Archive | December, 2012

12 Ways to Make Roads Safer for Pedestrians

27 Dec

caminando_-_walking_-_en_suiza_-_13082006006A report released by the International Transport Forum (ITF) at the The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) highlights the role of national governments in improving pedestrian mobility and proposes 12 sets of measures to create safer walking environments.

Walking is inexpensive, emission-free, uses no fossil fuel, offers important health benefits and, for those without substantially impaired mobility, is accessible regardless of income. Walking is the most fundamental form of mobility, ITF notes.

But walking can often also be challenging. Pedestrians are particularly vulnerable in traffic crashes. The number of pedestrians killed on roads is estimated at above 400,000 per year, i.e. around a third of annual road fatalities around the globe.

We need to learn again how to walk. And that means learning how to organise the space for walking. Urban environments are often making it difficult to enjoy this most fundamental form of moving. This report will help governments to take the right steps towards better mobility and more livable cities.

—José Viegas, Secretary-General of ITF

The study, entitled “Pedestrian Safety, Urban Space and Health”, was prepared by a Working Group of transport experts and urban planners from 19 countries and the World Health Organization under the leadership of the ITF. Key facts on walking from the report:

  • Walking represents up to 50% of trips in urban areas.
  • An 80% drop in pedestrian risk of death is achievable by traffic speed reductions from 50 km/h to 30 km/h. Lowering motorized traffic speeds is a key to improving pedestrian safety.
  • Around 30% of pedestrians have impaired mobility at any given time—from mothers negotiating traffic with young children to walkers carrying heavy items to older pedestrians with physical handicaps.
  • Up to 75% of pedestrian injuries result from walkers falling in public spaces. This hazard is in part related to maintenance and design of public spaces, not to a collision with a vehicle. It is underrated and frequently ignored
  • Pedestrians suffer severe trauma from road accidents. The magnitude of the consequences is known to be underestimated.

Key recommendations of the report are:

  1. Integrate the needs of pedestrians at the earliest stages of urban planning projects and transport investments.
  2. Establish clear administrative responsibilities at all levels of government for coordination of initiatives to promote walking.
  3. Improve knowledge about walking: Create a standardized methodology for measuring, reporting and monitoring pedestrian mobility. Create national pedestrian observatories and encourage international comparisons.
  4. Treat public transport services as an integrated part of the development of new urban areas. This can support a shift towards higher-density, mixed-use walking and transit-oriented urban environments.
  5. Give more space to non-motorized traffic in city centres: Provide easy, safe, well-maintained pedestrian access to public transport and city center destinations. Develop car-free areas, discourage over-use of cars in city centres, and prevent parking on pavements and pedestrian crossings.
  6. Develop national pedestrian planning guidance for local administrations. Plans should routinely consider the impact of projects on pedestrians and cyclists. They should also include targets for future levels of walking.
  7. Encourage employers to create incentives for employees to walk and cycle to work.
  8. Adopt a “safe system” approach for the design of walking environments. (The “safe system” approach recognizes that road users make mistakes and requires road design to take account of this to reduce the risk of serious injury).
  9. Implement traffic-calming zones and generalize 30 km/h zones (19 mph) in areas with high pedestrian activity.
  10. Introduce high-quality road safety education in schools and local community centres.
  11. Review current traffic codes to strengthen the legal and financial protection of pedestrians.
  12. Commission more research to better understand mobility behavior and trends.
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The Value of Complete Streets

26 Dec

bikelaneOur streets are part of the lifeblood of our communities, and how they are designed, and who they are designed for, matters more than we might realize. “Incomplete” streets are often inaccessible by foot, bicycle, or public transportation, or even if they do provide accommodations for these modes of transportation, they might be unpleasant and attractive and do little to encourage these modes.

Earlier this month, the Victoria Transport Policy Institute released Evaluating Complete Streets: The Value of Designing Roads For Diverse Modes, Users and Activities. The report discusses differences between conventional transport planning and Complete Streets planning, especially relating to costs and benefits. According to the report, the main cost of Complete Streets is a reduction in arterial traffic speeds, and sometimes the reduction of “the number of traffic and parking lanes, but by providing center turn lanes, smoothing traffic flow and encouraging mode shifts, they often carry as many people as previously.” The report finds that in communities that desire alternative modes of transportation and more compact development, complete streets can provide real benefits, including improved accessibility, emissions reductions, and energy savings. Check it out here:http://www.vtpi.org/compstr.pdf

The heavy reliance on driving has an impact far beyond today’s traffic jam. People who are less likely to own cars and more likely to rely on public transportation are particularly affected by poor development patterns. Working families who own a car are burdened with associated expenses: purchase cost, maintenance, registration fees, fuel, and others.

Streets designed solely for automobile travel also put people at risk. In 2007, there were 4,654 pedestrian deaths and 70,000 reported pedestrian injuries –- that’s nearly one every eight minutes. In a poll of people over 50 years old, 47 percent said it was unsafe to cross the street near their home. In neighborhoods where traffic is a nuisance and a threat, residents both young and old are more inclined to stay in their homes. This limits much needed physical activity and social interaction.

Complete streets foster livable communities

Complete streets are roadways that are designed with all users – bikers, walkers, transit riders and drivers – in mind. Roads are built to safely accommodate a variety of transportation modes and users of all ages and abilities. Complete Streets are planned, designed and constructed to blend with the local community while meeting transportation needs.Communities are increasingly embracing smart growth to meet their residents’ desire for choices in housing, shopping, recreation, and transportation. Complete streets meet the demand for transportation options, while promoting other community goals. They provide safe and affordable access for everyone, whether traveling to school, work, the doctor, or their favorite restaurant.

More than half of Americans recently surveyed would like to walk more and drive less. Poor community design and lack of pedestrian facilities are the primary reasons people cite for not walking more. An overwhelming number support policies intended to make their communities more livable by reducing traffic speed and creating a safer pedestrian environment.

In their Complete Streets Policy, the NJ Department of Transportation recognized these benefits of complete streets:

  • Complete Streets improve safety for pedestrians, bicyclists, children, older citizens, non-drivers and the mobility challenged as well as those that cannot afford a car or choose to live car free
  • Provide connections to bicycling and walking trip generators such as employment, education, residential, recreation, retail centers and public facilities
  • Promote healthy lifestyles
  • Create more livable communities
  • Reduce traffic congestion and reliance on carbon fuels thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions
  • Complete Streets make fiscal sense by incorporating sidewalks, bike lanes, safe crossings and transit amenities into the initial design of a project, thus sparing the expense of retrofits later

A full list of the current counties and municipalities in New Jersey who have adopted Complete Streets policies can be found here. Is your community on the list? If not, would you like it to be? GMTMA can help your community “complete the streets.” We can facilitate informational presentations, provide templates for policy resolutions and assist in drafting policy resolutions, help create an implementation plan, assist with identification of grant funding and documentation of policy for Sustainable Jersey certification, and more. Contact us today!

NJ Transit Holiday Travel Service Information

24 Dec

NJ TRANSIT will offer extra service for the upcoming holidays to give customers more travel options, whether going to the mall for last-minute shopping, leaving work early to get a head start on the Christmas holiday or attending New Year’s Eve festivities.

In addition, NJ TRANSIT is offering a special extension of the Family Super Saver Fare, which allows up to two children 11 and younger to travel free with each fare-paying adult.  Usually limited to weekends, the Family Super Saver Fare will be in effect continuously from 7 p.m. Friday, December 21 until 6 a.m. Wednesday, January 2, on all trains, buses and light rail lines.

On Monday, December 24, trains will operate on the current weekday schedule on all lines.  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 CorridorNorth Jersey Coast (toLong Branch only), Raritan ValleyMorris & Essex (from New York only), Pascack Valley (modified getaway service) andPort Jervis lines.

Hudson-Bergen Light Rail, Newark Light Rail and River Line will operate on a weekday schedule.

Bus schedules vary by route.  View bus holiday service information, including special timetables,  for Monday, December 24 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.  Early getaway service will also operate from the Jersey City Waterfront on the No. 64 and No. 68 bus routes.

On Christmas Day, Tuesday, December 25, trains will operate on a weekend/major holiday schedule on all rail lines.

Light rail service will operate as follow:

Holiday bus schedules vary by route—view bus holiday service information, including special timetables, for Tuesday, December 25 here.

On Wednesday, December 26 and Thursday, December 27, trains will operate on the current weekday schedule on all rail lines. Additional New York-bound trains will operate between 10 a.m. and noon on the Northeast Corridor.  Customers are encouraged to travel early, if possible, when ridership is light.  Select morning peak period trains on the Northeast Corridor will not operate due to expected light ridership.

Hudson-Bergen Light Rail, Newark Light Rail and River Line will operate on a weekday schedule.

Buses will operate on a weekday schedule, with extra bus service to and from New York operating on selected routes after the morning and evening peak periods.

On Friday, December 28, trains will operate on the current weekday schedule on all rail lines.  Visit njtransit.com for detailed schedules. Additional New York-bound trains will operate between 10 a.m. and noon on the Northeast Corridor.  Customers are encouraged to travel early, if possible, when ridership is light.  Select morning peak period trains on the Northeast Corridor will not operate due to expected light ridership.

Hudson-Bergen Light Rail, Newark Light Rail and River Line will operate on a weekday schedule.

Buses will operate on a weekday schedule.  Selected routes will be adjusted 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.

Monday, Dec. 24

 

Early getaway service from NewYork, Newark and Hoboken Early getaway servicefrom New York and the Jersey City Waterfront on selected routes

Weekday schedule

Tuesday, Dec. 25 Weekend/major holiday schedule Schedules vary by route

Consult timetable or visit njtransit.com

HBLR on weekend schedule

 

Newark Light Rail andRiver Line on Sunday schedule

Wednesday, Dec. 26 – Thursday, Dec. 27 Weekday schedule

 

Extra midday NY-bound service on NEC

Weekday schedule, with extra service to/from New York on selected routes

Weekday schedule

Friday, Dec. 28 Weekday schedule

 

Extra midday NY-bound service on NEC

Early getaway service from New York on selected routes

Weekday schedule

The Hidden Health Costs of Transportation

18 Dec

What are some of the hidden costs of a car-centric society? A 2010 report from the American Public Health Association argues that these hidden costs — obesity-related health care costs, lost wages due to illness, health care and premature deaths caused by air pollution from traffic, $180 billion from traffic crashes (lost wages, health care costs, property damage, travel delay, legal costs, etc.) — have been ignored for too long as decision-makers hash out transportation policies. The report notes:

Our dependence on automobiles and roadways has profound negative impacts on human health: decreased opportunities for physical activity, and increased exposure to air pollution, and the number of traffic crashes. The health costs associated with these impacts, including costs associated with loss of work days and wages, pain and suffering, and premature death, may be as high as several hundred billion dollars.

While the effects of transportation systems on mental health, stress, and social cohesion can be hard to quantify, the report argues that the costs associated with obesity, respiratory illness, and injuries are supported by research.

Health impacts and costs have typically not been considered in the transportation policy, planning, and funding decision-making process. There are few standards or models for estimating health costs. However, existing research can be used to estimate the population at risk, the magnitude of the health impact, and the health costs associated with those impacts. Growing recognition of the connection between transportation, land development and health has resulted in some studies and examples where health impacts and costs have been considered and assessed. These examples not only demonstrate that health costs should be a significant factor in decision-making, but also show that calculating such costs is indeed possible.

The report calls for transportation policies that encourage planning and funding to include health impacts; support the development of healthy communities with active transportation options; and strongly consider safety and equity when planning transportation projects.

Robert Wood Johnson foundation is also taking a look at this issue in a recent issue brief which concludes that our current transportation system is, simply, bad for our health.

Walkable, bikable, transit-oriented communities are associated with healthier populations. People in such 
communities are more physically active, have less weight gain, have lower rates of traffic injuries, and are less exposed to air pollution. Studies show that people walk to places that are close by and when they feel safe. Forty percent of people walk to shops—similar percentages walk to work, school and other destinations—when trips are within one mile.

The takeaway? The more friendly a town or city is to pedestrians, cyclists, and public transportation lines, the healthier the citizens. Sitting in a car does not do a body good.

More Transportation Options=Healthier Lives

GMTMA Can Help You Get Out of Traffic

13 Dec

If you’re heading out onto the road, or already on the road, did you know that GMTMA can help you avoid traffic hot spots and/or figure out why you’re stuck in a traffic jam? Our website features traffic alerts and maps for both Mercer and Ocean counties. And we’ve just added a new feature — QR codes. All you have to do is use your mobile device to scan the image, and it will automatically direct your device to a mobile traffic alert page. Check it out today, and stay out of traffic!

Dude, Where’s My Bus?

13 Dec

Riding the bus just got a whole lot easier. Thanks to MyBus Now, new technology rolled out by NJ Transit today, bus riders can check their phones and see, in real time, exactly when the next bus will arrive. Now you’ll know if you missed your bus and should go wait inside until the next one comes, or if you have time to run over to the coffee shop down the block for a cup of joe. If it’s raining or freezing outside, you won’t have to stand outside in the elements; you can wait inside somewhere until right before the bus actually shows up.  No more waiting and wondering in the dark, the plight of the long-suffering bus commuter. For bus stops where there are long gaps between each bus, this technology could make all the difference.

The service is available right now on a test basis for riders using 16 bus routes in parts of Mercer, Somerset, and Middlesex counties, but the program is expected to be expanded to the entire state, in all of the more than 19,000 bus stops, by early spring. The 16 bus routes currently served by the program are:

  • No. 600 Trenton-Plainsboro (U.S. 1 Corridor)
  • No. 601 The College of New Jersey-Trenton-Hamilton Marketplace
  • No. 602 Pennington-Trenton
  • No. 603 Mercer Mall-Hamilton Square-Yardville-Hamilton Marketplace
  • No. 604 East Trenton-Trenton Transit Center
  • No. 605 Montgomery Township-Princeton-Quaker Bridge Mall
  • No. 606 Princeton-Mercerville-Hamilton Marketplace
  • No. 607 Ewing-Trenton-Independence Plaza
  • No. 608 Hamilton-West Trenton
  • No. 609 Ewing-Quaker Bridge Mall
  • No. 610 Trenton-Princeton Seasonal Service
  • No. 611 Trenton-River View Plaza Circulator
  • No. 612 Lawrence-West Windsor
  • No. 613 Mercer Mall-Hamilton Square-Yardville-Hamilton Marketplace
  • No. 619 Ewing-Quaker Bridge Mall-Mercer County College
  • No. 655 Princeton-Plainsboro

Riders can type in the bus stop number — listed on a sign at the bus stop, or found online here — or their bus route number and location. Using GPS and some of its own technology on board, the bus transmits back to a central system that does calculations for how long it should take a bus to get to a particular stop. Riders will see all of the buses that are within 30 minutes of that stop. New buses already are equipped for the technology, and NJ Transit is retrofitting its older buses. The agency has more than 2,000 buses in its fleet, operating on more than 200 routes.

So, do you want to know when your bus is coming? Here’s how:

From a desktop computer:  Visit mybusnow.njtransit.com.  Select either “bus times” or “bus map.”

  • Bus Times:  Enter your five-digit bus stop ID or select your bus route, direction of travel and bus stop from the drop-down menus.
  • Bus Map:  Click “Routes” and select up to 10 routes, or click “Find Stop” and follow the directions in the dialog box to view the real-time location of buses on a Google map.  Buses are represented by bus icons that display an arrow to indicate the direction of travel.  Hover over the bus icon to display the estimated arrival times for the next four bus stops.  Click the bus icon for additional options, including links to “route schedule” (PDF of the bus timetable) and “route progress” (a timeline of the bus trip by stop).

From a web-enabled smartphone:  Visit njtransit.com and select MyBus Now to view a streamlined version of the web page.  Select your bus route from the list or enter your five-digit bus stop ID.

 From a cell phone with SMS-text messaging:  Text your five-digit bus stop ID to MyBus (69287).  Instead of returning the next scheduled trips, MyBus Nowwill provide real-time information for routes in the pilot program.  For all other routes, MyBus will continue to provide information for scheduled trips.

 

Want Smarter Kids? Let Them Walk to School.

12 Dec

Research finding that walking to school is healthier for kids continues to pile up. A new study from the Universities of Copenhagen and Aarhus in Denmark found what many parents, teachers, and Safe Routes to School advocates have long known: a little bit of exercise before school can improve kids’ ability to concentrate at school. The study, which found that children who were driven or bused to school had less ability to concentrate in the classroom compared to those who walked or cycled.

The study’s authors interviewed nearly 20,000 students aged between five and 19 years. The researchers were actually researching the link between benefits of eating breakfast and lunch and the children’s ability to concentrate, but during the interviews, researchers also collected information about the exercise habits of the students. Concentration level of these participants was measured through tests. And to their surprise, they found that how the kids were getting to school was being reflected in the level of concentration the kids had even four hours later. At the end of the study, researchers found children who reported cycling or walking to school scoring higher on concentration tests. In fact, the study’s results showed that exercise before school has more of an impact on concentration than eating breakfast and lunch does.

Not only does walking and biking to school help improve kids’ concentration, there are environmental and physical benefits as well:

  • Walking to school doesn’t just make kids happy — it eases the morning commute for drivers. Parents dropping their kids off at school account for a full 25% of morning traffic. When students and their families walking or biking to school instead of driving, streets see less traffic. Less traffic means fewer costly repaving and maintenance projects, too.
  • As levels of walking and biking to school have fallen, childhood obesity has skyrocketed. In 1969, nearly 50% of all kids walked or rode bikes to school. Today, only 13% of children get to school on foot or by bike. Meanwhile, the percent of obese children rose 276% between 1966 and 2009. Kids who walk or bike to school are more physically active and less likely to be obese than their peers who are driven or bused to school.

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 want to help create a walking and biking culture at every school in our region. 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!