Archive | September, 2012

October is Walk and Bike to School Month!

25 Sep

Fall is in the air! Doesn’t it make you want to get outside and go for a walk in this crisp cool sunny air? You’re in luck. October is International Walk and Bike to School Month. Walk and Bike to School Month gives children, parents, teachers and community leaders an opportunity to be part of a global event as they celebrate the many benefits of walking and bicycling.

Why Walk or Bike to School?

Walking and biking is a great way to get to school. Using their feet or a bicycle can make students stronger and healthier, and give them more independence. Walking and biking can have positive effects on your life, your community, and the world. Here are some reasons to walk or bicycle to school:

  • Get Exercise: Walking and biking to school is a great opportunity for children (and adults!) to get the physical activity they need.
  • Get Outdoors: Walking and biking to school is a great way to get outside and enjoy New Jersey’s fabulous Fall weather!
  • Help the Environment: Replacing car trips with walking or bicycling can reduce emissions, making the air cleaner and letting your community breathe easier.
  • Make Your Community a Better Place: Walking and biking to school can help reduce congestion. More people out on their bikes or walking, and fewer people in cars helps make your neighborhood safer, quieter, and friendlier. Get to know your neighbors and your neighborhood on a bike or on foot.
  • It’s FunMost importantly, walking and biking 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

How to get Started

The best way to get started with planning Walk and Bike to School Month activities is to contact Greater Mercer TMA. Here at GMTMA we are ready, willing and able to offer advice and assistance with kicking off programs in communities all over Ocean and Mercer County. Contact us today at 609-452-1491 or email us at dmarkgraf@gmtma.org. 

Keep the Fun Coming!

Walk and Bike to School month is a great time to plan fun and exciting walk and bike to school events in your community, but why stop there? Communities and schools can use Walk and Bike to School Month as a kick-off toward changing community culture and creating better options for getting around that are safer, healthier, and more inviting for everyone, both young and old.  Greater Mercer TMA can not only help with walk and bike to school events, but can also assist you with:

  • walking school bus programs,
  • youth bicycle and pedestrian education,
  • school travel plans,
  • surveys that provide evaluation and feedback on local programs,
  • a variety of other exciting programming.

To see how GMTMA can help you to make the trip school safer, healthier and more fun in your community, contact us today at 609-452-1491 or email us at dmarkgraf@gmtma.org. 

Advertisements

Some Safe Routes to School Funding Opportunities

12 Sep

The New Jersey Safe Routes to School Resource Center recently brought to our attention two funding opportunities that might be of interest to any communities or schools looking to improve the health of their children by increasing physical activity.

UnitedHealth HEROES Service-Learning Grants
UnitedHealthcare
Deadline: October 15, 2012
UnitedHealthcare, a major US health insurer, is collaborating with Youth Service America to invite schools and other community-based nonprofit organizations to Step into Service by applying for UnitedHealth HEROES grants. The purpose of this funding is to support youth-led service-learning projects  that aim to combat childhood obesity through walking, running or hiking programs. Multiple grants of $1,000 are available to select applicants. Youth-led service-learning projects that include an activity element where young people can count their steps, such as walking, running or hiking, as well as a service component which provides direct service, enables advocacy on behalf of a cause, or features youth philanthropy, are eligible for application. Please contact Youth Service America for more information and to apply for this funding: http://www.ysa.org/HEROES

Local Giving Program
The Walmart Foundation
Deadline: December 1, 2012
The Wal-Mart Foundation supports programs and initiatives addressing education, workforce development, economic sustainability, and health and wellness. Health and Wellness  examples include programs that support nutrition and active lifestyles, educating people of all ages about their health, preventing and managing chronic disease. Multiple awards ranging from $250-5,000 are available for select applicants. Nonprofit organizations, K-12 schools, church or faith based organizations, and government entities are eligible to apply. Please contact The Walmart Foundation for more information and to apply for this funding: http://foundation.walmart.com/apply-for-grants/local-giving

Interested in this funding, but don’t know where to start? Greater Mercer TMA can help. Greater Mercer TMA has partnered with the New Jersey Department of Transportation to implement the statewide SRTS program in schools throughout Mercer and Ocean counties. GMTMA is here to work with your school and town on a wide variety of SRTS programs.  Safe Routes to School (SRTS) is a federal, state and local effort to enable and encourage children, including those with disabilities, to walk and bicycle to school. SRTS facilitates the planning, development and implementation of projects that improve safety and air quality, as well as reduce traffic and fuel consumption around schools. The goals of the SRTS program are to encourage more students to walk and bike to school where it is safe to do so and to improve the areas where it is not safe.

For additional information on SRTS programs, email Rebecca Hersh at rhersh@gmtma.org.

GMTMA Chosen to Participate in 2012-2013 Job Access Mobility Institute

11 Sep

The Joblinks Employment Transportation Center, a program of the Community Transportation Association of America, recently selected seven community teams to participate in its 2012-2013 Job Access Mobility Institute — and Greater Mercer TMA was one of the seven selected to participate in the Institute’s inaugural class!

The Job Access Mobility Institute is comprised of these seven teams from around the country who are developing transportation solutions to overcome a employment-related mobility issues in their area. Greater Mercer TMA pulled together a team of local organizations to work on issues facing the Route 130 corridor and its surrounding warehouse district in Mercer County.

The team will be headed by GMTMA but comprised of key members from throughout the community, including the Mercer County Planning Department; the Mercer Regional Chamber of Commerce and Robbinsville Township (who will each lend economic development specialists to the cause); social service organization Rise of Hightstown; and Mercer County Community College will lend its workforce development expertise. The wide range of backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives of the group members combined with each organization’s strong history of collaborative solution-oriented work will make for an exceptional Institute team.   

According to the press release, “teams were chosen based on their commitment and readiness to engage in an innovative design approach to solving an identified job access mobility issue in their community. The winners emerged from a competitive field of applications.”

Over the next several months, the seven teams will:

• Undertake community research on job access issues
• Apply their research in choosing a priority job access need
• Convene a one-day workshop to engage the broader community in the team’s efforts
• Attend the 3.5-day Job Access Mobility Summit (November 27-30, 2012) in Arlington, Virginia. During this summit, teams will attend learning forums and, as teams, brainstorm solutions and create an action plan for implementing them.
• Return home to field test and implement their project

GMTMA has worked on employment transportation solutions since its inception in 1984 and has more recently begun to address the personal mobility issues facing Mercer County’s residents — specifically, the transportation issues faced by the county’s traditionally transportation-disadvantaged populations.  With its upcoming Institute work and previously awarded FTA New Freedom Grant, the TMA is excited to keep innovating in the emerging field of mobility management. 

Learn more about the Joblinks Employment Transportation Center at http://www.solutionstogetthere.org.

What I Did on Summer Vacation

5 Sep

We’ve again come to that time of year when the days become a little shorter, football takes its rightful place as King of the Weekend, and yellow school buses come out of hibernation to make our morning commutes just a little more terrible. It is this time of year that boys and girls, fresh faced, cheery eyed, and eager to learn, go back to school. And before they begin any structured learning, perhaps before they do anything else, they take part in a ritual as old as the institution itself, that cherished ice-breaker we remember so well – telling their new classmates what they did over the summer. Who went to soccer camp? Who went on vacation? Who had to get their tonsils out?

I’m going to share with you what I did this summer, and really this spring too (at least, part of what I did.) I worked on a survey for GMTMA to identify both the needs of and issues facing the traditionally transportation-disadvantaged, specifically, people of low-income, disability, or advanced age. For those of you familiar with surveying, you know it is a difficult process, or more accurately, a difficult process of other difficult processes. At the TMA, we designed, distributed, collected, and analyzed this survey over a period of months. Though we took careful measures to create an instrument easy enough to be completed without assistance and short enough to be completed in ten minutes, in many instances, I personally administered the survey, question-by-question. But surveying, although complex, time consuming, and fraught with pitfalls, is necessary, particularly in this line of work. Surveying is a crucial part of communicating with the people we are trying to assist. It is a means of learning, of becoming insightful and empathetic; by asking someone to describe their experience, we become wiser and the decisions we make, more effective. So this summer I surveyed.

I learned a lot by sitting with people and asking them about their world as it relates to transportation. Where do you like to go? Where would you want to go if you could? Why can’t you get there now? In truth, a lot of people didn’t know how to answer these questions or had to be prompted in different ways before the answer became clear. Some people didn’t want to respond at all. But in the end, 557 people took the time to answer my questions. I have 557 glimpses into these people’s world, a world where, for most of them, lack of transportation has put them at a disadvantage.

But I also have 557 opportunities, 557 assistants, 557 reasons to find a better way. I have 557 reminders that people need help doing things you and I take for granted every day. I know things that maybe I already thought before, things that a lot of people might consider elementary. But really, until you hear it and you are forced to think about it and you realize what it means, I don’t think you really know it.

I know that a bus does no good if it stops coming five hours before a shift ends. I know that the only thing stopping a potential hire from becoming a recent hire is often a 10-minute car ride, which might nonetheless be an impossibility. I know that there are people out there who thank their lucky stars that their daughter lives close enough to take them to the senior center a couple times a week, lest they never have a chance to see their friends. And I know there are people out there who have resigned themselves to a world where thoughts of leading a spontaneous life have all but passed.

I know that people need to get where they’re going, otherwise they never end up there.

Right now, I’m still working on this survey, creating the report that will help guide the TMA through its mobility management endeavors and hopefully, into some impactful projects that will help change people’s lives for the better. Though the end is nigh and I’m honestly glad for it, I’m equally glad for the experience of it. I encourage transportation planners, mobility managers, service providers, and anyone else who makes decisions about community transportation to talk to the people whom you wish to help and listen to them, as well. The work we do can only be made better by doing so.

You need to have patience while driving as the first week of school begins.

4 Sep

Many schools in New Jersey are starting up again this week. This means you will see more kids outside walking, biking and waiting for the school bus. It also means that during your commute you are likely to get stuck behind a school bus either picking up or dropping off kids. This time of year requires a little extra patience and vigilance while driving, walking, and biking to prevent accidents. Below is a list of safety tips for drivers, children, and parents. Please be careful out there.

Drivers 

  • Obey the speed limit especially in school zones.
  • Look out for children who are walking, bicycling, or waiting for the bus.
  • Be alert — children who are late for the bus may dart into the street without paying attention to traffic.
  • Drivers should not block a cross walk at any time.
  • Stop for pedestrians in a crosswalk, it’s the law.
  • Obey school bus traffic laws:
    • Yellow lights will begin to flash to warn drivers that a bus is approaching a stop. This is your signal to slow down and prepare to stop.
    • Flashing red lights mean you must stop at least 25 feet away from the bus. If you are driving on the opposite side of the road with a median in the middle, you must then slow down to 10 mph.
    • Penalties for passing a stopped school bus include fines and up to five points on a driver’s license.

Children

  • Get to the bus stop at least five minutes before the bus is scheduled to arrive.
  • When the bus approaches, stand at least three giant steps (6 feet) away from the curb and line up away from the street. Also, wait for the bus to arrive before you approach it.
  • Always wear a helmet when riding your bike to school, and follow traffic safety rules.
  • If you walk to school, learn and practice the safety rules for pedestrians. It’s extremely important that you use sidewalks and crosswalks if available.
  • Look left, right and left again before crossing the street, and keep looking and listening while crossing
  • Obey all traffic signs, traffic signals, and crossing guard instructions.
  • Don’t listen to headphones when walking or biking, you can’t hear vehicles approaching.
  • Try to walk with a family member, neighbors, or other students in large groups.
  • Do not walk, run, or ride your bicycle down railroad tracks. It’s illegal and dangerous.

Parents

  • Provide your child with bright clothing so that motorists can see them.
  • Teach your children to obey all traffic and pedestrian laws.
  • Be sure your child walks to and from school with a sibling, friend or neighbor.
  • Make sure your child’s walk to school is a safe route with well-trained adult crossing guards at every intersection.
  • Find out your child’s school’s drop-off and pickup procedures and stick to them.