In Contemporary Urban Planning, John Levy opens up the section discussing the growth management in New Jersey by talking about the development pressures put on us by New York and Philadelphia. This is especially true for the Central Jersey region and Middlesex County. I have seen the effect of these pressures realized in a lot of residential development in my own city of Edison.
With this in mind, it didn’t really surprise me when reading the Master Plan of Edison that a significant portion of it is dedicated to discussing the smart growth of the city. But what did surprise me is the number of times that the plan talking about encouraging “anti-sprawl initiatives”.
Now this isn’t bad thing. As a fellow Neotraditionalist, seeing the line “Edison must embrace the principles of New Urbanism”, makes me hopeful about the direction that my city wants to take. But as a longtime resident, when I see the Master Plan talking about encouraging development that reduces the need for cars and allows for alternative modes of transportation, I can’t help but feel like the authors are being delusional. Sprawl has permanently affected Edison and now driving everywhere is just a way of life.
For reference, above are two satellite images of Edison, one of the whole city and the other zoomed in on the South Edison section. As you can see, almost all of Edison has been developed so far and unfortunately it follows conventional suburban design complete with spaghetti roads and coarse separation of land uses. Right now, as a resident, I don’t see how any new development will have a significant impact on how much I depend on my car. Even going to a park requires a car.
Edison’s main problem is that there is no urban core or city center. There are points of interest scattered throughout the city. I think thatEdison’s best bet to make the most of the current state of the city is to try to build out a city center. The current Master Plan was adopted in 2003. My suggestion for the future Master Plan and future development supported by the city, is to pick a location that already has people coming in from all over the city and build it out into a city center. For example, Menlo Park Mall is a great potential city center. It has a bunch of stores around it and a park nearby. If the city could add more stores, make the area more pedestrian friendly, and create a public transit way of getting to the area cheaply then hundreds of cars would be off the streets. Obviously, what I said isn’t easily done. But despite Edison losing the battle against sprawl for the last few decades. I have hope that, with serious focus and tackling the right problems, significant change can be made.