Archive | January, 2011

Want to See a Bike Event in West Windsor?

26 Jan

If you live in West Windsor, or even nearby, go to the West Windsor Bicycle and Pedestrian Alliance blog and read their good ideas for different types of bike/ped events, and let them know which type of event you’d like to see the most!

Pay-As-You-Go Insurance: An Idea Whose Time Has Come?

26 Jan

Right now, car insurance generally costs the same per year no matter how many miles you put on your car. But what if you could purchase car insurance that gave you some control over your annual insurance bill? “Pay as you go” car insurance, which charges people by the mile, could save a lot of people a lot of money. At the same time, it could reduce traffic congestion and air pollution.

According to a 2008 Brookings Institution report [PDF], if all drivers in the U.S. paid for insurance by the mile, total driving would drop by eight percent. In New Jersey, they estimated it could provide an 13.5 percent reduction in driving.

Low-mileage drivers tend to subsidize high-mileage drivers, because people who drive more also tend to crash more and cost the insurance companies more. With pay-as-you-drive, insurers could lure away the low-cost drivers with lower rates, a win-win for both those groups.

And because of the uneven distribution of miles driven, two-thirds of drivers nationwide would save money under a pay-as-you-drive system, according to the Brookings report. Since lower-income drivers tend to drive shorter distances already, the distributive effect of the policy is also progressive, according to Brookings.

One reason pay-as-you-drive hasn’t been popular in the past is because until recently, it has been difficult to accurately track how far people drove. However, with both tamper-proof electronic odometers and GPS devices, measurement isn’t a big obstacle anymore.

Pay-as-you-drive is slowly spreading. In New York, Progressive insurance offers a form of it, according to the New York Post. California is also taking a lead on the issue, and Massachusetts just announced it was going to push pay-as-you-drive as part of a major climate initiative. Is New Jersey next?

Car-Free Families

26 Jan

If you could walk, bike, or take transit to most of your destinations in life, would you give up your car? Some cities in New Jersey, such as Hoboken, are using smart planning and policy initiatives to encourage people to do just that. With the ongoing recession and increasing environmental concerns, some believe that we will start seeing more families go down to a single car or give up auto ownership altogether in the coming years.

Revitalized cities, retrofitted suburbs, and the movement towards 20-minute neighborhoods will be key to making life without a car not just possible but desirable.

On the Move readers, do you live in a community where you could be car-free, at least part of the time? What do you think is the most car-free area in the Mercer and Ocean County region? Is being car-free a goal that you care about?

Dinky Debate Continues

19 Jan

As we touched upon in our December post, whether or not the Dinky station stop is relocated is currently a hot topic of debate in the greater Princeton area. Princeton University wants to move the station 460 feet farther from town in order to make space for its proposed arts and transit neighborhood.

At a meeting last week, the nonprofit planning group Princeton Future weighed in on the plans with another proposal, courtesy of Jim Constantine of the architecture and planning firm Loony Ricks Kiss. The plan offers strong support for the development of Princeton University’s arts district, but does so with a multi-stop light rail line that would offer some stops closer to town than the current Dinky station. The proposed plan, which is an attempt to allow the University to build its arts campus while simultaneously enhancing the Dinky service for the community, can be seen on Princeton Future’s website, here and here.

The original Dinky station was located one-quarter mile closer to the center of town than its current location; the Dinky was relocated to its current spot farther from town during previous campus expansions. At last week’s meeting, Mr. Constantine noted that if the university goes forward with its plan to build a building on top of the right-of-way of the current train line, the University will forever preclude any possibility of the Dinky being extended closer to town. In addition to saving the Dinky at its present location and making modest improvements to the station, the Princeton Future plan suggests:

  • Creating one new at-grade crossing near Lot 7 and Baker Rink, in order to satisfy the Universityʼs need for an additional east-west circulation route servicing the campus
  • Realign the tracks slightly through the proposed arts campus so as not to lose any of the space for the University’s proposed buildings
  • Switching to state-of-the-art in-town rail technology to allow: the removal of dangerous overhead catenary structures along the line; the Dinky to pass through the Arts campus in a safe shared transit plaza similar to those found throughout Europe; the extension of the Dinky as a streetcar running up University Place to Nassau Street where it could be easily accessed from the center of town; station stops at several places along the Alexander Street-University Place corridor that would diffuse the parking and drop-off/pick-up pressure that results from having only a single station with limited accessibility.

The 40 invited attendees also heard a presentation about the benefits of light rail from Jack May of the New Jersey Association of Railroad Passengers, who also said that the Dinky could be improved with increased frequency to meet more NJ Transit and Amtrak trains at the main line in West Windsor with less waiting and timetable reviews.

The discussion will continue with a joint meeting of the Borough Council, Township Committee, the Planning Board and the public on Jan. 31 in the Princeton Township Municipal Complex at 7 p.m.

On the Move readers, what do you think of the Princeton Future plan?

Encouraging Telecommuting

17 Jan

According to the newest American Community Survey data, just over 2% of the U.S. employee workforce (2.8 million people, not including the self-employed or unpaid volunteers) considers home their primary place of work.

Estimates of how many people telecommute and how often they do vary, but it is estimated that 20 to 30 million people currently work from home at least one day a week. 15 to 20 million are road warriors / mobile workers; 10 to 15 million are home businesses; 15 to 20 million work at home part time (with about half doing so 1-2 days a week; and about 3 million are based at home full time (including self-employed). (Telework Research Network) The number of Americans who worked from home or remotely at least one day per month for their employer increased from approximately 12.4 million in 2006 to 17.2 million in 2008 — a 39% 2-year increase and 74% increase since 2005. (WorldatWork Telework Trendlines 2009)

According to a recent Grist article, Nicole Belson Goluboff, a lawyer who writes frequently on telecommuting, has a number of proposals that would promote working from home, including tax breaks for workers and employees. One of her proposals would require states to promote telework in order to qualify for transportation infrastructure funding. She writes in New Geography:

By reducing the demand for roads and mass transit, telecommuting minimizes the cost of repair, maintenance and expansion of such infrastructure. Before the federal government subsidizes state and local transportation investments, the funding recipients should be compelled to mitigate costs by promoting telework.

The Telework Research Network estimates that if 40 percent of the American work force worked from home half the time, it could save the country’s businesses $700 billion annually — and result in a 50 million ton reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. It could also mean 1,500 fewer traffic deaths each year.

What do you think, On the Move readers? Do you ever telecommute, and if so, how often?

NJDOT Releases New Bicycling Manual

17 Jan

The long-awaited “New Jersey Bicycling Manual” has been released online! The publication, developed under the auspices of and with the assistance of members of the Safety Education Committee of the New Jersey Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee (with members representing Bike New York, Hohne Consulting, Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center, New Jersey Department of Transportation, and The RBA Group.), is available on NJDOT’s website (the Department’s budget constraints made it impossible to print physical copies).

The manual’s purpose is to provide cyclists with the information necessary to ride safely on New Jersey’s roads with other traffic, whether for recreation or transportation. As noted in the introduction, the manual “is intended for those who have a basic understanding of how traffic operates on our roadways, the ability to understand traffic control devices and the ability to control their bikes. Understanding the information contained in the manual and practicing bike riding skills will enable you to ride with competence and confidence.” The manual includes chapters on selecting, fitting, and equipping a bicycle; maintenance checks; traffic basics; how to share the road with other vehicles and pedestrians; parking a bicycle; riding at night and in inclement weather; New Jersey bicycling laws and roadway restrictions; and traffic signals, signs, and road markings.

The WalkBikeJersey Blog review gives the manual a B+ because of a lack of information on how bicyclists and motorists are to use and treat bicycle lanes and shared lane markings, and because there is no discussion of bicycle routes. Regardless, the manual is a useful and well-crafted resource that should be read by all roadway users in New Jersey — cyclists, pedestrians, and automobile drivers alike.

Bike License Plate Proposal Withdrawn

14 Jan

Just last week, citing senior citizens terrified of reckless bicycle riders with no accountability, Democratic Assemblywoman Cleopatra Tucker of Newark proposed bill A-3657, legislation that would require all cyclists—even children with training wheels—to register their bikes with the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) and attach license plates to the back.

The bill, which was hastily withdrawn today, called for bike registration to be $10 per bike, and would have required the bike owner to provide to the DMV: The year of manufacture, make, model, color, and unladen weight of the bicycle; the serial number; the name, street address, and age of the owner of the bicycle; the amount of New Jersey sales tax paid when the bicycle was purchased; the month, day and year of purchase; and any other information required by the chief administrator. Anyone caught riding an unregistered bicycle on public property would have faced a fine of up to $100 for each offense.

Cycling advocates were vocally opposed to the bill. Aja Hazelhoff, a bicycle advocate at Transportation Alternatives, told The Gothamist that the group is “adamantly opposed to any legislation that would require licensing or registration of bicycles. Not only would this be fiscally and operationally impossible to implement, but the deterrent effect it would have on cycling would be enormous. We already have every law we need to make cycling safe in NYC, and what’s needed is simply better, more targeted enforcement of these pre-existing laws.”

“That’s an outrage, for sure,” Paige Hiemier, vice-president of the New Jersey Bike & Walk Coalition, told www.nj.com. “Basically, it’s outrageous for a number of reasons, and most of them are: Who is the legislation aimed at? Who’s going to administer it? How are they going to pay for it? Who’s going to stop the bicyclists and check their registration?”

But after much media coverage and public outcry, Assemblywoman Tucker changed her mind.

“My intention was never to impose a burden or additional costs,” Tucker said in a statement. “My goal was to at least begin a discussion of how best to protect elderly pedestrians. No idea is perfect, but protecting elderly pedestrians deserves attention.”