Archive | December, 2010

NJ Leads the Way in Climate-Friendly Transportation Policy

30 Dec

New Jersey Future highlights a new study released this month by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Smart Growth America (SGA), titled “Getting Back on Track: Climate Change and State Transportation Policy,” which ranks New Jersey second only to Maryland for its statewide transportation policies and ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The report, which can be found at SmartGrowthAmerica.org, examines transportation spending decisions and policies in all 50 states to determine what impact state decisions have on carbon emission rates. New Jersey’s high ranking was largely thanks to its smart growth policies, its regional planning and land conservation initiatives, its statewide transit system, and its policies that encourage transit-oriented development.

However, as New Jersey Future notes, the future of many of the policies and plans praised in the report are currently in question, and New Jersey risks losing ground. “For example, the state has made little effort to pursue the greenhouse gas reduction goals laid out by the Legislature in the Global Warming Response Act, passed in 2007,” said NJ Future Executive Director Pete Kasabach. “In addition, the status of the State Plan, which received praise in the study, is in limbo at the moment as the state figures out what role the Office of Planning Advocacy (formerly the Office of Smart Growth) should play in the new administration.”

The report acknowledges these issues, noting that in spite of its policy efforts, New Jersey’s outcomes on the ground have been less than stellar; the state has seen much of its rural lands developed over the past 30 years, and ranks above the national median for land development in relation to population growth.

State transportation policy has the potential to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions while also meeting our mobility needs. This report offers an important look at what states are doing right, and where improvement must be made to achieve sustainable growth.

New Streetcar Brings Gentrification Fears to Lego City

29 Dec

We imagine that many of you are busy digging out not only from the snow, but from the mountains of Legos that Santa and Hanukkah Harry brought for your kids. So here’s a little land use Lego humor to brighten your day: New Streetcar Brings Gentrification Fears to Lego City

To Move the Dinky or Not Move the Dinky? That is the Question

28 Dec

The debate over whether or not to move the Dinky station rages on, with Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-15) and the Trenton Times coming out recently in opposition to the move.

At the root of the issue is Princeton University’s plan to develop an arts and transit district around McCarter Theater and the current location of the Dinky station. In its present form, the $400 million arts center proposal for the western edge of the Princeton campus calls for moving the Dinky 460 feet south. The University promises a new station with better services and easier accessibility.

The commissioner of the state Department of Transportation has recently expressed support for the proposal. But many community members are up in arms over the proposal to move the station farther from the center of town.

Opened in 1863, the Dinky, or PJ&B (Princeton Junction and back), travels a four-minute, 2.7-mile stretch of track between Princeton Junction and Princeton – the shortest regularly scheduled commuter rail trip in the United States. The train is arguably the most storied and idiosyncratic pieces of the NJ Transit network.

Assemblyman Gusciora asked why the arts district couldn’t be built around the Dinky station. Directing the dilemma to “some of the brightest minds in the world — the students and professors at Princeton University,” Assemblyman Gusciora said that he is “confident (they) can figure out some plan to incorporate the existing Dinky station into the arts center without an unnecessary move.”

As the Trenton times noted, “It’s an idea well worth considering as plans for the university’s expansion solidify and the Regional Planning Board of Princeton has called on NJ Transit to continue and improve the Dinky rail service.”

Assemblyman Gusciora and the Trenton Times wonder why improving the Dinky and building the arts district are linked. “There shouldn’t be a threat to improving the much beloved Dinky station if the arts proposal doesn’t go through as it is now proposed,” Gusciora said.

Yet James Simpson, the head of the Transportation Department, has said the arts center proposal and the improvements to the Dinky station are inextricably linked. And university officials have reiterated that the Dinky must be moved for their overall plan for the arts and transit neighborhood to work.

The Regional Planning Board of Princeton also expressed its unanimous support for the Dinky at its December 15 meeting, voting in favor of continued and improved rail service between Princeton and Princeton Junction.  However, the board did not take a specific position on where the Dinky station in downtown Princeton should be located. The board’s resolution states that “because the location of the Dinky station is of concern to the Princeton community, all aspects of the current location should be weighed against any proposed changes at duly noticed public meetings before any conclusion is reached.”

Next month, Princeton Township and Borough officials will hold a public meeting where university officials will discuss plans for the arts neighborhood. Planning board members will also be invited.

On the Move readers, what do you think about moving the Dinky? We want to hear from you!

Are New York City’s Bike Lanes Effective?

27 Dec

New York City’s bicycle network, which has been growing by leaps and bounds in recent years under Mayor Bloomberg and his transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Kahn, has caused increasing debate both for and against the lanes, culminating at a recent City Council meeting where Brooklyn borough president Marty Markowitz sang a self-written song about bicycle lanes to the tune of a popular selection from “The Sound of Music”: “These are a few of my favorite lanes.”

In a recent edition of the New York Times’ “Room for Debate” discussion forum, the city’s ambitious cycling network plan is discussed.

  • Alex Marshall thinks that the legal relationship between pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers must be changed in order to get more cyclists using those new bike lanes and out onto city streets in general. “If drivers knew their insurance companies would raise their rates or cancel their policies if they hit a cyclist or pedestrian, they would be more cautious when turning onto a crosswalk or opening a car door. Right now, more people don’t bicycle because it’s simply still too dangerous, even with bike lanes. From my studies of the Netherlands and other bike-saturated places, it is the proper arrangement of these legal lines that is even more important than the painted lines on the streets marking a bike lane.”
  • Felix Salmon urges patience before the public jumps to criticize the young bicycle infrastructure: “Did these people really think that New York would become Copenhagen overnight? The fact is that changing the fast-paced culture of New York is going to take time. As more people start making use of bike lanes, the average speed of cyclists is going to slow down, cycling is going to become safer, and both drivers and pedestrians are going to be more aware of the cyclists with whom they are increasingly sharing precious macadam. We just need to have a bit of patience.”
  • Robert Sullivan concludes that since using logic — such as pointing out that bicycle injuries have declined since the bike lanes were built — doesn’t seem to work with the bike lane critics,  he takes a sarcastic approach and pretend to agree with the bike lane detractors: “We need to get those jerks off of bikes and put back in automobiles where they belong.”
  • Sam Staley is the most negative of the debaters, arguing that bike networks represent concentrated, subsidized benefits for a small portion of the commuting public: “Getting bike acceptance levels up to those of models like Amsterdam and Copenhagen takes more than striping lanes. It takes a focused anti-car policy that dramatically increases the costs of using automobiles.”
  • Caroline Samponaro provides some basic numbers that highlight the success of the city’s bike lanes: “Since the city added 250 miles of bike lanes in the last four years, New Yorkers have voted with their pedals. During that same four-year period, daily cycling counts have more than doubled. It’s this growth — cycling is up 109 percent since 2006 — that lets us know how effectively bike lanes make for more bicyclists.”

What do you think? In Mercer and Ocean counties, where should bike lanes be built to maximize bike usage, particularly for commuting purposes?

Travel Alerts as of 11:00 a.m.

27 Dec

NJ TRANSIT service status as of 11:00 a.m. Monday, December 27:

  • Rail service is operating on all lines.  Trains are operating on an enhanced weekend schedule on all lines except the Atlantic City Rail Line. Visit njtransit.com for schedule details. Atlantic City Rail Line service will follow a regular weekday schedule. Service on NJ TRANSIT rail lines is subject to 15-minute delays due to weather conditions.
  • Hudson-Bergen Light Rail service remains suspended systemwide due to weather-related operating conditions.
  • Bus service remains suspended systemwide until further notice. There is currently no estimate on when bus service may be restored.
  • Newark Light Rail is operating on a modified schedule with trains every 20-30 minutes.  There is no Newark Light Rail service at Newark Broad Street Station.  Service is operating between Atlantic Street and Newark Penn Statoin, and between Grove Street and Newark Penn Station.
  • River Line is suspended between Walter Rand Transportation Center and Waterfront Entertainment Center stations due to snow accumulation. Service is operating normally between Walter Rand Transportation Center and Trenton.
  • Access Link paratransit service is suspended on Monday, December 27.  Access Link service will resume trips for customers where roadways are cleared beginning at noon tomorrow.

Travel Alerts as of 8:40 a.m.

27 Dec

Stay safe out there today, folks. Don’t drive unless you have to.

If you need to ride NJ TRANSIT, here is their service status as of 8:40 a.m.:

  • North Jersey Coast Line service will be restored with the 9:05 a.m. departure from Long Branch and the 9:07 a.m. departure from New York.
  • Rail service is operating on an enhanced weekend schedule on all other lines except the Atlantic City Rail Line. Visit njtransit.com for schedule details. Atlantic City Rail Line service will follow a regular weekday schedule.  Service on NJ TRANSIT rail lines is subject to 15-30 minute delays due to weather conditions. Click here for up-to-the-minute rail service information
  • Hudson-Bergen Light Rail service is suspended systemwide due to weather-related operating conditions.
  • Bus service remains suspended systemwide until further notice. There is currently no estimate on when bus service may be restored.
  • Newark Light Rail is operating on a modified schedule with trains every 20-30 minutes.
  • River Line is suspended between Walter Rand Transportation Center and Waterfront Entertainment Center stations due to snow accumulation. Service is operating normally between Walter Rand Transportation Center and Trenton.
  • Access Link paratransit service is suspended on Monday, December 27.

Happy Holidays from the Greater Mercer TMA!

24 Dec