September is Healthy Aging Month!

19 Sep

Family Walking In The Park

September is healthy aging month and good mobility is a critical aspect of healthy living!

Most of us recognize that poor health can affect a person’s ability to get around easily.  Less attention though has been given to the fact that mobility affects health and well-being. Access to transportation for seniors is closely tied to their quality of life.

Did you know:

  • 21% of seniors no longer drive
  • Non-drivers make 15% fewer trips to the doctor
  • 59% fewer shopping trips
  • 65% fewer trips for social, family and religious activities

We all need to have the ability to stay connected to our communities, healthcare, shopping and social opportunities.  Healthy aging depends on it!

How to help yourself or the seniors in your life:

  1. Encourage everyone to keep walking. Maintaining mobility is a lot easier than regaining mobility.
  2. Promote Complete Streets in your town so that safe walking is possible.
  3. Keep driving skills sharp by signing up for a driver refresher course through AARP.
  4. Learn how to use public transportation. It will be much easier to “put down the keys” if it should become necessary.  Contact GMTMA to learn about our travel training classes.
  5. Learn about senior ride services like TRADE and RideProvide in Mercer County and Ocean Ride in Ocean County.
  6. Advocate for improved transportation options for seniors.
  7. Have a positive attitude!

This week’s blog post comes from Cheryl Kastrenakes , GMTMA Executive Director.

Meet our Sustainable Transportation Associate and SRTS Coordinator- Aly Dyson

12 Sep

Oupencil_sketch_1410451030341r next staff profile features Aly Dyson, Sustainable Transportation Associate and Safe Routes to School Coordinator and passionate anti-idling warrior. OK, maybe not warrior but she means business when it comes to air quality.

Q: What attracted you to this job?
Aly: It involves getting people to think about their actions and how their everyday life impacts the environment. Without someone else pointing it out, people don’t realize that almost everything they do is a choice. They need to decide if what they are doing is the best choice for them. I just try to get people to think about their commute, how they travel to the store or a friend’s house, or to school.

Q: Why is transportation important for you?
Aly: Everyone uses transportation in their daily life, but many people don’t realize how closely it affects the air we all breathe.  Having clean air is important to me and it is something that I want all future generations (including my kids, grandkids, etc.) to be able to enjoy.

Q: What is a favorite thing about your job?
Aly: Having many different projects to work on, I get to help and interact with a lot of people.

Q: What motivates you to want to change the way people commute? 
Aly: To protect the air that we all need to survive.

Q: Where do you stand on the climate change debate? Do you believe climate change is real?
Aly: Yes, climate change is real. I believe that the longer we wait to act, locally, nationally, and worldwide, the more difficult it will be to reverse the effects. It is not the people making decisions now that will suffer; it is future generations that will have to live with our mistakes and inaction.

Q: What was the best moment of your life?
Aly: Too many to pick just one; spending time outdoors with my family.

Q: Favorite transportation/commuting story
Aly: My best commute ever: Walking downstairs and turning on the computer. I love my days telecommuting! Worse commute ever: I once had a commute with 37 stop lights. It was horrible on a daily basis.

Q: Favorite commuting app/gadget
Aly: I do not have a favorite app; I am really hooked on my air quality alerts though.

Q: What else would you like to do if you were not working in transportation?
Aly: State or County Air Quality Inspector.

Q: Pet Peeve: 
Aly: People leaving their cars idling! Just turn it off! You are wasting $ and gas, it is polluting the air and it is dangerous!  The car could roll or a child could get in and put the car in gear, the car could be stolen. There is no point!   (Warned you she means business about air quality!)

Q: What do you like to do in your spare time?
Aly:  I love to go hiking or just go out and take a walk in the woods. It is very relaxing and peaceful.  I enjoy going to parks with my family.

Mercer Municipalities Support Safety Towns

5 Sep

Hamilton Safety Town

GMTMA works to promote biking and walking safety by educating students during summer camp and school programs throughout the year, and our efforts are well complemented by the Safety Town programs in Hamilton, Lawrence, Ewing and Hopewell Valley. Hamilton’s program serves 400-500 students per year and is in its 44th year, according to Officer Kristin Seitz, the program’s director. The nationally recognized 20 hour program for rising kindergartners was originally developed in 1937 by Officer Frend Boals in Mansfield, Ohio, and updated in 1964 by nursery school teacher Dorothy Chlad in Bedford, Ohio.

Lawrence Township’s program boasts similar longevity, according to Superintendent of Recreation Steven Groeger, soon to retire after 32 years.  Ewing’s program has been operating since 1981, according to their Facebook page, while Hopewell Valley’s program started in 2012. These programs run one two-week session per year, compared to Hamilton’s eight sessions in the summer and a day-long field trip for every 2nd grader during the school year, including parochial and private schools.

The program introduces safety awareness and preventive practices, including biking and walking safety, and features a mock town laid out in preschool proportions for practicing – trikes are ridden as motorists while the other students are pedestrians. Hamilton boasts one of only two permanent towns in the state, with shed like buildings, real sidewalks, and crosswalks. Even a functioning traffic light with pedestrian walk signals!

GMTMA thanks the following sponsoring organizations for their commitment to safety – Hamilton’ Police Athletic League, Ewing’s Kiwanis Club, Lawrence Township’s Recreation Department and Hopewell Valley’s MOMS Club and YMCA.

 

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!

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