Greetings From Walkable, Bikeable, Transit-Oriented Asbury Park, N.J.

The boardwalk in Asbury Park, New Jersey. Photo: Matthew Weinstein/NYT

Think of a place that you can reach by train, that is densely developed and easy to get around by walking or biking. You’re probably thinking of a center city, or perhaps an inner-ring suburb. But in older regions of the country, there’s another place that has the fundamentals for living car-free: the beach. Built over a century ago, many oceanside towns were designed to attract summertime urban visitors at a time when driving simply wasn’t an option. And with beachfront property going for a premium, it’s normal to see compact, even high-rise, urban-scale development lining the waterfront.

Network blogger Charley Ferrari, writing at City Theorist, argues that the Jersey Shore, in particular, can serve as an inspiration for a new model of smart suburban development:

All of these towns were developed and incorporated in the late 19th century, which partially explains why the form of the area east of Main Street are very compact grids, and in some areas the architecture is more Victorian. These are also of course vacation oriented beach towns, which should lend itself more towards a compact form since there’s an amenity everyone wants to be close to. (I’d love to see a study that actually explains this, it does seem to be true anecdotally!)

Throw in an NJT train with closely spaced stops, and you have an urban area that’s urban for every reason except proximity to the city. I think this sort of development is cool because it stands in stark contrast to more traditional transit oriented development. Instead of looking at the suburbs and trying to retrofit a series of centers around train stops, this is more of an urban sprawl similar to what one would find in the inner city.
Elsewhere on the Network today: Pedestrian Observations‘ Alon Levy explains why he doesn’t like downtown New Haven: “The parking. It hurts.” Urban Velo posts the first-place entry for a video contest at the University of Arkansas on the subject “Why Bike?” And the Architect’s Newspaper blog highlights an effort to kickstart stoop life in New Zealand with installation art.