In January 2015, NJ Transit asked a studio class at the Edward J. Bloustein School at Rutgers University to conduct a study on transit improvements and recommendations in a region deemed the “the Bayshore Study Area”. The Bayshore Study Area is located in central New Jersey on the coast along Middlesex and Monmouth counties. This region is geographically vast, spanning 27 municipalities, demographically diverse, and has a wealth of transportation resources to pull from, including proximity to the Garden State Parkway, Route 35, and the North Jersey Coast Line rail line. Users range from New York City commuters to local retail workers to underserved transit-dependent populations, and are scattered throughout the whole study area; because of this unique landscape, there are no dominant trends that clearly define and characterize the places or the people. The aim of fixed route transit planning in the context of this route is to improve the user experience, the connectivity of the region, and provide access to those who depend on NJ Transit. In addition to a demographic review and identification of trip generators and destinations, the studio class also conducted stakeholder interviews with the various municipalities, conducted site visits of the locations and potential bus routes, and reviewed existing and historical service in the area for context and reference.
Within the study area, fourteen different local and commuter bus routes that serve the region were analyzed for ridership, reroute proposals, and other recommendations. These routes are incredibly diverse in their trip lengths, their ridership, their users, and their costs. Along with NJ Transit operated routes, local routes in Middlesex and Monmouth counties are also contracted out by NJ Transit to Academy Express LLC and Transdev. In addition to the demographic heterogeneity of the region, this contractual issue posed an additional challenge to the analysis. As an area that was affected by Superstorm Sandy in 2012, many of the municipalities rank high on the Sandy Community Hardship Index; this means there is potential for reimagining the nature of development in the region. The studio focused on redevelopment projects such as the Bell Works in Holmdel, the Sayreville Waterfront Redevelopment Project, Fort Monmouth Redevelopment, and additional development off of Exit 120 on the Garden State Parkway in Old Bridge. This existing and emerging development in the region creates potential for an improved bus transit network due to the projected increase in jobs and recreational destinations. The studio’s analysis was largely driven by the complexity of the region. Early on, it became apparent that the lack of homogeneity in many facets would be prohibitive to analyzing the study area comprehensively. Thus, the studio group organized its initial proposals around a division of work that was both functional and geographic, where commuter routes were analyzed, local routes were split into “Northern” and “Southern” regions, and transit for redevelopment areas was given individual attention.