The History of Women in Transportation and Mobility

27 Mar


Since this month is Women’s History Month, we would like to take this opportunity to mention some of the female pioneers in transportation and the contribution women make in this industry nowadays.

Transportation and mobility has been traditionally a man’s interest and men have been predominantly occupying the majority of both low skills as well as high skilled transportation jobs.

Looking at the history of women in transportation and mobility industry, we see that things have changed and women are now encouraged to build careers in transportation and mobility. The Department of Transportation published an article with detailed information on all the women that made their mark in different areas of transportation. We have selected just a few to feature in this post but encourage you to read the whole article.

From this article we found that the first woman to receive a driving license in the 1900’s was Anne Bush. The first woman to ever compete in a car race was Janet Guthrie who in 1976 participated in the Indianapolis 500 and NASCAR.

In 1922 another woman, Helen Schultz, becomes a pioneer of the bus transportation industry by establishing the Red Ball Transportation Company.  Another pioneer, this time in aviation, Amelia Earhart, is well known for her daring attempt to fly around the globe which unfortunately ended tragically.

The first African American commercial pilot, Willa Brown, also became the first female officer in the Civil Air Patrol.

But women did not stop at flying planes, they went beyond, they went to space.  The first American woman to go to space was Sally Ride; the first American woman to walk in space was Kathryn Sullivan.

Many women also had jobs in transportation administration and engineering, starting with Beverly Cover in 1962, Judith A. Carlson who worked as highway engineer, Karen M. Porter a civil engineer, to Elizabeth Dole as a secretary of DOT in 1983 and Carmen Turner Acting Director of Civil rights at the DOT.

These days, women are holding various positions in transportation and mobility, from bus drivers to Executive Director of a Transit Agency.  Agencies like WTS (Women’s Transportation Seminar)  are dedicated to the advancement of women’s careers in transportation through connecting women in Transportation, networking, and an annual conference.

There are many women that deserve all the praise and wish we could mention each and every one of them.  Some of them hold government positions while others are making a difference at the helm of non-profit organizations. Right here in New Jersey we  have Veronique Hakim (Executive Director of NJ TRANSIT), Mary K. Murphy (Executive Director of NJTPA), Mary D. Ameen( Deputy Executive Director NJPTA), and our own Cheryl Kastrenakes, Executive Director of GMTMA.

While it may look like many women have careers in transportation and mobility, the industry is still male dominated.

Either working for governmental agencies, private businesses, schools, universities or non-profits, careers in the transportation and mobility industry can be interesting and rewarding.

We hope this will inspire more women to choose a career in transportation. To learn more about opportunities go to



Hello neighbor! Do you rent your car?

20 Mar

In last week’s blog post I talked about how my husband and I have been a one car family for the last six years and how we schedule and maintain a shared calendar to make it work.  But that even with coordination, sometimes we need a second car. That is when I mentioned using Zipcar.

The founder of the car sharing company Zipcar (car sharing is something we like to encourage here at GMTMA), Robin Chase, is a woman. Since March is Women’s History Month, this is a great time to mention women in transportation and share with you a TED Talk. In this talk, Robin Chase talks about how she came to the Zipcar idea and why car sharing is so important to her.

Robin Chase recently sold her share in Zipcar, moved to France with her husband and child, and started another car  sharing company – Buzzcar. The Buzzcar model takes the idea of car sharing to a whole new level; it allows people to rent their own car to friends and neighbors. Ms. Chase called that new business model “investing in a community”.

This is a very engaging talk and Robin Chase is an inspiring woman. Let us know what you think.

One Car Family

13 Mar


For the past 6 years, we have been a one car family. We are fortunate enough to live in an area where it is relatively easy to walk to the train station and to work. It takes me 40 minutes to walk to work and it takes 30 minutes for my husband to walk to the train station.

Most of the time we are carpooling and I’ll admit that it requires planning, maintaining a calendar and consulting with each other when we make appointments that require a car trip.  Life and work is not always that predictable and sometimes we do need to stray from the schedule.

What if you both need the one car at the same time? Then there is the carshare option.  In West Windsor there is Zipcar at the train station.  Once you sign up for membership, download their app, and you can reserve a car for $8.50/ hour or $69 for the day.

Zipcar twice a month – $1,656/year, plus the membership fee $50/year, total = $1,706

Where to get Zipcars and how much it costs? Click here

Where to download app? Click here 

If Zipcars or another carshare option are not available, there is also the car rental option. Depending on what rental you use it can cost between $30/day and more than $100/day. Renting a car twice a month could cost up to $200.

If you want to compare that to the cost of owning a car you can check this 2014 AAA study. The answer is somewhere between $8,000 and $9,000.

And there is always the option of biking!

What happens when your car breaks down, you are stranded and your significant other does not have a car to come pick you up? You will have to plan ahead for this eventuality. Either get a AAA membership or make sure your car insurance emergency road side assistance includes rentals reimbursement, towing and pick up. You will have to check with your insurance for the procedure and phone numbers you have to call. Make sure you have those phone numbers handy.

Since the grocery stores are not as accessible for us, the shopping trips are reserved for the weekends. We are also planning for this by maintaining a shared grocery list and updating throughout the week, this way limiting the shopping trips. You can download an app for that, we use Out of Milk.  Another option could be a cargo bike.  One of my co-workers recently began using one and had been known to carry a pretty significant amount of shopping in the bike’s baskets!

Along the way we encountered a few people trying to sell us their used cars because they felt bad for us.  We did not make this choice out of necessity and I am aware this may not work for everyone, especially if you have children. However, if you would like to try this for yourself, you can always ask GMTMA for help.

We can see what options you have available in your area and work out a plan, a car-less plan that is, at no cost to you. GMTMA is also the coordinator for Safe Routes to School in the Mercer in Ocean counties and can help organize walking and biking events for children, making them less dependent on that car ride and giving them the chance to be more active.

GMTMA is a non-profit, a free resource for commuters in Mercer County and Ocean County, why not take advantage of our services…

Millennials and Boomers Want Walkable Places

6 Mar


Millennials and Baby Boomers… the two generations may not seem to have anything in common, but when it comes to preference for the type of community they want to live in they are in agreement – “give us walkable places!”

In a recent study published by the American Planning Association, “56% of millennials and 46% of boomers” said they would prefer to “one day live in a walkable community.”

When asked why would they prefer to change where they live, both millennials and boomers expressed a preference for places that offer good transportation options, with good  job prospects,  that are affordable,  diverse in kinds and ages of people,  offer community engagement opportunities,  have parks and trails, have safe streets, have hospitals, and healthy food options.

Among those interviewed by APA, “31% percent of Millennials and 21 percent of Active Boomers”say they want transportation options beyond a car: trains, light rail, buses, carpooling, car sharing, ride sharing, bicycling, and bike sharing or walking.  It didn’t matter if the respondents lived in the city, suburbia, or rural areas, they all wanted more transportation options.

Walkable places are increasingly important for and desired by people regardless of where they live.  Cities, suburbs and rural communities are all increasingly under pressure to provide these changes.  And having boomers and millennials both moving into the same communities would be good not only for the economic development of that place, but for the overall health of the community; it really begins to look like the classic American small town ideal that most of us wish for, but left behind long ago. Our evolution to our current car-centric design has stranded many older adults that are healthy enough to live in their own home, but who have had to give up driving, and thereby lost the option to live independently.  The walkable place would help return us to days when children walk and bike without having their parents worry as much about their safety; it might even eliminate the daily long line of SUVs lined up at the school bus stops!

It’s important to realize that this movement is taking root with people who have a car, but who want to either give up their car or supplement it with other options to live their daily lives. I think many of us are starting to look for places to live where we can find a sense of community; places with quality of life features and vitality. And this happens when people can get out of their cars and get to know their community. So here’s to the boomers and the millennials leading us toward more walkable communities!


Calling All Artists Grades 3 – 5!

27 Feb

We are excited to announce that Greater Mercer TMA (GMTMA) is sponsoring the 2nd annual Safe Routes to School Bookmark Design Contest for students in grades 3-5.  This year’s contest theme: “My favorite place to walk/ bike is…”

Whether it is walking to school, to a friend’s house, along the boardwalk or the beach, every student will have a favorite place to walk or bike!

This contest coincides with the Walk and Bike to School Month and we hope to get students thinking about walking and biking to school. This is a fun and healthy choice for themselves and their community. The winner will receive a $50 gift card and a walking /biking safety kit. Winning bookmarks will be printed and distributed to participating school libraries and promoted through our website and other media outlets.

We received so many creative entries in 2014 and can’t wait to see the entries for 2015!

Greater Mercer TMA is always available for Safe Routes to School information, free educational programs, and safety discussions. Please visit our website for more information on how GMTMA can help your students become more active and live a healthy lifestyle safely.

Contest open to students in Mercer and Ocean County. Winners will be selected in both counties. To enter the contest, fill out this form.

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Bike Commuter Journal – Cost of Bike vs Car Commuting

20 Feb

Laura Torchio Rainy Day Bike CommuterSo, how much money do you save by bike commuting? Probably a lot, but let’s run the numbers.

First, the car expense – according to the AAA’s Your Driving Costs 2014 report, operating a small sedan costs $7930/year, while a SUV runs $12,446/year, including gas, maintenance, depreciation, insurance, loan interest, etc.

What about biking expenses? Elly Blue, author of Bikenomics, refers us in her blog post on the subject to transportation economist Todd Littman’s 2011 research, which gives a range of $100-$300 per year for operating costs, which is comparable to AAA’s $7930 for a small sedan, since it includes depreciated cost of the bike, etc.

Like the variation between the cost for a small sedan and a SUV, bike costs can vary a lot, too. Here’s hypothetical cases for a high quality and an economical setup, based on online prices from the same national outdoor recreation equipment company:

High Quality – $2153

  1. New commuter bike, including fenders, rack, front/rear lights – $1400
  2. Commuter Helmet, including attachment for front/rear lights – $65
  3. Front/rear helmet lights – $100
  4. U-lock plus cable – $100
  5. Multitool ($50), spare tube ($10) , flat repair kit ($3), frame pump ($45), lube ($10) – $118
  6. Rainwear – jacket ($100), pants ($75), gloves ($45), helmet cover ($30) – $250
  7. Pannier, handlebar bag or backpack – $120

Economical – $543

  1. New hybrid bike – $400
  2. Rack ($25), front/rear lights (to be seen, not to light the road, $20) – $45
  3. Helmet – $25
  4. U-lock – $20
  5. Multitool ($10), flat repair kit ($3), frame pump ($10), lube ($5) – $28
  6. Rain poncho w hood – $5
  7. Backpack – $20

Typical bike maintenance is easy enough to learn that many people do it themselves – fixing a flat tire, lubing a chain, adjusting brakes – a web search shows numerous how-to videos that are very instructive. Blogger James Schwartz assumed $50 per year for maintaining a $1500 commuter bike.

Clearly, bike commuting saves a lot of money if you can actually reduce the number of cars you own, since you can buy multiple high quality new bikes and gear every year for much less than the operating costs of even a small sedan. But it is very difficult in the suburbs to go car free, so what if you only have one car? Then the savings will only be based on reduced miles driven, which saves on gas, maintenance, tires and depreciation.

According to the AAA report, the operating costs (gas, maintenance, tires) for a small sedan is 16.3 cents/mile, and 23.8 cents/mile for a SUV. If your commute is 2 miles each way, like mine, then 4 miles roundtrip x  240 working days/year equals 960 miles biked each year.

The 960 mile reduction in driving would save $156.48 (operating costs) plus $33.60 (reduced depreciation), totaling $190.08 for a small sedan, and $228.48 (operating costs) plus $48.96 for (reduced depreciation), totaling $277.44 for an SUV. This is in the range for paying for the annual bike costs, but hardly a killer incentive by itself. It will help if your employer offers you the IRS Bicycle Commuter Tax Benefit – you can be reimbursed up to $240 each year for bike commuting expenses.

Of course you might choose to use the commuter bike for other errands, such as small grocery runs, to the bank, post office, etc. Since only 15% of our trips are for commuting, that leaves a lot of other trips that could be done by bike – e.g. 40% of all trips are 2 miles or less, and if you take the bike/walk trips out of the denominator, 69% of car trips are 2 miles or less.

Of course, you’ll save more in indirect costs, for example if you substitute biking for a gym membership, that could save about $1000/year. And the potential for saving money on health care is huge, since you may be much healthier with regular activity.

Last but perhaps most important, you’ll be saving the world by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, since car exhaust is the single largest contributor in our area to CO2 emissions.


The Walkable City – A Cure for What Ails Us?

13 Feb

So, you want an affordable, good-sized house.  To get it, you have to move far away from the city.  This was the prevailing direction of housing migration in our country for many years, and it is the birth of what is now called the “suburban sprawl”.  But along with the sprawl in the suburbs came the need and the dependence to our cars, and this, according to Jeff Speck, was the beginning of a decline in our health, an economic instability, and significant environmental consequences.

In this TED talk, Jeff Speck is talking about how rethinking the design of our cities (and suburbs) is going to make a difference in the way we live, how the disappearance of the “useful walk” is linked to obesity rate among adults and at an alarming rate among children.

Besides the diabetes, asthma, and heart disease linked to a car-centric lifestyle, he also mentions the fact that many people die in car crashes.   He says that a city designed around cars is “good at smashing them into each other.”

He also talks about one city in America (can you guess which one?) that moved away from that model and how that changed the quality of life of the people living in that city and the advantages of moving away from a car-centric way of life.

He makes a very persuasive argument and I really enjoyed watching this.  I would like to see more people having access to walkable / bikeable places and more complete streets where everyone can share the road while feeling safe at the same time.

This is just a preview; there is a lot more learn in his talk. Hope you enjoy it too!

If you want to tell us what you think or have a commuting story you want to share, please contact us.


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