Archive | August, 2012

Experiments are used to Educate Teens about Air Pollution and Transportation

27 Aug

Last month Greater Mercer TMA spoke with Ocean County teens from Rutgers T.E.E.M Gateway. They learned all about air pollution in New Jersey and how transportation is a major source of this pollution.

Aly Dyson, GMTMA’s environmental education instructor, conducted experiments showing how each person’s daily life adds to air pollution and how individual choices can make a difference. The teens also  learned what an air quality action day is and how weather, specifically temperature inversions, can lead to the bad air quality days that have made New Jersey a nonattainment area for ozone, particulates and other pollutants.

Some of the comments the teens had about the program are:

“I like how you explained things through cool experiments. … The world may be a very polluted place, but if we all work together we can make a difference.” 

“The experiments you did with us were very informative too. The experiment …. to compare the different types of pollution showed me that I alone do have quite an impact on the environment, which I should take steps to reduce!”

The interactive lesson was both educational and fun for everyone involved!  If you would like Greater Mercer TMA to host a program at your school, club or event please contact Aly Dyson at adyson@gmtma.org.

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Safe Routes to School: Case Studies From Around the Nation

14 Aug

In 2009, 50 communities across the country were selected to participate in Communities Putting Prevention to Work , a federal stimulus-funded project that worked at the county-level to increase opportunities for healthy eating and active living through policy, systems and environmental changes. Many of these communities adopted Safe Routes to School as an overall strategy to increase physical activity and spent the duration of the project pursuing opportunities to institutionalize policies, systems and environmental changes that would support walking and bicycling to school and in daily life. The efforts and successes of five of these communities are highlighted in this report published by the Safe Routes to School National Partnership.

The report finds that while communities across the country are on the front lines in the battle against the childhood obesity epidemic, this public health crisis can be solved partly through raised awareness, informed policies, and implementation of targeted programs and practices within school communities. Furthermore, schools are in a prime position to influence the health behaviors of children and adolescents, because no other institution has as much continuous and intensive contact with young people.

The report notes that the funding has had a big impact on increasing physical activity through its SRTS efforts by bringing attention to the important benefits of walking and bicycling to school and in daily life. Lessons learned from the successful projects include:

  1. Build a task force and break down silos. Communities should build a task force made up of all currently relevant and future relevant stakeholders from the department of transportation, parks and recreation, state and local health departments, public works, local council of governments, school districts, nonprofits, religious leaders, local officials, bike-ped groups, etc. Constant communication between groups was key.
  2. Evaluate. The report stresses the importance of walkability audits, student tallies, parent surveys, and larger-scale community assessments in crafting a Community Action Plan.
  3. Create a Community Action Plan. Identify measurable and attainable goals and objectives for your project.
  4. Work with the Media. Each community had a media expert who managed all things realted to common project language as well as print and video materials. This required designing media campaigns as well as working with media outlets and using social media to publicize successes.
  5. Plan for Sustainability. Programs that have continued to thrive planned ahead by identifying strategies to leverage funds to increase impact and synergy between programs and initiatives with their partners.

Interested in starting up a Safe Routes to School program in your community? Greater Mercer TMA is your local Safe Routes to School partner.

New Jersey’s Safe Routes to School (SRTS) is part of a nationwide effort to help solve these problems in the United States, and to make walking and bicycling to school safe and appealing. Greater Mercer TMA is working with schools and communities to help implement SRTS programs to examine conditions around schools and create activities to improve safety and accessibility, reduce traffic and air pollution around schools, and make bicycling and walking to school safer and more appealing, thus encouraging a healthy active lifestyle for kids.

SRTS programs bring a wide range of benefits to students and the community, including:

  • increasing the health, mobility, and independence of school-age children,
  • reducing congestion, air pollution and traffic conflicts around schools,
  • helping students arrive at school ready to learn, and
  • teaching safe pedestrian and bicyclist skills

GMTMA is the New Jersey Department of Transportation’s designated SRTS coordinator for Mercer and Ocean counties. At no cost, GMTMA can help your school and community implement a SRTS program by helping you with the following SRTS elements:

Travel Plans

  • Document existing conditions
  • Identify assets, barriers, goals and actions
  • Outline responsibilities and funding sources

Bike/Walk Events & Education Assistance

  • Walking School Buses
  • Bike Rodeos
  • Assemblies
  • Safety education and “How To” teaching materials

Evaluation and Monitoring

  • Establish baseline of existing conditions
  • Student arrival/departure counts
  • Parent/Caregiver surveys
  • Measure progress and adjust program as needed

SRTS Infrastructure Program

NJDOT offers local governments and schools a grant program for the planning and implementation of pe­destrian and bicycle infrastructure projects near schools. This is a highly competitive program and communities who participate in non-infrastructure programs and activities, such as SRTS Travel Plans, School Wellness programs and school walk/bike activities may receive extra points on their grant applications.

Want to learn more about how GMTMA can help you get an SRTS program started in your community? Contact Rebecca Hersh at rhersh@gmtma.org.

Do You Work at a Smart Workplace?

8 Aug

Is your company a New Jersey Smart Workplace? Do you go the extra mile to help your employees get to work? Do you sponsor programs that help reduce traffic and improve air quality? Do you offer high-quality commuter benefits, such as transit information, traffic alerts, free or low cost bus passes, strong telecommuting programs, carpooling matching, vanpool subsidies, or other services? Do you reward employees who walk or bike to work?

If you provide any of these opportunities, the answer might be yes. And if so, the Greater Mercer TMA encourages you to apply for the New Jersey Smart Workplaces program — click here for the online registration.

New Jersey Smart Workplaces (NJSW) recognizes and honors organizations and individuals who help reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality by providing commuter benefits to employees. 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 voluntary partnership of participating employers, 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.

Smart Workplace winners will receive awards at GMTMA’s Annual Luncheon on Friday October 19th at the Nassau Inn in downtown Princeton.

For more information on the program contact Aly Dyson at adyson@gmtma.org.

See our list of 2011 Awardees.

 

Commuting Games

7 Aug

What do you think about reducing traffic congestion by offering credits for people who travel outside of the main commuting time, and then letting them redeem those credits for a chance to play an online game for cash prizes? That’s the idea a Stanford professor has to relieve traffic, based on the idea that people like incentives more than penalties. Of course, congestion pricing has been in effect in many places for a long time, but that imposes penalties for driving during high-peak times.

What do you think? Would you participate in a program like this to change your driving habits? Maybe it would help with the rush-hour standstill on Route 1!

 

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Morning rush hour traffic on Rt.1 at the Washington St. jughandle in West Windsor, New Jersey on the morning of Wednesday, August 1, 2012. The New Jersey Department of Transportation will start a trial program to ease congestion on Route 1 by restricting left turns and U-turns on Route 1 at Washington Road and Harrison Street in West Windsor, Mercer County. Michael Mancuso/The Times