City (2007)

City of Orange (2009)

Montclair (2010)

Somerville (2010)

Linden (2010)

West Windsor (2012)

East Orange (2012)

Dunellen (2012)

Summit (2013)

Plainfield (2014)

Irvington (2015)

Park Ridge (2015)

Hackensack (2015)

Long Branch (2016)

Asbury Park (2017)

Newark (2021)

New Jersey future is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that promotes sensible and equitable growth, redevelopment and infrastructure investments to foster healthy and resilient communities.

David Matthau is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at david.matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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Best coffee shops & cafes near NJ beaches

When it comes to food, New Jersey is known for many things such as pizza and pork roll. Don't count us out when it comes to coffee.

With all the hustle and bustle involved in the average New Jersey resident's day, coffee is essential. It doesn't matter whether you're living in the cities of North Jersey or the vacation spots at the shore.

In fact, as the former owner of two Jersey shore coffee houses, Coffee Dot Comedy in Sea Isle City and the Daily Grind in Ocean Grove, I know firsthand how much people at the Jersey shore love their coffee.

With respect to that, I asked my social media following where the best coffee houses at the Jersey Shore were, especially since my two places no longer exist.

Below is what they came up with. (And see this other article for their coffee shop and cafe recommendations for Central Jersey.)