Meet our Walking and Biking Specialist – Jerry Foster

29 Aug

 

JerryJerry comes to GMTMA as a second career, from information technology at large financial services firms.

 Q:What is your job at GMTMA?

Jerry: I am GMTMA’s latest biking and walking specialist and one of the Safe Routes to School Coordinators.

 Q: What attracted you to this job?

Jerry: The possibility of making Mercer and Ocean counties more livable by improving the friendliness of the ten minute walk or ride for everyday errands.  (Jerry is working on a map that could help you if you want to bike and need to know where the bike racks are. You can see it here. )

 Q: What is one favorite thing about your job?

Jerry: Working with the students to change the way they see biking or walking to school – it should be fun and safe.

Q: Can you tell us something about your commute?

Jerry: After years of walking to Princeton Junction station to take the train to the city, I really like my 2 mile bike commute to the office here in West Windsor, except for the stretch along Alexander Road.

Q: Favorite commuting app/gadget?

Jerry: My GoPro bike mounted camera (Jerry took amazing videos and pictures with that.)

Q: What else would you like to do if you were not working in transportation?

Jerry: Biking and walking in the suburbs today is mainly recreation, but if we’re successful, it can become a viable mode of transportation for short distances. l am passionate about community service, now serving on the board of the Princeton Free Wheelers bike club and as president of the West Windsor Bicycle and Pedestrian Alliance advocacy group, and in the past with the Plainsboro Rescue Squad and my kids’ scout groups.

Q: Pet Peeve?

Jerry: American road culture – those (motorists/cyclists/pedestrians) are all law breakers and a danger to the rest of us. Whether we’re motoring, cycling or walking, it’s always those others who are dangerous scofflaws and not following the rules of the road – the arrogance! We’ve met the enemy, and they are us. (He is so right!)

Q: What do you like to do in your spare time?

Jerry: I enjoy outdoor activities like sailing, climbing, backpacking and bicycling. I am working on backpacking the Appalachian Trail, done over 1400 miles so far, and completed five 500-mile Anchor House Rides for Runaways, in addition to biking self-supported from Oakland to Los Angeles in 2010.

Back to School with Greater Mercer TMA!

22 Aug

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It is that time of the year again! Schools in our area are starting classes on September 4.

How are your kids getting to school this year?

If they’re not already walking, how about giving them the opportunity to start.  Instead of taking the bus or being driven to school, let your student discover that the journey to school can start with their own two feet!  It’s part of Walk and Bike to School Day, a global event that started in 1997, where communities from over 40 countries walk or bike to school on the same day. It was initially a one day event and over the years it has turned into a year-round Safe Routes to School movement.

Joining the movement and participating in the October 8th event is easier than ever. Contact Greater Mercer TMA and we can help you get started with planning Walk and Bike to School Month activities. Here at GMTMA we are ready, willing, and able to offer advice and assistance with kicking off programs in communities all over Ocean and Mercer County. Contact us today!

Walk and Bike to School month is a great reason to plan fun and exciting walk and bike to school events in your community, but why stop there? Communities and schools can use Walk and Bike to School Month as a step toward changing community culture and creating better options for getting around that are safer, healthier, and also fun and rewarding.

The Safe Routes to School GMTMA coordinators for Mercer and Ocean counties in New Jersey can help create a walking and biking culture at every school in our region. At NO COST, GMTMA can help your school and community implement a SRTS program by helping you with the following SRTS elements: Travel Plans, Evaluation and Monitoring, Youth Bicycle and Pedestrian Education, and Bike/Walk Events & Education Assistance.

For more information about the event and other Safe Routes to School programs please visit www.gmtma.org. Sign Up for Walk and Bike to School Day 2014 while you’re at it!

 

Meet our Executive Director

15 Aug

Leading the Greener paths, Executive Director Cheryl Kastrenakes

Cheryl

Q: Why is transportation important to you? 

Cheryl: It’s important because it’s a critical link to leading a productive life.  If you physically can’t travel to where you need to go you’re never going to get there–missing out on jobs, doctor’s appointments and social outings.  I’d like to see that barrier removed for more people, regardless of their mode of travel.

Q: What motivates you to want to change the way people commute? 

Cheryl:There really are just too many cars on the road.  For the sake of our environment, health and sanity we all need to drive less.  But we also need to continue to make it easier for people to make that choice.

Q: What is one of the things you like about your job?

Cheryl:  I really enjoy the diversity of the work.  I have the opportunity to interact with so many different groups; the business community, other non-profits, and all levels of government, on a variety of different projects—all to advance a mission that I feel is truly important.

Q: Ok, so let’s get to know you better… what’s your favorite food?

Cheryl:  Ice cream, pizza, chocolate and a good salad (PS: We don’t think she means all in one meal!)

Q:  What do you like to do in your free time?

Cheryl:  In my free time I like running, reading, just being outdoors, and spending time with friends and family.

Q: What is one of your favorite books?

Cheryl:  I like reading, I read a lot of fiction—I don’t think I can pick one favorite.   Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and what it says about us) was an interesting non-fiction book.  You may choose to drive differently after you read it—or at least not hunt down the “best” parking spot!

Q: What is one of your favorite movies?

Cheryl:  My favorite classic movies are The Sound of Music and The Wizard of Oz

Q: What’s your favorite app?

Cheryl:  RadarCast is a weather app that I use a lot.  I also use HopStop to help out traveling around on the NYC subways—it works great.

Q: What would you be doing if you were not working in transportation?

Cheryl:  Working in the field of epidemiology would be interesting.

Q: What is a pet peeve of yours? 

Cheryl:  Distracted and aggressive drivers!  (PS: Wow you have lots of chances to be peeved!)

Q: Do you have any interesting transportation or commuter stories?

Cheryl:  I enjoy traveling by train so I chose to travel by train for my honeymoon to Canada.  Unfortunately it was only a one way ride. Amtrak missed the stop at Metropark on the way up so they [Amtrak] flew us up to Montreal instead!

Thanks to Cheryl for sharing her thoughts with us and telling us a little about her.  As you can see, our leader is thoughtful, passionate, and committed to the mission at GMTMA.

It’s time to meet the team! (Almost)

8 Aug

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In the following weeks we will be running a series of GMTMA staff profiles interspersed with other topics. We will be talking about what we do, and what it is that GMTMA is trying to achieve.  We are excited to introduce you to the people behind all the work!

GMTMA’s goal is to promote/provide transportation choices that are designed to reduce congestion, improve mobility, increase safety, and further sustainability in the Greater Mercer TMA service area. We offer programs and services like RideProvide that helps members maintain their independence by providing a safe, reliable transportation option, NJ Smart Workplaces, Safe Routes to School, Carpool and Vanpool matching, Bike Safety, and so much more. You can see all them on our website www.gmtma.org.

Every one of our staff is different and they commute differently.  Some of us bike to work daily, some take the bus daily, some do half-bike commutes (driving to work, biking home and next day, bike to work , drive back home), some walk and some drive because they live too far and none of these options are realistic. Why are they unrealistic?  Because some streets are still not safe enough or public transit not always available where we live.

This is part of what we do here at GMTMA – working to raise awareness, improve mobility and bringing changes that are also good for us and for the environment.  In this blog we offer tips and ideas that hopefully will help improve your commute and answer some of your commuting questions. We are looking for topics that are of interest to us as commuters and create a greener environment, and we love it if we can save you from a commuting headache or two!

 We do encourage everyone to ditch the car every now and then.  You’ll see how many stories you get to tell your friends and family while commuting that way – just ask some of our staff!

Join us next week to meet our first staff member!

New Jersey Smart Workplaces

1 Aug

Do you go the extra mile to help your employees get to work? Do you sponsor programs that help reduce traffic and improve air quality? Do you offer high-quality commuter benefits, such as transit information, traffic alerts, free or low cost bus passes, strong telecommuting programs, carpooling matching, vanpool subsidies, or other services? Do you reward employees who walk or bike to work?

Then you might be qualifying for the New Jersey Smart Workplace Recognition. Greater Mercer TMA encourages you to apply (or renew your application) for the New Jersey Smart Workplaces program — click here for the online registration.

New Jersey Smart Workplaces (NJSW) recognizes and honors employers who help reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality by providing commuter benefits to employees. Employers are recognized at one of four levels of achievement: bronze, silver, gold or platinum based upon the programs offered at the worksite. The program is a voluntary partnership of participating employers, the North Jersey Transportation Planning Association and the state’s Transportation Management Associations (TMAs). Greater Mercer TMA is the program’s coordinator in Mercer and Ocean counties.

Nominations for the 2014 NJSW awards are now being accepted. NJSW awardees will be recognized at Greater Mercer TMA’s Annual Meeting in October. For more information on the program contact Aly Dyson at adyson@gmtma.org.

Smart Workplace winners are recognized and awarded every year at GMTMA’s Annual Luncheon.

See our list of 2013 Awardees.

A Penny for your…skirt?!

25 Jul

You always hear how good it is for you to get moving, how much better it is for your health to ditch the car, so today you decide to start taking a walk or bike to work, and you work on getting into your routine.  And if you are like me you are going to want to know what the impact of your new routine is.  I’ve been using and reading about a few fitness tracking apps and gadgets and here is what I’ve discovered so far.

Personally I love the Withings Pulse (yes, husband recommended).  It’s small and clips to your pocket, and it comes with a great app to track your sleep, activity, and pulse. However, (again) if you’re like me a downside might be that this small device can get lost in one of your many big bags and can’t track it down (I’ve already lost mine once).
Another option is a wrist fitness tracker – they come in many shapes and colors, some bulkier, some more or less obvious.  A negative is that most of them do not have a display and you have to keep track of your steps/activity by checking your phone app.  You can find a list of them with reviews on the Consumer Reports website (http://bit.ly/1nEIFL2).

A general downside of all these – most don’t track swimming or biking (my Withings does not).   But if  you are the “bleeding edge” type and  you want a gadget that keeps track of all activities including, cycling, swimming, jogging and other cardio activities you can reserve the new ankle band, FlyFit (full review here http://bit.ly/1rPmu3Z ).

Whatever you choose to keep track of your activity during the day you will be much more conscious about your activity and will be checking frequently to see if you reached that 10,000 steps/activity a day goal (I may not always succeed but I always try!).

And now, about the title…the last gadget I want to discuss, although unrelated to fitness tracking, is a very original one and can be called a real lifesaver when the need arises!  It solves the problem of wearing a skirt while biking (to work) – something you don’t think about sometimes until it’s too late, and something that the males among us have never had to experience.

If you have a penny or any coin, and a rubber band, then you can secure your skirt while you are biking (see the link below).  Fashion and commuting at its best! This is all over the internet but I couldn’t help but repost it because sometimes the simplest things are the best!  Thank you Johanna Holtan for sharing!

Please feel free to share some of your tips and tricks that helped you keep track of your activity.

What’s app with your commute?

18 Jul

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Did you ever hear the phrase “There’s an app for that “?  Well, it turns out the trademarked Apple phrase seems to be true in many cases.  Or at least that is what my husband says.  There’s an app and there’s a gadget too and he has tried almost all of them! When it comes to commuting, he often uses NJ Rails, Transit App, and Citymapper for his NY trip planning.  Whether you are traveling by transit, bike or car there is probably just the right app out there for you.   Here is a list of just a few of the apps available:

NJ Rails, a free app that helps you plan your trip, find the train schedule on your phone, and does not require an internet connection.  It is compatible with both Android and iOS

Transit App is a real time bus tracking app compatible with both Android and iOS.

Citymapper is a great trip planning app for NY commuters and tourists alike.  It has train, metro, or bike stations info, and also has traffic alerts. It is compatible with both Android and iOS devices.

Waze “social GPS” is a community-edited application that alerts you of traffic jams, accidents, and road hazards in real time. It can also be very helpful when you are trying to find the cheapest gas en route.  It requires an internet connection and it is compatible with both Android and iOS.

Carma is a carpooling app that matches people nearby and it is compatible with both Android and iPhone devices. The app lets you browse through rider’s profiles and pictures and see what the cost of the ride is. It has an in-app payment system and it requires you to tap “start trip” when you get in the car and “end trip” when you get off.  Carma is just getting started in our area and is used primarily for “dynamic or real time ridesharing.”  If that does not sound like something you would like to do, GMTMA also has a carpool, vanpool matching service. You can register on our website www.gmtma.org  and we will match you with commuters that live near you and have similar schedules.

Bike Maps is a free iOS compatible app with city maps, trails, mountain bike trails, urban and rural areas. It can also give you road conditions, traffic, and your location. Great for leisure time bike adventures too. Itdoes not require internet connection if you download the available maps, which could be really useful in the woods, mountains, and other areas where an internet connection might be problematic.

Spotcycle is mobile app that helps you find bike sharing locations all over the world.   Locate the nearest bike sharing station, create a bike route, share your route or find a route shared by other users. Free, and it is compatible with both Android and iOS.

Bicycle parking app is compatible with both Android and iOS and helps you find bike parking, mark where you parked your bike and share new bike parking locations with other people.  In our area GMTMA is also a great resource for locating and renting a bike locker in the following areas:  Princeton Junction, Hamilton, and Point Pleasant Rail Stations.  One of our staff members, Jerry Foster, is working on a Mercer County bike rack and lockers map.  You can see his work (in progress) by clicking here.

Google maps is also a great way to find your way around. I use it to find my around when I travel, to find tourist attractions, good places to eat (reviews are very helpful), and for other directions (like finding my way back to the hotel).

This is by no means a comprehensive list of apps.  It is just a taste of what can you find out there to make your commute and travels easier and less stressful.

Let us know what your favorite commute app is!

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