With the recent release of the new Rutgers master plan, I can’t help but add my two cents about the proposed updates along with everyone else. The plan outlines focus on updating elements of the New Brunswick campus:  Strategic Academic Initiatives, Housing, Transportation, Recreation and Wellness, and Student Life. In summary, the proposal responds to the general out cry of students and faculty asking for more accessibility to living on and moving around the 2,688 acre campus.

Some points I especially like:

  • Dedicating certain roads to be used for buses only, to increase the bus system efficiency
  • Creating “hubs” of activity for students by making dining, recreation, and academic facilities all accessible within a ten minute walking distance
  • Updating the aesthetics of outdated street-scapes on the College Avenue campus
  • The boardwalk along the Raritan to make accessibility between College Avenue and Livingston campuses easier

While the ideas are promising in theory, the public seems suspicious of how it will actually come to fruition- when, how, and on who’s dime?

Adam Clark at nj.com points out the already painstakingly slow beginnings of this planning process, which apparently has been in the works for over a year and has cost around $2 million. Additionally, commenters on the site have not received the news that this project will take 15-20 years to complete. Many commenters on the site do not wish for donations to go towards the project because of its priorities on certain aspects of improvement over others.

I can’t help but use this example of planning to notice the excruciatingly fickle nature of the “public interest.” According to the master plan outline, the planning committee had employed committees, surveys, and interest meetings to gather information on what was necessary to improve and prioritize for Rutgers campus. In this stage of planning, the formulation, we can view the public interest as a cross between two of Frank J. Sorauf’s theories: the superior interest and the compromise. The public has not expressly told planners what it wants. In fact, I don’t believe the public can ever exactly communicate what it wants.

This is the role of planners, servants to the public, sorting through data to interpret the needs of the community and translate those needs into physical solutions. The difficulty of this is the unpredictable responses from the public; this is the cycle of planning, to continually adjust the plan to the unforeseen needs of the community. This is what makes planning rewarding and continuously necessary. Frustrating? At times, yes- but to those with a passion for it, a very engaging job.

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