Essex Street Transit Hub – Hackensack, New Jersey
The American Planning Association New Jersey Chapter’s Community Planning Assistance Program (CPAP) created a strategic plan for the City of Hackensack focused on the Essex Street Train Station on NJ TRANSIT’s Pascack Valley Line. The work was done in partnership with NJTPA’s Transit Hub Pilot Program.
The Station is in southern Hackensack, blocks from the Hackensack University Medical Center and a large residential area along Summit Avenue and Prospect Street with high-rise apartment buildings and historic single-family homes. East of the station, less than ½ mile away, is the Bergen County Administration buildings and NJ TRANSIT’s bus terminal. North of the station is an older neighborhood of single-family houses and apartment buildings, with mixed manufacturing and light industrial uses, and the city’s high school. The bustling Main Street redevelopment area is within ¾ of a mile.
The current Essex Street station is not suited to serve as a transit hub in southern Hackensack. Its historic 1893 Victorian railroad station building burned in 1970. Today, the location is an asphalt park and ride lot with a concrete platform and modest plexiglass shelter. The station is surrounded by commercial and industrial lots, and heavily traveled Essex Street, a busy multi-lane road with limited pedestrian crossings. Due to the surrounding land uses and the limited pedestrian facilities, commuters primarily access the station by auto.
While the station area has many physical ingredients that could contribute to a vital transit hub, it lacks the cohesive strategic vision needed to create a vibrant hub with inviting community spaces and walkable connections to the surrounding neighborhoods, and the rest of Hackensack.
APA New Jersey Chapter recruited a team of volunteer planners to evaluate the station areas’ potential for creating a new central transit hub in the southern part of the city at the Essex Street Station. The team did a robust placemaking analysis, including extensive public outreach. The team’s strategic plan includes safe public spaces, including streets, sidewalks, plazas, and open spaces linking the area’s residential and business neighborhoods. The plan also includes improved pedestrian access to and from the station and other non-traditional transportation modes, such as bike sharing and ride-hailing. For the immediate station site and the transit facilities, the team identified inter-modal improvements and compatible land uses. They would provide access to and from Hackensack’s employment, government services, established communities around the station, and the city’s flourishing redevelopment areas. The work is built upon the current land uses surrounding the station and encourages commercial uses that significantly improve the area’s economy and provide a new commercial neighborhood center on Essex Street.
The Plan’s Recommendations Include the following:
- Significantly improve walk and vehicle connections between the station and the blocks surrounding the station, including the HUMC, the residential blocks across Polifly Road, the residential block’s southeast of the station, and the blocks north of the station, which contain hundreds of residential units and the Hackensack High School.
- Improve the roadway conditions surrounding the station, especially on Essex Street, by calming the traffic to make it safer for pedestrians going to and from the improved station and the potential new commercial building in the station area.
- Prioritize bicycle and pedestrian safety in the station area, especially along Essex Street, by creating more prominent crosswalks, narrower lanes, improved pedestrian signals, and a pedestrian zone prioritizing pedestrians at the station.
- Expand the city’s existing wayfinding system to include the Essex Street station and the primary activity centers around the station.
- Improve the station itself with better access to the station platform, a station canopy for weather protection, benches, lighting, improved ADA access, and a plaza to create a better space and provide for events at the new center for the Essex Street community.
The Essex Street Transit Hub Team Members Were:
- Zainab Al Mansour
- Eric Sturm
- Walter Lane
- Woo Kim
- Tom Behrens
- Kevin Williams
- Maryam Yaghoubi
- Laura Semeraro
- Devon McGuiness
- Robert Green
- Creigh Rahenkamp
- Shweta Puri
- Spach Trahan
- Jeffrey Vernick
- Tom Schulze