Department of Transportation

New Jersey Future In Transportation

Main Street Design

main street photo
This main street illustrates
many of the characteristics
of good design.
Main Streets are more than just roads for cars and trucks. They serve as New Jersey's economic engines and community gathering places. They provide the space for civic life and serve as the commercial town center. Main Streets are characterized by compact, mixed-use development patterns with closely spaced buildings close to the street. They include on-street parking, wide sidewalks for street furniture and lighting, and commercial style buildings with large windows inviting pedestrians inside. They are comprised of short blocks that provide direct connections to the surrounding local street network. NJFIT promotes main street projects that support a balanced design that accommodates pedestrians, cyclists and motor vehicles and ensures that the Main Street is accessible and reflects the character of the community.

Roadway area design

Main Streets should pay special attention to street design and make sure that supporting elements are included that reflect the community's unique identity. These elements may include reduced travel lane widths, textured crosswalks, bike lanes, on-street parking and signing.

Sidewalk area design
Equally important is the adjacent sidewalks that connect the businesses and homes to the street. Design features to consider include 6 to 14 foot sidewalks, pedestrian level lighting, street furniture (i.e. benches, waste receptacles, bike racks and transit shelters), street trees and landscaping and curb extensions.

Surrounding land uses and design

Princeton, NJ photo
The buildings on this mixed-
use street in Princeton, NJ
have shops and restaurants
on the ground floor and
apartments and office space
on the upper stories.
Although the road and sidewalk areas will enhance the look and feel of a community's Main Street, it is equally important that the building design is at a human scale: buildings set to the front property line; inviting building facades and windows; and street level entrances. An appropriate mix of land uses, including residential, will encourage an active downtown and improve the safety of Main Street after business hours. With a variety of amenities close to one another, daily trips become shorter and can easily be taken without a car. Achieving a healthy mix of land uses may require communities to change existing zoning codes, tax policies and utility charge policies because these regulations were often adopted with the explicit goal of segregating uses.

Encourage infill development
Downtowns are much more pleasant and lively if they are not littered with empty or abandoned lots. Town officials and community leaders should create incentives for developers to build new buildings on these sites. Ideally, these buildings would include activities and services that involve frequent public interaction - such as retail, professional services or civic offices - on the ground floor, with office or residential activities above.

Case Studies and Programs:

Last updated date: October 10, 2019 1:51 PM