Welcome to the SWOC analysis. SWOC stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Constraints. It is what professional planners use to understand the present, so they can vision for the future.
When visioning for the future, we always talk about present Strengths first. Trenton is well connected, an employment destination, and has a strong community
- If you weren’t aware, Trenton is really well connected. Trenton is part of the Northeast Corridor mega-region extending from Boston to Washington DC. A network of highways, rail lines, airports, and fiber optic cables connect millions of people and move billions of dollars in goods every day. Being located in this corridor is a huge asset for Trenton.
- As a major link in this chain, Trenton is home to a major rail hub and many roads and highways. These provide access to Trenton’s culturally rich downtown and economic opportunities which have made Trenton an employment destination.
- More than 28,000 workers commuting in each day. Many of whom work at Trenton’s largest public and private employers like the State of New Jersey, Capital Health Systems, and St. Francis Medical Center.
- There has been a influx of 10,000 Hispanics who have moved into Trenton, which has been great for Trenton in many ways. Unfortunately, this population gain has been offset by an equally large out migration of non-Hispanic whites (see weaknesses) so the city has seen no overall population gain.
- As many residents will attest, Trenton is also home to a strong community. The city is home to numerous churches, community organizations, and non-for-profit organizations that support wards that are steeped in history and meaning.
Weaknesses are hard to talk about, but we need to be honest with Trenton’s current situation, including the high poverty rates and changing population.
- It will come as no surprise that the poverty rate is high (27% compared to 14% for New Jersey). This is perpetuated by low educational attainment in Trenton, as the high school graduation rate is 48%, while graduation rates in all other Mercer County School Districts was more than 80%. These challenges are often compounded by public health issues like diabetes, obesity, and asthma. 1 in 6 Trentonians suffer from diabetes, compared with 1 in 15 in Mercer County as a whole. Similarly, more than 1 in 3 Trentonians are obese, while just 1 in 5 are obese in Mercer County. These public health challenges add to the burden of health costs and local services.
- Trenton’s second major weakness is a changing population. More than 10,000 non-Hispanic whites left Trenton in the past 10 years, or approximately 12% of the total population. Fortunately, almost an equal number of Hispanics have moved to Trenton, preventing Trenton from seeing a massive loss in total population. This instability is a major issue facing Trenton today.
So does all this mean that Trenton is forever locked into its current situation? The answer is no! Even the most conservative estimates indicated that Trenton will ADD 2,337 residents by 2040. However, there are also some regional Opportunities that may mean even more residents and jobs for Trenton, including expansion of their Transit Hub, increased interest in urban living, and a well-connected waterfront.
- Efforts to construct a Bus Rapid Transit line along the Route 1 Corridor better connect Trenton residents to opportunities in Mercer County and vice versa. Similarly, a proposed High Speed Train from Boston to Washington DC could offer residents and employers an opportunity to be in Manhattan in 15 minutes and Washington DC in less than an hour, rapidly increasing the flow of commerce.
- Both nationally and locally there has been renewed interest in urban living, especially among young graduates and retirees. Transit access, cultural amenities, and job access make Trenton a prime destination.
- Trenton’s location on the Delaware River provides a unique opportunity for commercial and industrial development, tying itself to Philadelphia and a larger international shipping distribution system. Also, the primarily vacant waterfront affords opportunities for cutting edge new development to attract new residents and employers to the region.
Finally, we should consider Constraints, which are factors which are outside the control of the City but which may prevent it from achieving its goals, including land and road ownership and public perception.
- In Trenton, a lot of land is un-taxable because it is owned by the State or is a school, open space, or non-profit institution. This means that the remaining taxable properties support the infrastructure costs of roads, parks, police, among other services. As a result, the City often finds itself with few resources to combat it serious problems. The State of New Jersey owns acres of land , much of which is prime downtown real estate. As a result, the City has little power over large sections of its downtown area.
- Similarly, a number of roadways are owned and managed by either County or State bodies, further constraining the City’s ability to control its future.
- Finally, the City is constrained by a negative perception and stigma. Overcoming this will be critical for its success.
We invite you to take the Next Step and use this navigation bar to learn more about Trenton. As you go, please help us identify the Strengths, Deficiencies, Opportunities, and Constraints that you see as you learn more about Trenton.