The unabridged name of the municipality in which we live is Township of South Orange Village, a bit of a mouthful. For the purposes of federal revenue sharing, we fall under the township classification. The village part refers to our type and form of government in the New Jersey nomenclature, the specifics of which I won’t get bogged down with here. We’re one of only four places that still use this type, and the only one to have not reverted the form to resemble township government, as the other three have done. We like to keep you guessing.

There was a ballot initiative to revise the name last fall, though I can’t remember if it was reordering or deletion of words. At the time, it seemed like an issue of semantics and not worth taking the trouble to force system-wide revisions. Now though, I think more and more our identity of place is tied up in that last word village. We are what is referred to as a transit village, a hallmark of transit oriented development in which a walkable, mixed-use community is planned with a transportation hub, such as our train station, at its core. The NJ Department of Transportation even has a dedicated program for encouraging transit village development in conjunction with existing infrastructure.

One of the reasons for this kind of approach is to reduce reliance on cars for mobility and reduce congestion on roads and highways. The environmentalist in me is a big fan of the concurrent reduction in carbon emissions. But all of these miss the best part, the community itself. Having the rail line stop in South Orange on the way into New York is unbelievably convenient and one of the main reasons we decided to move here, but its greatest value is that it serves as the focal point for the commercial hub, concentrating activity and increasing opportunities for social interaction. Walking around town, we frequently run into neighbors, and we know many of the local business owners by face, if not name. The train station stands watch over all of this, providing shade in the midday sun and cover in the rain. The train whistle (ours still have whistles, or horns) wakes us up in the morning, and the rhythmic clack of metal wheels on rails rocks us to sleep at night. It does much to make our village a village.