Just a few short years ago, people would have scoffed at the idea of a high-tech bus system running along the Route 1 corridor that could be considered as a serious alternative to the automobile. But today, at both the state and municipal levels, officials are taking the idea seriously, setting aside funds and even zoning land to require such a mass transit system.

The New Jersey Transit board of directors on November 12 approved a $614,000 contract with STV Inc. of New York to conduct a study to evaluate the feasibility of a bus rapid transit (BRT) system along the Route 1 corridor.

BRT makes use of high-tech vehicles resembling hybrid bus/trains that can travel on specially-designed "guideways" as well as regular roads. The service would be supplemented by feeder routes — bus lines throughout Mercer and lower Middlesex counties that tie into the main BRT line. Bus rapid transit systems are already operating successfully worldwide, and in 14 cities in the United States including Boston, Cleveland, Detroit, Hartford, Miami; Pittsburgh; and Los Angeles.

"New Jersey motorists have declared Route 1 the worst highway in the state," said Jack Lettiere, NJT board chairman and state transportation commissioner, in announcing the grant. "Currently the corridor is experiencing considerable growth and increasing traffic congestion, and there is limited public transportation in the area to provide alternate travel to ease congested roadways."

Central New Jersey municipal officials are taking the concept seriously as well. In West Windsor, for example, the developers of the Sarnoff and Wyeth properties (one of the sites mentioned as a possible new location for the University Medical Center at Princeton) have been told that they must provide for bus rapid transit service on any developments they build on the properties.

"West Windsor has been pushing very hard for the whole region to reach a consensus on BRT and make it a priority. It started here with the Sarnoff property," says West Windsor Mayor Shing-Fu Hsueh.

When the Sarnoff Corporation was granted approval for a 3 million-square-foot office complex in 2002, the township required that bus rapid transit be integrated into the plan. In addition, the township will now require applicants to provide for bus rapid transit in all future commercial development applications.

Those plans include Wyeth, the owner of the 650-acre former American Cyanamid property at the corner of Route 1 and Quakerbridge Road. According to the mayor, Wyeth officials have already agreed to include bus rapid transit in the commercial/residential development it wants to build on the property.

Meanwhile, NJT is working in conjunction with the Central New Jersey Transportation Forum, a regional planning group working to define and evaluate long-range transportation strategies and projects.

The Forum, comprised of the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority, Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, and New Jersey Department of Transportation, will evaluate whether the findings of a BRT system could significantly increase transit use in the area and provide an alternative to automobile travel.

A study completed in April by the Greater Mercer Transportation Management Association (GMTMA) found that BRT warranted further consideration.

"BRT is not about how much traffic we can reduce, but what we can do to make the region more livable, and creating transportation options for the people who live here," says Sandra Brillhart, executive director of the GMTMA, a transportation advocacy group.

The main question about BRT is how to fit a system designed for urban areas into the Route 1 corridor. "The challenge involves how we plan for what this area will look like in the future," says Brillhart. "The amount of jobs projected for the Route 1 corridor are almost the same as in an urban downtown area. The question is how to serve a suburban-type area with transit. We’re at a critical juncture because there are so many opportunities for development and the redevelopment of large tracts of land."

The proposed BRT line calls for construction of a guideway on a strip between Route 1 and the Amtrak mainline from Lawrence to South Brunswick townships. Stops could include Quakerbridge Mall, whatever complex is built on the Wyeth property, Carnegie Center, the Princeton Junction train station, Sarnoff’s office complex, the Merrill Lynch and Squibb complexes on Scudders Mill Road, Forrestal Center, and Ridge Road. The plan also includes a line that runs into downtown Princeton utilizing the existing Dinky railroad or a bus that would run along the same route.

The GMTMA study forecast that daily ridership of the BRT system could be as high as 21,000, and also listed some cost estimates to implement various aspects of the project, including annual operating costs of between $2 million and $10 million.

For the guideways, GMTMA estimated costs of $750,000 per mile to reconstruct the shoulders on roadways to accommodate BRT; $2 million per mile to widen roadways; $5 million per mile to construct dedicated BRT lanes; and $4 million per mile to convert the Dinky railroad line.

Cost estimates for stations include $2 to $4 million for park and rides; $5 to $7 million for the gateway facilities at both ends of the main BRT line; and $200,000 to $400,000 for 13 stations along the line.

GMTMA also found that in addition to funding, government at the municipal levels need to become involved by ramping up a community outreach program; integrating BRT into land use decisions; preserving right-of-way for the proposed line and station sites; and equal treatment of developers and municipalities involved in the BRT system.

New Preschool On Emmons Drive

Next month Bryan and Tambi Scheff plan to open the fifth Goddard School franchise in the Princeton area. "We saw a need for quality daycare in the Princeton-West Windsor area," says Bryan Scheff. "We chose Goddard School because it is the only childcare company that requires the owner to be an onsite operator."

He believes that childcare franchises without this requirement risk their reputations. "With 25 centers owned by the same person, what happens if you get a bad owner? Goddard has a quality assurance program," says Scheff. "Twice a year they spend two unannounced days in the school to insure that you are operating within the parameters of the franchise."

The school’s headquarters is in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, and it has 145 franchises in 19 states — 41 in New Jersey alone. It was rated by Entrepreneur magazine as the number one childcare franchise, and number 133 in the top 500.

In the early planning stages Scheff literally ran into Emmons Drive at Princeton Commerce Center, which he believes is an ideal location. "I was buying a map in Barnes & Noble and the exit to Route 1 was closed, and I came across the space. We have 8,800 square feet and are putting in two playgrounds, partially grassed." The Scheffs had hoped to open their school in September, but one construction delay led to another, and now they are planning to have children in the building sometime in December.

The Scheffs’ school will have room for 12 infants in two age groups, six weeks to 12 months and 12 to 18 months, with a four-to-one pupil-teacher ratio. Goddard requires each school to have two four-year degreed teachers, and that all teachers must have an education degree or be enrolled in an education program.

Scheff says a Goddard education is based on the principles of Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget, who pioneered in the field of developmental psychology and cognitive theory. Like others who pioneered in early childhood education, John Dewey and Maria Montessori, Piaget respected the child’s mind. As Time Magazine noted (March 29, 1999) Piaget believed that children "are active builders of knowledge — little scientists who are constantly creating and testing their own theories of the world. One might say that Piaget was the first to take children’s thinking seriously." On a practical level, those well-grounded in Piaget’s theories of development will not insist that children do tasks inappropriate for their age.

Tambi Scheff, who was teaching special education classes in New York, has her master’s degree in early childhood from Brooklyn College. Bryan, who now works in retail management, is getting his business degree online from the University of Phoenix. They have two daughters, three-year-old Arianna and five-year-old Tia. "We want to make a living yet spend more time with our family," says Scheff. "We could have bought a sandwich shop. Instead, we want to make a difference."

The Goddard School, 29 Emmons Drive, Princeton Commerce Center, Princeton 08540. Bryan and Tambi Scheff, owners. 609-734-0909. Home page: www.goddardpreschool.com

Other Goddard Schools

The Goddard School, 399 Ridge Road, A Suite 1, Dayton 08810. Sushama R. Patil, president. 732-274-9631; fax, 732-274-1273. Home page: www.goddardpreschool.com

The Goddard School, 3564 Quakerbridge Road, Quakerbridge Professional Center, Suite 11, Hamilton 08619. Elizabeth Chatterton, owner. 609-588-0880; fax, 609-588-0050. Home page: www.njpreschool.com

The Goddard School, 2500 Kuser Road, Hamilton 08691. Fred Maresca, owner. 609-631-9311; fax, 609-631-7296.

The Goddard School, 1846 Route 1 North, North Brunswick 08902. Ely Risch, co-owner. 732-951-9200; fax, 732-951-9985.

Click Through Business Plan

Dave Aiello, president of CTData (Chatham Township Data Corporation), has found the "killer app," the perfect demonstration of his technology. His website, Operation Gadget (www.operationgadget.com), is part of his overall business plan to help third parties build interfaces to the website at Amazon.com

The website offers news and reviews of high technology products. If the product is available through Amazon or one of its retail partners, the reader can click on a "buy box," with a picture and the current price and a click-through to the Amazon site.

"We felt that a site like Operation Gadget would demonstrate our skills with Amazon Web Services better than any one client project," says Aiello. A native of Denville, he went to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Class of 1989, and started his own firm that year. He has been a consultant and employee for Modis and Volt Technical Services. The firm focuses on creating business weblogs, web services applications, and database driven websites. Its clients are mid-sized and larger companies in the financial, pharmaceutical, and consumer product businesses, and it also has some non-profit clients.

Readers can submit their own reviews to Operation Gadget, but most of the site currently consists of Aiello’s articles, such as "Why I put the Canon Powershot S400 on My Wishlist," "LG VX6000 Mobile Phone Gets People’s Attention," and "Atari Classics 10-in-1 TV Games Is a Great Gift Idea."

"Consumer products manufacturers and publishing companies can build direct links from their websites to Amazon.com using Amazon Web Services," says Aiello. "We believe that this will result in higher product sales and greater customer satisfaction. Although Operation Gadget is primarily intended to be a demonstration of our design and development capabilities, it is intended to be a modestly profitable business in itself, thanks to referral fees paid by Amazon.com and payments from third party advertisers."

Chatham Township Data Corp. (CTDATA), 148 Wyndmoor Drive, Box 1057, East Windsor 08520-1057. Dave Aiello, president. 609-918-9650; fax, 609-918-9681. Home page: www.ctdata.com

Expansions: CPAs to Vaughn Dr.

WithumSmith+Brown, 100 Overlook Center, Princeton 08540. Leonard H. Smith CPA, shareholder in charge. 609-520-1188; fax, 609-520-9882. Www.withum.com

WithumSmith+Brown, an accounting and consulting firm with 45 employees in its current quarters, will expand from 13,000 feet at Overlook Center to 19,400 feet at 5 Vaughn Drive.

Aubrey Haines of Mercer Oak Realty represented the tenant for the 10-year lease, and Toni Casiano represented Mack-Cali.

Fox Rothschild LLP, 997 Lenox Drive, Building Three, Suite 301, Box 5231, Princeton 08543-5231. Phillip E. Griffin, office managing partner. 609-896-3600; fax, 609-896-1469. Home page: www.frof.com

Ten years after Phillip E. Griffin merged his law firm, Katzenbach, Gildea & Rudner, with the Philadelphia-based law firm, Fox Rothschild, he has expanded yet again. At 997 Lenox Drive the firm has three offices totaling 41,100 square feet and 112 employees.

"We’ve been growing rapidly, and we keep taking new lawyers," says Griffin, who was an aerospace engineering major at Princeton, Class of 1970. Last year the firm had 50 attorneys and now it has 65.

It does general litigation, corporate, tax, estate planning, environmental, creditors’ rights, intellectual property and patents, labor, employment and benefits, franchise, mergers and acquisitions, family-owned businesses, bankruptcy, health law, domestic relations, real estate, and securities.

Howard Ziff served as in-house representative for Brandywine Realty, while Tactix Real Estate Advisors represented the law firm.

Geneva Pharmaceuticals (ADR), 506 Carnegie Center, Princeton 08540. John Sedor, CEO. 609-627-8500; fax, 609-627-8682. Www.genevarx.com

Geneva Pharmaceuticals, a generic drug manufacturer affiliated with Novartis AG, took additional space at Carnegie 506.

"We relocated our seven-person customer support center in Colorado to our headquarters here in Princeton," says Sandra MacTavish. With an R&D center in Dayton and a manufacturing operation in Colorado, the company has about 100 employees.

StatementOne, 1009 Lenox Drive, Suite 103, Lawrenceville 08648. Gregory Pacholski, CEO. 609-620-5800; fax, 609-620-5801. Home page: www.statementone.com

Statementone Inc., which has a web-based platform for delivering consolidated financial statements and performance reporting, expanded to 8,055 feet at Princeton Pike IV. Howard Ziff represented Brandywine, and Acclaim Group represented the tenant.

Contracts Awarded

Pyramid Vision Technologies, CN 5300, Princeton 08543-5300. Craig Chambers, president and COO. 609-419-0418; fax, 609-514-4000. Home page: www.pyramidvision.com

This Sarnoff spinoff has a contract to install security improvements at three terminals owned by the Virginia Port Authority. Its VisionAlert Suite of intelligent video surveillance products, ultra-low-light cameras and a wireless communications network, can detect and report unauthorized vehicle and personnel activity around the seaports. Using a standard PC platform and commercial surveillance cameras, it transforms CCTV surveillance installations into "smart" video alert systems.

Pyramid Vision also works on PC-compatible accelerators for real-time video processing and aerial image analyst workstations. Its VideoDetective platform, of which VideoAlert is a part, aims to work in counter-drug and counter-terror operations.

Patrinely Group, 150 College Road West, Suite 150, Princeton 08540. Phillip Benjamin. 609-514-1799; fax, 609-514-1791. Home page: www.patrinely.com

When the Patrinely Group develops an additional site in the Forrestal Center, 1100 Campus Road, CB Richard Ellis will market the 167,000 square foot Class A building.

This is the first phase of the development called Princeton Corporate Campus, located between College Road and Scudders Mill Road. Eventually there will be five buildings and 800,000 square feet. Patrinely Group also built 100 College Road West and 150 College Road West.

New Franchisor

D.E.I. Management Group/Multimedia Group, 51 Wall Street, Princeton 08540. Scott McLaughlin. 609-279-1911. Www.dei-sales.com

Scott McLaughlin, a marketing consultant for technology firms who owned Multimedia Group, has joined D.E.I. Management Group as a franchisor for central and southern New Jersey. He has moved from a home office to 51 Wall Street, where he shares space with the Backes Group.

The son of an East Orange police officer, McLaughlin is a graduate of the New Jersey Institute of Technology, Class of 1979. He and his wife, who is getting her master’s in education from the College of New Jersey, have two school-age children.

In the early 1980s when McLaughlin ran a big typesetting shop in North Jersey, he was at the forefront of the transition from typesetting to PC-based page composition. "Typesetting was unionized, the systems were proprietary, and the union balked at purchasing new technologies. So I bought 32 Wang word processors and at night my mother and 31 of her friends did the data entry. These women didn’t know a thing about typesetting but they could type, which I can’t do. And I converted the files to digital files using a formatting language."

At a PC based typesetting firm, BestInfo Software, he was hired to migrate the system to digital. Among the other companies he has worked for are Polaroid and Netgenesis. At the Associated Press, he ran the technology marketing program, and at Drexel University’s Nesbitt College of Media and Design he was the director of printing technology management.

His D.E.I. Management Group, founded in 1979 by Stephan Schiffman, is a sales training company that has trained more than 500,000 people at 9,000 companies on four continents. Its clients include Nextel Communications, Boise Office Solutions, Cox Communications, and Fleet Bank.

"Our number one competitor is the status quo — what the person or organization is already doing," says McLaughlin. "I bought this franchise because I wanted to be able to help sales people be successful, and I know this works."

Downsizings

Empire Equity Group (Royal Mortgage), 3490 Route 1 North, Building 15, Box 2555, Princeton 08543-2555. president. 609-452-1160; fax, 609-987-8849. Home page: www.empireequity.com

Royal Mortgage, a privately owned mortgage banking company located at Princeton Service Center, has been sold to Empire Equity Group. Richard Nacht, the previous owner of the mortgage business, had had as many as 75 employees, but now about 25 people work in 5,500 square feet.

The staff reduction is partly because this office is now a branch of a larger firm, but mostly because the business has changed from mortgage banking to mortgage brokering. Formerly the staff took care of banking activities such as closing, post closing activities and funding. Now the staff still originates loans, but now that they are mortgage brokers, the loans are funded by investors.

"The market changed in July, around the time of the deal. If the market would not have changed we probably would have been able to justify maintaining more employees," says Ozzie Rabinowitz, CEO. "The market changed substantially, mortgage activity has declined, and we couldn’t justify the large staff,"

Founded by Ezra Beyman, Empire Equity Group is a 20-year-old firm that is based in Chestnut Ridge, New York. It has seven branch offices, including one in Lakewood, and is licensed in 48 states. "Our growth has been gradual, both internal and with acquiring other companies," says Rabinowitz. "Our intention has always been to offer good service for mortgage financing needs and at the same time provide a safe and comfortable atmosphere for employees to work in."

Rabinowitz declines to provide biographical information about himself or Princeton’s branch manager, Michael Zaccardi, other than to say that Zaccardi has been in the mortgage industry for 14 years. He also declines to outguess Alan Greenspan. "Everybody is waiting to see whether the mortgage industry has hit the end of the refi boom or whether it will rejuvenate itself," says Rabinowitz. "But over the years we have weathered all kinds of different market conditions."

Charges Dropped

A grand jury has declined to indict Robert Rose, president of Mercer County Community College, who had been accused of sexual misconduct last May by an unidentified 18-year-old student. According to newspaper reports, the county prosecutor announced on Monday, November 24, that charges against Rose will be dismissed.

Rose has been on leave from the college for six months. Trustees were scheduled to meet this Wednesday, November 26, to decide whether to reinstate him as president.

Deaths

Linda J. Eresia, 62, on November 23. She had been a retirement benefits manager for Ceridian Benefits Services at 1 Independence Way.

Vincent G. Angeline, 79, on November 23. He had been a real estate broker and appraiser for Weidel Realtors.

Correction: A milestone in the November 19 edition contained a typographical error. It should have reported that Gary C. Lott died on November 10. An artist and teacher, he had been chairman of the history department at Princeton Day School.

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