It’s Walk to School Month!

2 Oct

It’s Walk to School Month! Walk to School Month is a great reason to plan fun and exciting walk to school events in your community. Communities and schools can use Walk 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. Just a few weeks ago the Surgeon General issued a call for action to promote walking and walkable communities, mentioning that walking to school can be a great way for children to get the recommended 60 minutes of activity a day.

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Not able to commit to a whole month? How about just a day?  October 7th is International Walk to School Day which means that instead of taking the bus or being driven by Mom or Dad, you will likely see more students walking to and from school.  Walk to School Day is a global event where communities from over 40 countries walk and bike to school.  Check out all the other schools in NJ and around the country that already committed to walk to school on Oct 7th

Let your student discover that the journey to school can start with their own two feet!  Here’s why that’s a great idea:

  • Get Exercise: Walking is a great opportunity for children to get the physical activity they need.
  • Get Outdoors: Walking and biking to school is a great way to get outside and enjoy the fresh air.
  • Help the Environment: Replacing car trips with walking or bicycling can reduce pollution from emissions, making it easier to breathe.
  • Make Your Community a Better Place: Walking and biking to school helps reduce congestion, especially around schools. Your neighborhood becomes safer, quieter, and friendlier and you get to know your neighbors and your neighborhood.
  • It’s FunMost importantly, walking to school is fun!  It can be a great way for parents to spend more time with their children or for students to start their day off on a high note by having fun with their friends before even getting to school.
  • It’s Good for Children: Walking is a great way to get to school alert and ready to learn.
  • It’s Easy to Organize Parent Led Walks: with our new NJ Walking School Bus App you can   search by elementary school for existing walking groups, create walking groups and 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.

Download the App by October 15th and you will be enter in a drawing for a $100 gift card.

Download the app:



GMTMA offers many other Safe Routes to School programs. To see how GMTMA can help you to make the trip to school safer, healthier and more fun in your community, contact us today at 609-452-1491 or email us at 

NYC, Philadelphia Papal Visit Updates and Resources

23 Sep

The Papal Visit this weekend is expected to have a big impact on traffic in our area. The New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) officials announced yesterday the launch of a special Twitter account – @511NJ_Papal – to keep motorists informed of traffic conditions during the Papal Visit to Philadelphia this weekend, September 26 and 27.

NJDOT Papal visit website capture

NJDOT Papal visit website capture

NJDOT also made available the following information and resources:

“With estimates of a million or more people traveling to Philadelphia to see the Pope this weekend, New Jersey roads are expected to experience heavy congestion. To help motorists make informed decisions on the best routes to choose, NJDOT created the Twitter account @511NJ_Papal that will provide real time traffic updates in the South Jersey area,” NJDOT Commissioner Jamie Fox said. “With the Ben Franklin Bridge closed from Friday night until Monday afternoon, we are reminding people to plan ahead and to avoid unnecessary travel in the area. For more information, visit”

The @511NJ_Papal feed will Tweet real time traffic conditions on all state roads in Mercer, Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, Atlantic and Salem counties to help followers make informed decisions and avoid congestion as best as possible during the Papal visit. It is similar to the 511nj Twitter accounts launched in August, which feature 24/7 real time traffic information for 18 specific state highways.

In addition, subscribers to @511NJ_Papal will get real time information about the Delaware Memorial Bridge, Commodore Barry Bridge, Walt Whitman Bridge, Ben Franklin Bridge, Tacony Palmyra Bridge and the Betsy Ross Bridge.  To subscribe to the account go to:

This Twitter account is one-way automated information feeds from New Jersey’s 511 service and are not consistently monitored by NJDOT. It is provided as a convenience and is not intended for receiving feedback, comments, or event reports.

Motorists can visit the 511NJ Papal Visit page to view a map with real time traffic information, travel times in and around the Philadelphia Region as well as links to other transportation agencies supporting the Pope’s visit. The 511NJ Papal Twitter Feed will be active now through September 30, 2015.

New Jersey law makes it a primary offense for motorists to talk on or text message with a hand-held wireless telephone or electronic communication device while driving.  NJDOT encourages all motorists to make use of these real-time travel alert services safely and responsibly.

Plan Ahead, Use Mass Transit

If you plan to attend any of the festivities in New York or Philadelphia this week, mass transit will be your best option. For information about NJ TRANSIT Service for the Papal Visit to New York or Philadelphia go to

NJ TRANSIT is the best option to get into Philadelphia to attend the events – either on the Atlantic City Rail Line direct to Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station or The River LINE to the Walter Rand Transportation Center where you can transfer to PATCO or walk across the Ben Franklin Bridge. If you plan to take NJ TRANSIT you’ll need to buy your tickets in advance, so don’t delay.

New York

On Friday, September 25 when the Pope is in New York, event-goers should plan their trip ahead of time, arrange to travel off-peak when possible, and purchase round-trip tickets in advance. Large crowds are anticipated along with expected delays and enhanced security measures during this period.

When returning to New Jersey in the evening on September 25, customers should be prepared for longer wait times especially immediately following the Papal Mass at Madison Square Garden. Commuters may want to consider other options such as the PATH or ferry service to Hoboken to connect to NJ TRANSIT trains.

Additional rail service will operate during off-peak to Penn Station New York, as well as enhanced bus service to Port Authority Bus Terminal throughout the day. NJ TRANSIT ambassadors who are knowledgeable about travel information will be on hand to assist customers at major terminals.

[Other Resources: Ticket information, Road closures, and other NYC info

If at all possible, Friday the 25th commuters should try teleworking to avoid getting stuck in traffic. The Pope will be starting his day at the UN at 8:30 and will end the day with a 6:00PM mass at Madison Square Garden. Here is the schedule

Street Closures and NYC Transportation links ]


On Saturday, September 26, and Sunday, September 27, mass transit will be the best option to get into Philadelphia, and you must buy your tickets in advance.

NJ TRANSIT’s Atlantic City Line and Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor service go directly to Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station. You may also take NJ TRANSIT’s River LINE from Trenton to Camden and transfer to PATCO.

Special tickets are available for people planning to ride the Atlantic City Rail Line and River LINE as the lines will operate on a limited schedule only on both days. Customers need to purchase their tickets in advance of this weekend.

You can buy tickets online at, at any River LINE station for River LINE tickets, or at Atlantic City Rail and Bus terminals for Atlantic City Rail Line tickets.

If you plan to drive, expect heavy congestion and delays. Camden County has made 8,500 parking spaces available for September 26 and 27 at the Camden Waterfront. These spaces need to be preregistered in order to secure a space.

For more information and links to other transportation and Papal Visit web sites, go to

[Other resources:

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NJDOT also recommends downloading SAFETRIPNJ APP which will allow you receive hands-free alerts while you are driving  the

 The Pope will be giving a mass at Madison Square Garden on Friday, September 25th, 6:00pm. For all of you commuting to NY on Friday, this is a good time to  try telecommuting. 

We will be posting updates as we get them, on our Facebook and Twitter accounts throughout the weekend.  

New Bus Service to Mercer County Community College

18 Sep

Starting this Fall, students attending the Mercer County Community College in West Windsor have a new transportation option to get to campus – connecting bus service to and from Quaker Bridge Mall. A year ago, mentors from the College met with the Princeton Public Transportation Committee to discuss transportation issues and how the group could help. After ruling out extending the freeB bus service to the College, Greater Mercer TMA developed a plan that recommended using Quaker Bridge Mall as a connection point since a number of NJ TRANSIT bus routes serves the Mall. By making connections between buses as Quaker Bridge Mall, students commuting from Princeton can save an hour travel time each way.

Besides serving residents in the Princeton area that ride the 605, the new MCCC bus makes connections with the following NJ TRANSIT bus routes and communities:
600 – Plainsboro, West Windsor, Princeton Junction, Lawrence, Trenton;
603/613 – Lawrence, West Windsor, Trenton, Hamilton;
609/619 – Ewing, Trenton, Hamilton, Lawrence; and
612 – West Windsor, Princeton Junction, Lawrence (service is limited).

It was also noted that there are also a number of apartment complexes in the immediate area whose residents may benefit from the bus service.
Greater Mercer TMA staff had the opportunity to meet with students on September 10th, and received positive feedback of the new service. “It is extremely rewarding to know we were able to assist the students by proposing the connection at Quaker Bridge Mall.  Access to education is vitally important,” said Cheryl Kastrenakes GMTMA Executive Director.

The new MCCC bus operates Monday – Friday and is free. At this time only students attending MCCC can ride the bus. Details available at

Greater Mercer TMA has prepared information on connections to and from the MCCC bus and NJ TRANSIT buses. Kastrenakes, encouraged students to call the TMA for route planning assistance, “we have the resources to help students plan their bus trips. They can call our customer service office or send an email to with their schedule and home address for us to prepare a personalized transportation itinerary for them.”

Step it Up

11 Sep

The US Surgeon General issued a Call to Action this week, asking Americans to #StepitUp and  start walking more.

This Call to Action is needed and is well timed to coincide with Childhood Obesity Awareness Month and Healthy Aging Month …and coincidentally with the launch of GMTMA’s walk to school smarthphone app.


According to the Surgeon General, “one out of every two U.S. adults is living with a chronic disease, such as heart disease, cancer, or diabetes.” states that one in three children in the U.S is overweight or obese and at risk of heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure.  All of these health issues can be prevented with regular activity, but many adults and many children do not meet the guidelines for daily physical activity.

The most popular form of physical activity is walking and it can be done with a purpose, such as getting to work, to the train station, running errands, or walking to school.

Walking has many benefits for your health and your community.   More walkers improve safety in your neighborhood, slow down traffic, reduce pollution, and encourage social interaction.  Walkable communities are making it easier for older adults to age in place, and for young children to walk to school.

So what can be done to improve walkability in your community?  And how can GMTMA help?

  1. Make it easier for students to walk to from school, and one of the report’s recommendations is to “Implement Safe Routes to School or similar walk-to-school programs.”

GMTMA’s  Safe Routes to School coordinators can implement walk-to-school programs, and we have recently launched a free app to help busy parents set up walking groups to school.  We can also do walkability audits, school travel plans and assist with infrastructure grants. Just call us, we are happy to help.

  1. The report also recommends implementing work programs and policies that promote walking. Employers around Mercer and Ocean counties, your TMA can help with that, just call us. Employers that work with us and implement programs and policies to promote walking, biking, carpooling, and reducing congestion and pollution, get recognition with the New Jersey Smart Workplaces award. Check out our current awardees.

These are just a couple of the recommendations found in the Surgeon General’s Call to Action, which is available here.

Bottom line, we have to start doing something about our health and the health of our communities and walking is a good start. Start walking,  get to know the people in your community, start the conversation, talk about changes that can be made to improve walkability, and who knows, next step could be walking or biking to work.

And as usual if you have any questions or comments, or you want to be a guest blogger, please contact us.

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  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.


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

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 Sign Up for Walk and Bike to School Day 2014 while you’re at it!

Safety Tips Source: American Academy of Pediatrics

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

14 Aug


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 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.


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