The Wait is Over! New Jersey Walking School Bus App is Here

3 Sep

Just in time for back to school planning and National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, we have launched the New Jersey Walking School Bus App!

Throughout the year, we work with schools and with towns on a variety of programs to encourage kids to walk and bike to school where it’s safe to do so. The new app allows parents to easily create and plan walks to and from school. Parents in Mercer County and selected areas in Ocean County can search by elementary school for existing walking groups, create walking groups, invite neighbors to join, plan walks to and from school, assign parent leaders to walk with students, group text within the app, and alert parents when students have arrived safely at school!

“Walking School Bus” is a universal term used to describe an organized group of children walking to and from school with one or more adults. It’s like a carpool — without the car!

“Walking to school isn’t just great for the health of our kids and the environment, it’s fun and social too,” said Cheryl Kastrenakes, Executive Director of GMTMA.  “The WSB app gives parents a simple way to find other parents that want their children to walk to school and to set up a walking group.”

More information about the app and demo video are available on the Walking School Bus page on our website http://www.gmtma.org.  All the parents that sign up by October 15, 2015 will be entered in a drawing for a $100 gift card!

Additional features: The app calculates the miles walked, calories burned and reduction in CO2 emissions for the individual, group and school.

GMTMA’s New Jersey Walking School Bus app is sponsored by the NJ Department of Transportation’s Safe Routes to School Program; a comprehensive program that encourages walking and biking safely to school.

Back to School tips and SRTS News

21 Aug

There are only a few days left until school starts and we wanted to share some back to school safety tips and Safe Routes to School Updates.

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Credit: Wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock

Here are some of the rules to go over with your child before they start traveling to and from school.

Taking the school bus:

  • Always board and exit the bus at locations that provide safe access to the bus or to the school building.
  • Wait for the bus to stop before approaching it from the curb.
  • Walk only where you can see the bus driver (which means the driver will be able to see you too).
  • Look both ways to see that no other traffic is coming before crossing the street, just in case traffic does not stop as required.
  • Do not move around on the bus.
  • If the school bus has lap/shoulder seat belts, make sure you use one at all times when in the bus.

If you are driving them to School:

  • All passengers should wear a seat belt or use an age- and size-appropriate car safety seat or booster seat.
  • Your child should ride in a car safety seat with a harness as long as possible and then ride in a belt-positioning booster seat. Your child is ready for a booster seat when she has reached the top weight or height allowed for her seat, her shoulders are above the top harness slots, or her ears have reached the top of the seat.
  • Your child should ride in a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle’s seat belt fits properly (usually when the child reaches about 4′ 9″ in height and is between 8 to 12 years of age).
  • All children younger than 13 years of age should ride in the rear seat of vehicles. If you must drive more children than can fit in the rear seat (when carpooling, for example), move the front-seat passenger’s seat as far back as possible and have the child ride in a booster seat if the seat belts do not fit properly without it.
  • Remember that many crashes occur while novice teen drivers are going to and from school. You should require seat belt use, limit the number of teen passengers, and do not allow eating, drinking, cell phone conversations,  texting or other mobile device use to prevent driver distraction. Limit nighttime driving and driving in inclement weather. Familiarize yourself with your state’s graduated driver’s license law and consider the use of a parent-teen driver agreement to facilitate the early driving learning process. For a sample parent-teen driver agreement, see www.healthychildren.org/teendriver

Biking to school:

  • Always wear a bicycle helmet, no matter how short or long the ride.
  • Ride on the right, in the same direction as auto traffic.
  • Use appropriate hand signals.
  • Respect traffic lights and stop signs.
  • Wear bright-colored clothing to increase visibility. White or light-colored clothing and reflective gear is especially important after dark.
  • Know the “rules of the road.”

Walking to School:

  • Make sure your child’s walk to school is a safe route with well-trained adult crossing guards at every intersection.
  • Identify other children in the neighborhood with whom your child can walk to school.  In neighborhoods with higher levels of traffic, consider organizing a “walking school bus,” in which an adult accompanies a group of neighborhood children walking to school.
  • Be realistic about your child’s pedestrian skills. Because small children are impulsive and less cautious around traffic, carefully consider whether or not your child is ready to walk to school without adult supervision.
  • If your children are young or are walking to a new school, walk with them the first week or until you are sure they know the route and can do it safely.
  • Bright-colored clothing will make your child more visible to drivers.

And if your child is walking to school or would like to walk to school, we have exciting news! GMTMA will launch the New Jersey Walking School Bus app during the last week of August. The app will be available for both Android and iOS and it will help you with many of the walking to school tips suggested above.

Stay tuned for the App launch and be the first to try it!

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!

Safety Tips Source: American Academy of Pediatrics https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/news-features-and-safety-tips/pages/Back-to-School-Tips.aspx

The Shared Use Economy Booms…. (carpooling, not so much)

14 Aug

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It’s almost impossible not to hear a news report or read an article about the boom in the shared use economy.  In fact, there’s a good chance you’re participating in it.  Uber, Lyft, RelayRides, Airbnb, are all examples of the huge growth in the sharing economy.

The concept is rooted in sustainability. Pool resources and it’s better for the environment and your finances.  It’s socially responsible.  It’s everything we learned in kindergarten…be nice and share!

And who were the early adopters of the sharing economy?  Carpoolers! Using that decidedly simple way to commute to work while saving money and reducing emissions.

And yet, in a report just released by the U.S. Census Bureau, Who Drives to Work? Commuting by Automobile in the United States:2013, the rate of carpooling  is shown as declining during each decade since 1980. About 9.0 percent of workers carpooled in 2013, down from 19.7 percent in 1980.  During this same time period, the number of people commuting by car increased to a peak of almost 88% in 2000 and has remained relatively stable since, dropping to just 86% in 2013.  Approximately 76% of those people are driving alone.  That leaves a lot of unused seating capacity out on our roads.

Ironic, given the current interest in all things shared, the rate of carpooling is falling.  It’s a statistic we’d love to see turnaround.  Try asking your co-worker or spouse if they want to share the ride.  If you need help finding a carpool partner just contact gmtma.org and register to find a carpool partner in our statewide database.  We make it easy and we offer a rewards program too!

Carpooling…the name may sound old school, but the concept is definitely not.

Stop On Red Week

6 Aug

August 5th marked the 101st anniversary of the first traffic lights. The traffic light was introduced as a way to reduce the number of deaths and crashes resulting from the growing numbers of high-speed cars sharing the road with pedestrians, bicyclists, and other means of transportation.

These days the use of the traffic lights is widespread, and we count on other people to respect driving rules and stop on red. But according to National Coalition for Safer Roads too many people do not stop on red.   “In 2009 alone, 676 people were killed and 113,000 injured in crashes that involved red light running. Of the 676 people killed — two-thirds were occupants of a vehicle that did not run a red light, pedestrians and bicyclists.”

To raise awareness of the dangers of red light running the week of August 2 – August 8 was declared National Stop on Red Week.

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Among the many aspects of the campaign, one focus is informing people about the Top Ten Reasons to Stop On Red and another is getting public support.

What can you do to help raise awareness?

Safety is important, and we are all responsible for making the right decisions, not only this week but at all times. Running a red light is dangerous, and it could cost someone’s life.

 

What Is It and Who Qualifies For an NJ Smart Workplace Award?

30 Jul

NJ-Smart-Workplaces

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 of all sizes are eligible to apply. 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 partnership of 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.

Applying is easy and chances are you already provide some of the things that qualify you for this designation. Take our short quiz and if you answer YES to any of the following questions, you might be eligible for the New Jersey Smart Workplaces award.

Do you go the extra mile to help your employees get to work?

Offer an informal flextime program?

Offer an informal telecommuting program?

Maintain a relationship with your local TMA?

Promote carpooling, vanpooling, and public transit?

Provide bike parking?

Have an on­site point of contact for employee commute inquiries?

Hold a commuter information event at your worksite?

Go to http://www.gmtma.org and find out for what level you qualify. There are no costs associated with this prestigious designation and all awardees will be featured on our website.

If you are not sure you qualify or you have questions about the program, please contact us at tma@gmtma.org. All NJSW awardees will be recognized at Greater Mercer TMA’s Annual Luncheon in October. See our list of 2014 Awardees.

Mobility As A Question Of Equality

24 Jul

In this TED talk Enrique Peñalosa, former mayor of Bogota, speaks about mobility and why buses represent democracy in action. Although he talks mostly about mobility in developing countries, it is hardly an issue limited to developing countries. It is something every country should consider seriously in the future.

Peñalosa says that mobility gets worse as societies get richer, and it becomes a question of equality. The definition of an “advanced city is not one where even the poor use cars, but rather one where even the rich use public transport.”

Road space is a valuable resource for a city, and it is important for a city to distribute it equally. It is important for all modes of transportation to share resources and the way Bogota solved the problem was to implement, lanes for buses, dedicated bike lanes, and sidewalks. A mass transit system where buses enjoy their dedicated lanes and zoom by cars stuck in traffic.

Protected bicycle lanes are considered a right. Being able to bike without the risk of being killed is a “powerful symbol of democracy because it shows that citizen on a $30 bike is equally important as one in a $30,000 car.”

Also, Peñalosa refers to walking as a need and says that:  “In terms of transport infrastructure, what really makes a difference between advanced and backward cities is not highways or subways but quality sidewalks.”

According to Peñalosa in developing countries more than 80% of the cities will be built in the next 4 or 5 decades. But this massive development is not limited only to developing countries.  The US alone will build more than 70 million homes in the same time frame.

He considers the current road space sharing model unsustainable and before building these cities, the relationship between pedestrians and cars has to be reconsidered. Cities that give priority to people rather than cars; cities that protect all individuals need to be built.

Peñalosa speaks based on the measures he implemented in his city, and he admits it was not easy. He proposes a few solutions and urges countries to think of these solutions when considering the next wave of massive city development.

Listen to his TED talk to find out about his work and what solutions he proposes for the future.

Let us know what you think and as always if you have a blog post you would like to share please contact us. You could be our next guest  blogger.

Meet Our Sustainable Transportation Coordinator

17 Jul

In this week’s blog post we would like to welcome and introduce our newest staff member, Ian Henderson. He is GMTMA’s Sustainable Transportation Coordinator and one of the Safe Routes to School Coordinators.

Ian

Here are some of the things Ian told us about himself:

What attracted you to this job?

I was especially interested that it involved green transportation, a field that combines my planning and environmental interests. Also, as a lifelong Mercer County resident, I jumped at the opportunity to help change the local community.

Why is transportation important for you?

Mobility. As an out of state student in Pittsburgh, I did not have a car. I relied on buses and light rail to get around.

What is a favorite thing about your job?

I really enjoy all of the creative presentations, tools, games, and other activities designed to reach students and the community at large.

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

There are direct health benefits involved with cleaner air and less traffic. Who doesn’t want less congestion on the roadways?

Where do you stand on the climate change debate? Do you believe climate change is real?

Yes. As an Environmental Studies major at the University of Pittsburgh, I had several science classes address the issue with an abundance of evidence.

What is your favorite book?

The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe

What is your favorite movie?

Batman: The Dark Knight or Apollo 13

What was the best moment of your life?

It is difficult to point to one moment. Some notable- I started my high school’s juggling club, I got to see a college energy-conservation dorm competition I designed come to fruition, family Christmas, college basketball fan section during a triple overtime, and U.S. Space Camp in elementary school.

Favorite transportation/commuting story

One summer, I had to commute to an office park just outside of downtown Pittsburgh. My bus route included a ride through the University of Pittsburgh campus, the core of downtown, right past PNC Park and Heinz Field and across the yellow Fort Pitt Bridge. I had a spectacular view of the “Golden Triangle” twice on a daily basis.

Favorite commuting app/gadget

The MyRadar app has a constantly-updating weather radar screen for the country. Also the “NJ Train Schedule” app is nice to have on hand.

What else would you like to do if you would not be working in transportation?

I would work to increase sustainability within business operations or supply chain.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I’ve played piano for years. I like to go to live concerts or sports. I also really enjoy film, both classic and current.

Welcome Ian and we are happy to have you!

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