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Developer of NJ Mega-Mall-Amusement-Park Should Pay for Transit Service

11:44 AM EDT on July 20, 2012

Northeast New Jersey is about to set a dubious new standard for megaprojects. "American Dream Meadowlands" is a $3.8 billion, five-story, entertainment and retail complex with 3,000,000 square feet of leasable space, an amusement park, an indoor ski slope and a "skydiving simulator."

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The project -- which was raised from the dead with a giant taxpayer-funded bail-out, courtesy of Governor Chris Christie -- looks set to open in 2013, after a series of financial and structural setbacks. The traffic generated by this monster is expected to be torrential.

Janna Chernetz at Network blog Mobilizing the Region says good transit service is a necessity and that the developer should be responsible for at least part of the costs:

In the face of widespread public concern about American Dream Meadowlands’ traffic impacts, made more pointed by last week’s announcement that DreamWorks is teaming up with the site’s developer on a proposed amusement park addition, the project’s backers continue to insist that public transportation will help ease congestion. But in the midst of service cuts, NJ Transit is hardly in a position to increase service to the development, unless the site’s developer provides operating assistance to the agency. The gridlocked Bergen County site is already underserved by transit, with an irregularly running rail line and little to no bus service. If buses and trains are to help reduce the traffic brought by an estimated 55 million annual visitors, additional funding to pay for new routes and service expansion must be identified.

Fortunately, there is a way forward. In many instances, developers throughout the country have supported public transportation to make their sites more accessible. Even in New Jersey, these types of public-private partnerships already exist. The University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro has partnered with NJ Transit along with Princeton University and others to help support bus service to their facility. UPS also works with the agency to ensure that employees can access its facilities, helping purchase monthly passes for employees that utilize bus service. Perhaps most relevantly, the Six Flags Great Adventure amusement park has contributed to the operating costs of NJ Transit’s #305 bus, which brings people there.

Chernetz lists projects in which developers have helped pay for transit service in Florida, New York and Oregon. Helping pay for transit service would probably be a bargain compared to the cost of parking structures.

Elsewhere on the Network today: BTA blog reports that Oregon has proposed a new formula for funding transportation, where 80 percent of state funding will be reserved for maintenance projects. Half Mile Circles shares a study that found the addition of light rail can result in health care savings thanks an increase in physical activity. And Tacoma Tomorrow writes that local cycling advocates are rallying to save the city's only employee dedicated to bike and pedestrian issues.

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