Archive | November, 2012

Thanksgiving Transit Tips

21 Nov

Riding transit is always a good option to try, especially for these traffic-ridden holidays such as Thanksgiving. As NJ TRANSIT continues its storm-recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the agency will offer nearly normal Thanksgiving service levels on most lines to ensure customers’ travel plans go smoothly over the holiday weekend. Due to residual storm impacts, Gladstone Branch rail service remains suspended until further notice, and Newark Light Rail will continue to operate on a modified schedule between Newark Penn and Broad Street stations (service every half hour).  In addition, North Jersey Coast Line service will experience delays of up to 15 minutes between Long Branch and Woodbridge stations over the holiday weekend.  Most inbound (to Newark/New York) North Jersey Coast Line trains will depart stations five minutes earlier between Long Branch and Woodbridge.  For post-hurricane service updates, click here.

On Wednesday, November 21, trains will operate on a modified weekday schedule on all lines (except Gladstone Branch, which remains suspended until further notice).  Click here for detailed schedules.  Additional “early getaway” service will operate from New York Penn Station, Newark Penn Station and Hoboken Terminal starting at 1 p.m. on the Northeast Corridor, North Jersey Coast (to Long Branch only), Raritan Valley, Morris & Essex (from New York only), Pascack Valley (modified getaway service) and Port Jervis lines.

Light rail service will operate as follows:

  • Hudson-Bergen Light Rail will operate on a weekday schedule
  • River Line will operate on a weekday schedule.
  • Newark Light Rail continues to operate on a modified schedule, with limited service between Newark Penn Station and Grove St. Station operating every 10-15 minutes, due to residual impacts from Hurricane Sandy.  Limited peak period service is operating between Newark Penn and Broad St. Station

Bus Service:

Schedules vary by route—view holiday schedule information here.  Selected routes will operate on special holiday schedules to match service with ridership demand, including early getaway service from the Port Authority Bus Terminal between noon and 4 p.m. to accommodate the heaviest travel, with less frequent service during the peak periods and later in the evening due to lower ridership. 

Emergency trans-Hudson shuttle bus/ferry service 

On Wednesday, November 21, the following emergency shuttle bus/ferry service routes will provide early getaway service:

  • To PNC Arts Center (Holmdel, Garden State Parkway Exit 116):  Early getaway service from Port Authority Bus Terminal and Newark Penn Station will start at 1:30 p.m.  Service will operate on a load and go basis until 8 p.m.
  • To Ramsey/Rt. 17 Station (Ramsey):  Shuttle bus service from Port Imperial Ferry Terminal in Weehawken will start at 12 p.m. and operate every 30 minutes until 8 p.m.
  • To Hoboken Terminal:  Ferry service from Pier 79 (West 39th St. in Midtown Manhattan) will operate from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m., and from 2 p.m. until 8 p.m. Service from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. will operate every 30 minutes to accommodate the busiest travel period.
  • To Liberty State Park:  Ferry service from Battery Park (Lower Manhattan) will operate every 10 minutes from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m., every 20 minutes from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., and every 10 minutes from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m.
  • To Summit Station:  Shuttle bus service from Liberty State Park to Summit will start at 12 p.m. and operate every 30 minutes until 8 p.m.
  • To Gladstone Branch stations:  Shuttle bus service from Summit Station to Gladstone, Peapack, Far Hills, Millington, Gillette, Murray Hill, Bernardsville, Basking Ridge, Lyons, Berkeley Heights and New Providence stations will start at 12 p.m. and operate every 30 minutes until 8 p.m.

On Thanksgiving Day, November 22, trains will operate on a weekend/major holiday schedule (except Gladstone Branch, which remains suspended until further notice).  Click here for detailed schedules.  To accommodate customers traveling to and from the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, NJ TRANSIT will add extra trains on the Northeast Corridor, North Jersey Coast (between Long Branch and New York only), Raritan Valley, Morris & Essex and Port Jervis lines. 

Light rail service will operate as follows:

  • Hudson-Bergen Light Rail will operate on a weekend schedule—however, direct service between Tonnelle Avenue and Hoboken will operate every 20 minutes
  • River Line will operate on a Sunday schedule. 
  • Newark Light Rail will operate on a Sunday schedule between Newark Penn and Grove Street stations, and on a modified schedulebetween Newark Penn and Broad Street stations (service every half hour).   

Bus Service:

Holiday bus schedules vary by route—view holiday schedule information here.  Selected bus routes will operate extra service to and from the Port Authority Bus Terminal for customers traveling to the parade.  Special service on the No. 111 bus route from New York to the Jersey Gardens Mall, as well as on the No. 70 and No. 73 bus routes to Livingston Mall, will begin operating before midnight on Thanksgiving night. 

On Friday, November 23, one of the busiest shopping days of the year, trains will operate on a modified weekday schedule on all rail lines (except Gladstone Branch, which remains suspended until further notice).  Click here for detailed schedules.   Additional New York-bound trains will operate between 10 a.m. and noon on the Northeast Corridor.  On the Morris & Essex Lines, one additional midday train to New York will operate.  Customers are encouraged to travel early, if possible, when ridership is light.  Select morning peak period trains on the Northeast Corridor will not operate on Friday, due to expected light ridership. 

Light rail service will operate as follows:

  • Hudson-Bergen Light Rail will operate on a weekend schedule—however, direct service between Tonnelle Avenue and Hoboken will operate every 20 minutes
  • River Line will operate on a Sunday schedule. 
  • Newark Light Rail will operate on a Saturday schedule between Newark Penn and Grove Street stations, and on a modified schedule between Newark Penn and Broad Street stations (service every half hour).   

Bus Service:

Schedules vary by route—view holiday schedule information here.  Selected routes will operate on special holiday schedules to match service with ridership demand, with less frequent service during the peak periods due to lower ridership. 

Extra bus service to New Jersey malls

Starting Friday, November 23 and continuing through December 24, NJ TRANSIT will offer additional bus service to major New Jersey shopping destinations to accommodate extended store hours and busy shopping times throughout the day.  Throughout the holiday shopping season, extra trips or expanded service will be offered on several bus routes serving malls and shopping centers throughout the state, including Garden State Plaza, IKEA Paramus, Jersey Gardens, Livingston Mall, Harmon Meadow/Mill Creek in Secaucus, Willowbrook Mall, Wayne Towne Center Mall and West Belt Mall.  Note:  Special service on the No. 111 bus route from New York to the Jersey Gardens Mall, as well as on the No. 70 and No. 73 bus routes to Livingston Mall, will begin operating before midnight on Thanksgiving night.

Kids ride free on NJT

For the Thanksgiving holiday, NJ TRANSIT’s Family Super Saver Fare, which allows up to two children 11 and younger to travel free with each fare-paying adult, will be in effect from 7 p.m. Wednesday, November 21 until 6 a.m. Monday, November 26.  

Travel tips

  • Check Schedules in Advance:  Additional service will be provided on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.  Plan your trip online to take advantage of extra trains and buses. 
  • Travel Early on Friday, November 23:  On Friday, NJ TRANSIT rail lines will operate on a modified weekday schedule with additional trains during the late morning hours.  Avoid the crowds by traveling during the traditional peak-period (6-9 a.m.) when ridership is light.  
  • Allow Extra Travel Time:  Traffic congestion during the holidays may affect bus travel times to and from New York City, so customers should plan accordingly.
  • Ticketing:  Purchase round-trip tickets at the start of your trip to speed your return.  Use ticket vending machines or see a ticket agent, if available, to avoid possible surcharges.  Bus customers departing Port Authority Bus Terminal are reminded that tickets must be purchased before boarding the bus.
  • Luggage:  Travel as light as possible.  Passengers with luggage or packages should use the overhead racks or designated luggage spaces.  On multilevel trains, customers with large bags should use the mezzanine levels at the ends of each car.

Oh, the Traffic Outside is Frightful

19 Nov

AAA has come out with its 2012 Thanksgiving holiday travel forecast, and they project that 43.6 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, an increase of 0.7 percent over the 43.3 million people who traveled last year. This increase marks the fourth consecutive year of growing holiday travelers since 2008 when Thanksgiving travel fell by 25 percent. They also predict that ninety percent of travelers — approximately 39.1 million — will travel by automobile, an increase of 0.6 percent over last year.

Thanksgiving travel hit a decade low in 2008, and since that year there has been a steady increase in the number of travelers taking to the roads and skies for the Thanksgiving holiday.

It’s unclear the impact Hurricane Sandy will have on our region, but with some trains still not running and some communities still devastated, getting around could be harder than normal this year.

Additionally, AAA predicts that the national average price of gasoline will drop to between $3.25 – $3.40 a gallon by the holiday, similar to last year’s average of $3.32, which was the most expensive average ever on Thanksgiving. Despite the historically high prices paid by motorists this year, the national average has declined by nearly 40 cents a gallon since early October and should continue to drop through the end of the year. The national average price of gas for Thanksgiving from 2007 – 2011 is $2.75 a gallon.

As always, Wednesday is expected to be the busiest travel day. Among those surveyed by AAA, the majority of travelers plan to leave the Wednesday before the holiday (45 percent) and return the following Sunday (36 percent) with another 25 percent expecting to return on Monday, Nov. 26.

Considering Transit for the Holidays?

  • NJ TRANSIT: Transit is always a good option to investigate for these traffic-ridden holidays such as Thanksgiving. While NJ Transit service is back up and running today with the exception of the Gladstone Branch service. However, the agency is still recovering from the effects of Hurricane Sandy, and it is not clear yet if they will be able to offer the increased service that they often offer over holiday weekends. Visit njtransit.com and use the “Station-to-Station Trip Planner” to find trains in your area. Bus service information varies by route and can be found here. Some buses are operating extra trips on weekends to ease overcrowding during the holiday season. Light rail info can be found here. For complete schedule and fare information, as well as holiday schedule updates, visit njtransit.com or call 973-275-5555.
  • Bank of America/Merrill Lynch Hopewell Shuttle: No service on Thursday; regular schedule on Friday.
  • Route 130 Connection: No service on Thursday; regular schedule on Friday. 
  • Princeton FreeB: Daytime: No service on Thursday; Holiday Service Schedule on Friday. Commuter: No service on Thursday; regular schedule on Friday.  
  • Amtrak: Northeast Corridor: Special Holiday Service on both Thursday and Friday. For info, see: http://www.amtrak.com/ccurl/132/755/Thanksgiving-Timetable-201211-NEC.pdf

Is There Such Thing as Too Many Bikes?

14 Nov

Signs indicating both guarded (bewaakt) and unguarded (onbewaakt) bicycle parking near Rotterdam’s Central Train Station. Every day, tens of thousands of commuters bike to the major Dutch rail stations. (Photo credit: Zach Vanderkooy)

Around here, we always like to say there’s no such thing as too much coffee. But what about bikes? Is there such thing as too many bikes? According to a recent Treehugger article, the answer might be yes. The article says:

In a country with a sprawling 20,000 mile network of world-class bike lanes and daily ridership of numbering in the millions, it’s fair to say the the Dutch are the biggest cycle-lovers around. But with an average of 1.3 bicycles per resident, things have gotten crowded — resulting in bike parking shortages, cycling traffic jams, and even fits of lane-rage.

When you have more bikes than people, you definitely have a lot of bikes! Still, it seems like it’s better than the alternative: too many cars. The issue isn’t exactly the number of bikes, but that the growth in cycling has outpaced the necessary companion infrastructure to accommodate it. In fact, the topic was on the agenda at a recent city planning conference in Utrecht, where, according to AFP, “proposed solutions were remarkably similar to those previously used to deal with car congestion, ranging from building multi-storey underground “mega” bicycle sheds to impounding badly-parked bikes.”

Given the Dutch history of commitment to eco-friendly transportation, we have no doubt they’re up to this challenge so the rest of the world, New Jersey included, can continue to look to the Dutch as the paragon of bicycling that it has become.

These Shoes Were Made for Walking

13 Nov

Did you or your community participate in October’s National Walk to School Month? Kids from around the country laced up their walking shoes to participate in events where they learned about all of the health, environmental, academic, and social benefits of walking to school, and got tips on how to do so safely too. According to the National Center for Safe Routes to School, kids from 4,281 schools in all 50 states and the District of Columbia registered Walk to School Day events, setting a new Walk to School Day record, and they estimate that many more schools held events that were not registered on the website. The National Center also noted some interesting facts about the schools that registered for this year’s event:

  • 35 percent of participating schools (1,529) celebrated Walk to School Day for the first time in 2012;
  • 45 percent of participating schools (1,941) are part of an ongoing Safe Routes to School program;
  • One of every 21 elementary and middle schools in the country registered a Walk to School Day event; and
  • The three states with the highest registration rates (event registrations per total number of elementary and middle schools in the state) were South Carolina, Oregon and Mississippi, each registering at least 1 of 6 elementary and middle schools.

Here at the Greater Mercer TMA, where we act as the local Safe Routes to School coordinators for Mercer and Ocean counties in New Jersey, we worked with a number of schools in the month of October by providing walk to school day information, helping out with events, and offering educational workshops on how to walk safely. We took photos at four of our events — at Monument School in Trenton, Patton J Hill School in Trenton, Maurice Hawk School in West Windsor, and Lawrence Intermediate School in Lawrence. Check out the photos we took at these events on our Facebook page.

But of course, October isn’t the only month to walk to school. We want to see kids walking and biking every day of every month of every year. The benefits of having kids walk and bike to school are significant:

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

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

Learn more on our website. Ready to get walking with us? Contact GMTMA’s Safe Routes to School Coordinator today!

Transportation Nation’s NY Area Transit Tracker

9 Nov

A great new tool, courtesy of Transportation Nation, shows the latest info on transportation outages around New York and New Jersey. It is regularly updated by WNYC staff during storms and other emergencies.

Hurricane Sandy wrought havoc on all area transportation, closing bridges, flooding tunnels and drowning out transit systems. This tool stays on top of the damage and the schedules for resumption of service. They’re also tweeting  any openings, so follow them on Twitter to know when they update the Tracker. You can also sign up for their daily email to get a digest of reporting on Hurricane Sandy’s transportation impacts and recovery.

This tool is constantly updated, so check back often to find out what transit service is running, and what is still out of commission.

Getting Around a Storm Ravaged Garden State Still Difficult

7 Nov

Penn Station NJ TRANSIT delays on Thursday, October 4, 2012. (credit: Eileen Lehpamer, 1010 WINS)

New Jersey Transit has been working hard to get its rail system back up and running normally after Hurricane Sandy, but schedules are still reduced. And they’re doing it with ridership up 15 percent. NJ Transit spokesperson Nancy Snyder told Transportation Nation her agency carried 150,000 people Monday into New York City during the morning rush. (The normal weekday ridership into Manhattan is 136,000.)

Things are slowly getting back to normal, but it’s still difficult to get around, and today’s nor’easter will probably not help. Ongoing limited rail capacity means commuters should continue to expect delays and avoid traveling during peak hours. Check panynj.gov or www.njtransit.com for updates.

According to nj.com, the following are expected to be open or in service today:

• Outerbridge Crossing, Goethals, Bayonne and George Washington bridges and the Lincoln Tunnel. The Holland Tunnel, which had been open for buses only, reopens to commuter traffic at 5 Wednesday morning.

• NJ Transit’s Northeast Corridor and Atlantic City lines, plus the Raritan Valley Line from Raritan Borough east and the Main/Port Jervis Line between Port Jervis and the Hoboken Terminal. Service on Princeton University’s “Dinky” shuttle train resumes Wednesday, after substitute buses had been used to handle those commuters.

• PATH service continues Wednesday between Journal Square in Jersey City and 33rd Street in Manhattan starting at 5 a.m. and in the return direction until 10 p.m. Stops include Journal Square, Grove Street, Newport, 14th Street, 23rd Street and 33rd Street. No stops at Christopher and 9th streets in Manhattan. The Port Authority waived the fares for Tuesday, but not Wednesday.

• NJ Transit’s River Line and the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail between Tonnelle Avenue in North Bergen and the Hoboken Terminal. The Newark Light Rail is scheduled to reopen Wednesday between Grove Street and Newark Penn Station.

• Amtrak Acela Express and Northeast Regional service on the Northeast Corridor line, with reduced frequency

• 95 percent of NJ Transit bus service

• NY Waterway ferries and buses

The following are expected to be out of service:

• PATH trains between Newark Penn Station and Journal Square, Hoboken, Exchange Place and World Trade Center.

• NJ Transit’s Morris & Essex, Montclair-Boonton and North Jersey Coast lines and the Raritan Valley Line west of Raritan Borough

• 5 percent of NJ Transit bus service

EMERGENCY BUS PLAN

Customers utilizing the emergency bus service plan can ride buses at no cost. Customers utilizing ferry and light rail services will still be responsible for paying normal light rail and ferry fares except Statue Cruise Lines in Liberty State Park.

Buses will operate to and from the following transportation hubs:

Ramsey (Ramsey/Rt. 17 Station)

• Suburban Transit/Coach USA to operate 15 buses from Ramsey/Route 17 Station to Weehawken/Port Imperial from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. for light rail/ferry connections.

• Suburban Transit/Coach USA to operate 15 buses from Weehawken/Port Imperial to Ramsey/Route 17 Station from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Meadowlands, MetLife Stadium, Lots J&K (1 MetLife Stadium)

• Suburban Transit/Coach USA to operate 25 buses from Meadowlands MetLife Stadium to Weehawken/Port Imperial from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. for light rail/ ferry connections. 
• Suburban Transit/Coach USA to operate 25 buses from Weehawken/Port Imperial to the Meadowlands MetLife Stadium from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Holmdel, Garden State Parkway Exit 116 (PNC Arts Center)

• Academy Bus to operate 130 buses from the PNC Arts Center from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. to:

Lower Manhattan / Port Authority Bus Terminal / Newark Penn Station

Academy Bus to operate 130 buses between 4 to 8 p.m. from:

• Lower Manhattan, Port Authority Bus Terminal — 41st between 8th and 9th 
• Newark Penn Station — Greyhound Bus Stop

Jersey City (Liberty State Park, Liberty Science Center)

• Community/Coach USA to operate 10 buses from Liberty State Park to shuttle customers to Statue Cruise Lines Ferry Service to Battery Park from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m., 1 p.m. to 2 p.m., and from 4 p.m. to 8 a.m. Ferry service from this location will be offered free of charge.

Bus service to Lower Manhattan

Pick-up and drop-off locations will take place at the following Suburban Transportation stops:

• Greenwich Street between Battery Place & Morris Street 
• Trinity Place between Rector and Thames streets 
• Church Street between Warren and Chambers streets 
• Church Street between Reade and Duane streets

We are still encouraging people to travel as little as possible and stay off the roads if you can, both to reduce congestion on the roads and to conserve gas, which is still scarce. GMTMA can help you figure out how to make this happen. Check out our information and programs that can help you find a vanpool or carpoolride your bike more, encourage your kids to walk and bike to school, help your employer start up a telecommute policy, ride the bus or train, and get around easier if you’re a seniorContact GMTMA — we can help you, your office, or your school figure out alternative ways to get around.

Want to Lend a Hand, Post-Sandy? Don’t Drive.

5 Nov

With long lines at gas stations in some parts of the state and the 12 northern New Jersey counties under odd/even gasoline restrictions, we also learned on Sunday from the US Energy Information Agency  that a full 27% of the gas stations in the New York metropolitan area are completely out of gas. Even if your county is not affected and you personally have not had to wait on line for gas, conserving gas is an important thing you can do to help out.

There are many ways to use less gas (which also has the added benefit of saving you money!). Carpooling is a great option — not just to work, but also to school or shopping.  Another way to conserve gas is to take transit. Right now public transportation is up and running after some delays. NJTransit trains, buses, and light rail are all great options to get you where you need to go while saving gas and money.

GMTMA can help you figure out how to make this happen. Check out our information and programs that can help you find a vanpool or carpoolride your bike more, encourage your kids to walk and bike to school, help your employer start up a telecommute policy, ride the bus or train, and get around easier if you’re a senior.

The gasoline shortage is not going to be a permanent, but it is a great excuse to figure out ways to use less gas. Contact GMTMA — we can help you, your office, or your school figure out alternative ways to get around.

New Jersey state troopers keep order as motorist line up to purchase gasoline at the Thomas A. Edison service area on the New Jersey Turnpike Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012, near Woodbridge, N.J., before the noon switch to a gas-rationing system in 12 counties ordered by Gov. Chris Christie. (AP)