Archive | March, 2013

Link Between Walkability and School Performance?

28 Mar

According to a March 15th Atlantic Cities article, “Public and charter schools in the District of Columbia are now classified into one of five accountability categories, all with equally uplifting names: reward, rising, developing, focus and priority (the “reward” schools are the top performers, although one might want to try to reward improvement from the struggling ones). The index is built on measurable data like test scores, enrollment growth, attendance and graduation rates, and it offers the simplest shorthand parents can use to make the weighty decision about where to send their kids to school…”

Citing a study which compared the school accountability data to Walk Score, the top-performing schools tend to be located in the most walkable areas, while the “priority” schools are located in the least walkable ones.

Of course, there’s no doubt that, given that accessibility to transit is known to boost property values, families who can afford to live in such communities populate the schools there, and family income and educational attainment are highly correlated. But in addition to that, researchers have also found that children who bike and walk to school are better able to concentrate when they get there.

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!

 

 

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Bicycle Safety Rodeo and Safe Kids Day: Saturday May 11

27 Mar

GMTMA is one of the participating sponsors of this great annual bike rodeo for kids ages 3-12 at the St. Lawrence Rehab Center on Saturday May 11 from 9am-1pm. You’ll get to see the Trenton Thunder’s mascot Boomer, play sports games, see safety exhibits, and receive lots of giveaways and much, much more! Kids must pre-register for the bike rodeo and will receive a free helmet and bike inspection. Registration is limited, so please register early at bikerodeo@slrc.org with kids’ names, ages, phone number and preferred time of arrival, or call (609) 896-9500, ext. 2212. Greater Mercer TMA will be there under the big tent, signing people up for our Bike to Work Week and providing all sorts of great information about the work we do in Mercer and Ocean Counties. For more info, click here. Hope to see you there!

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Celebrate Walk and Bike to School Week in May!

19 Mar

From May 20-24, students and parents all over New Jersey will be walking and bicycling to school.  Walk and bike to school events emphasize the importance of issues such as increasing physical activity among children, pedestrian safety, traffic congestion, and concern for the environment. Walk and bike to school efforts also build connections between families, schools and the community.

The benefits of walking and bicycling to school are abundantly clear, so why not go outside to get some exercise and enjoy the beautiful spring weather?  Celebrate Walk and Bike to School Week in May by leaving the car at home and walking or bicycling with your children to school.

If your school or community is not involved in Walk and Bike to School events, and you are interested in learning more about Safe Routes to School programs for your school and community, please contact GMTMA today to find out how to get started.

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Designer and Printers Needed! Come to Our “Open House” Design Meeting on Monday March 25!

15 Mar

Greater Mercer TMA is seeking a designer and printer for two projects:

  1. A brochure that offers schedule information and information on connections to other transportation services for the daytime FreeB bus service that operates throughout Princeton on select days of the week. Mock-ups of numerous schedule designs were tested and presented to the freeB task force committee for comment, and now the TMA is seeking a graphic designer and printer to produce the final piece for printing.
  2. A direct mail piece to advertise NJ TRANSIT’s  new 655 bus route that operates between Princeton and Plainsboro.

Greater Mercer TMA is hosting a meeting to discuss these projects, and others, with graphic designers and printers on Monday, March 25th at 9:30 AM our their offices at 15 Roszel Rd. South, Suite 101, Princeton, NJ. If you’re interested, please come to this meeting, no RSVP required! To receive a mock-up of the schedule, the project description document, or if you have any questions at all, please contact Joan at: jlockwood-reck@gmtma.org.

How Long is Your Commute?

15 Mar

On average, in America, it takes a person 25.4 minutes to get to work. This great new map, put together by WNYC, lets you explore the commute times of Americans all over the country. In the GMTMA region, our commutes are longer than average; most of our region is in the 30-35 minute (each way) zone, but a few portions are worse than that. People near Trenton tend to have shorter commutes, probably because so many of them are commuting to jobs in the state’s capitol.

Commute times can be a major problem, and simply moving closer to your job, or getting a job close to where you live, isn’t always feasible in today’s difficult job and housing market. So what’s a stressed-out commuter to do?

GMTMA can help you figure out alternative ways to get around. Check out our Employer Services to learn about how we can help employers encourage their workforce to leave the cars at home; learn about our programs for commuters, including carpooling and vanpooling; check out our Community Programs and learn about how GMTMA can help your community implement a wide variety of policies and programs that improve safety, mobility and sustainability; get involved in our Safe Routes to School program, which helps kids and their parents get to school safely without driving; learn how to ride your bike more; or figure out ways to ride the bus or train more often. Contact GMTMA — we can help you, your office, or your school figure out alternative ways to get around.

Newsflash: Walking Makes You Healthier

14 Mar

Yet another research study points to an area’s walkability having an impact on the health of its residents. This new study, out of the University of Melbourne, found that when the overall walkability of an area is increased, people walk more, even after the novelty may have worn off, and their health and well-being is improved as a result. The study shows that by providing greater access to parks, mass transit, bike paths, shops, and other services and recreation, the health of local residents can be significantly improved.

The study examined the impact of urban planning on active living in metropolitan Perth, Western Australia. More than 1,400 participants building homes in new housing developments were surveyed before relocation to new homes and approximately 12 months later. The research showed “that for every local shop, residents’ physical activity increased an extra 5-6 minutes of walking per week. For every recreational facility available such as a park or beach, residents’ physical activity increased by an extra 21 minutes per week.”

Read more here.

GMTMA News: March 2013

11 Mar

Do you get GMTMA’s monthly newsletter delivered to your inbox? If not, sign up today! Here’s our latest issue:

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Sign Up For A Green Fair Today!

Next month, celebrate Earth Day at your office by having GMTMA host a green transportation fair at lunchtime. We customize the fairs to your office’s needs, and it’s a great way to help employees learn about the wide variety of ways they can green their commute. To learn more, click here, or email us today!

The Complete Adventures of the Tater Family

February was American Heart Month, and to celebrate, we followed the adventures of the Tater Family as they journeyed from car potato to active spud by exploring safe and fun ways to partake in more active transportation. You can see all of their adventures on our blog, or on our Facebook page.

Want to try an “active commute”? Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Stay Safe. Obey all traffic laws. Wear reflective gear and/or lights if it’s dark. Walkers should use sidewalks and cross in crosswalks. Cyclists should bike in the same direction as traffic, obey all traffic signals, and wear a helmet.
  • Talk to Your Employer. Ask where to store your bike, see if there are any nearby shower facilities to use, and find out if any incentives are offered for transit riders and/or active commuters.
  • Plan Ahead. Map out your route in advance so you know exactly where to go and how long it will take.
  • Find a Buddy. “Carpool” with another bicyclist or walker if you can.
  • Ease Into It. Start by trying just one day a week (try it on “casual Friday” or some other day when you don’t have a lot of meetings).
  • Walk/Bike Part of the Way. If you live far from work, try bicycling to the nearest transit station or drive part of the way and bike the rest.
  • Ask GMTMA. For more tips and information on active commuting, visit our website.
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Complete Streets Needed Here!

Active transportation is important, but so is safety, and there are some roads that should be avoided until improvements can be made to make them safer for non-auto users. A new analysis by the Tri-State Transportation Campaign (TSTC) has identified the deadliest roads in New Jersey for pedestrians. This year, Route 130 is tied with the Black Horse Pike in Atlantic County and Route 1 in Middlesex County. Looking at federal data from 2009 to 2011, it includes factsheets and online maps that identify the locations of pedestrian fatalities and the age and gender of those killed.

The report found that about 60 percent of pedestrian deaths in New Jersey were on arterial, or main roads, such as Route 130, Routes 1&9 and Route 1 — even though they only make up about 15 percent of roads in the region. TSTC pointed out that arterial roads are typically magnets for big box stores and other businesses, but improvements for pedestrians don’t always come with those new businesses.

In GMTMA’s region, 19 pedestrians were killed on Mercer County roads in the time period studied. US-206, Route 31, Route 653 and Route 129 had the highest number of pedestrian deaths. In Ocean County, 38 pedestrians were killed on Ocean County roads; Route 9, Route 37 and Route 88 had the highest number of pedestrian deaths over the period studied.

As TSTC concluded in its report, complete streets, which are designed and operated to enable safe access for all roadway users, can help make our streets safer for pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists alike. 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.

Additionally, GMTMA offers free pedestrian safety programs for both senior citizens and school children. For seniors, we provide free pedestrian safety programs geared specifically to older adults at senior centers, senior housing and other community facilities. The program helps seniors identify the situations that pose the greatest risk for injury and how to become defensive walkers. For school children, GMTMA is the local arm of the federal Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program, where we provide programs on the ground to enable and encourage children, including those with disabilities, to walk and bicycle to school. Contact us today!


Short Trips

  • NJ Transit Schedule Changes Coming Soon: On March 24, NJ Transit is expected to add some trains and change train schedules a bit. Many of the trains boarding at stations in Mercer County will be a couple of minutes earlier (to NYC) or later (from NYC) to accommodate Amtrak work. Be sure to check the new schedules on March 24 at www.njtransit.com.
  • New Vending Machines On Their Way: This month, NJ Transit announced the expansion of new ticket vending machine technology into Newark Penn Station kicking off a system-wide rollout that will provide smoother ticket purchase transactions for NJ Transit customers at all 674 terminals by the end of the year. This includes a new technology that allows the machines to dispense change in the form of paper bills—ones, fives, tens and twenties—instead of dollar coins. Once fully implemented, the technology is expected to generate an annual cost savings of $1.2 million per year. A video demonstration of the BNR technology can be found on NJ TRANSIT’s YouTube channel, here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rCRBoBrvhjE
  • My Transit? Your Transit! Are you signed up for My Transit yet? My Transit is NJ Transit’s free email alert system, delivering travel information — delays, service disruptions, schedule changes and more — to your cell phone, handheld wireless device or email inbox. Sign up here: https://www.njtransit.com/mt/mt_servlet.srv?hdnPageAction=MTAboutMyTransitTo

Gear Up…

…for information in our April newsletter on upcoming Bike to Work events!