Working for Smart Growth:
More Livable Places and Open Spaces


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Gas Prices and Smart Growth

May 16th, 2006 by

  • With gasoline prices breaking $3 a gallon this month, many New Jerseyans have renewed reason to mourn the steady disappearance of jobs from transit-accessible communities.
  • A study of New Jersey’s competitiveness released May 2 by the Brookings Institution shows that New Jersey counties boasting some of the nation’s most extensive rail transit systems lost jobs between 1980 and 2003. Meanwhile, counties with little rail transit saw job growth of 100 percent or more.
  • One result is that New Jersey workers have some of the longest commute times in the nation, averaging 30 minutes.
  • Another result is that the disappearance of jobs from urban centers has concentrated poverty dramatically in these places, undermining their quality of life and creating a drag on the state’s overall competitiveness and prosperity.

(Source: “Prosperity At Risk” by the Brookings Institution, in partnership with New Jersey Future.)

Economic development programs designed to bring new growth and new jobs to the Garden State could actually exacerbate the state’s most pressing problems unless they are carefully linked to better land use as defined by the State Plan.

In its examination of New Jersey, the Brookings Institution concludes that poor land use policies and practices have created three of the biggest threats to New Jersey’s competitiveness: inefficient development patterns and weak central cities, with the problems outlined above; rapid housing appreciation and lack of housing choice; and persistent race and income disparities.

The solutions include: implementing the State Plan’s smarter development patterns to help level the playing field between established communities and newer ones, and between poor and wealthy places; boosting the production of moderately priced housing; and increasing the income and assets of today’s low-income, working families by ensuring these households gain access to quality employment, housing and educational opportunities that will benefit New Jersey’s overall competitiveness.

The Brookings report was commissioned by New Jersey Future in partnership with New York University, Princeton University, Rutgers University and with the support of the William Penn and Henry and Marilyn Taub foundation.

For questions about this issue of Future Facts, contact Tim Evans, research director.

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