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Celebrate Car Free Day with GMTMA

18 Sep

September 22 is Car Free Day; an international event celebrated every year to encourage people to get Car Free or Car-Lite. You can walk, bike, take the transit, carpool, vanpool, or telecommute. As long as you don’t drive alone, you can participate in the Car Free Day event.

Look at it this way; you have to get to work, and you want to get your 30 min exercise anyway, why not combine them? Walk, Bike, take transit, carpool and go for a walk during lunch, telecommute and go for a walk/bike during lunch…you get the idea. You want to go green, you know it!  Take the pledge.

 

There are no medals or special recognition, we won’t make you attend special award ceremonies if you take the pledge, but we think this will make you feel warm and fuzzy inside!  You can do it all week, a few days, or just one day on September 22.  And if you are already Car Free or Car-Lite, please brag about it – take the pledge.

We will enter all the participants in a drawing for a token of appreciation – a bike commuter kit, complete with helmet, lights, water bottle, and reflective items.

Be part of a global movement to reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality. It counts, even for a day.

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Start September with 5 Commuting Updates and Useful Information

1 Sep

 

  • NJ Transit restores full service. Phase One of Amtrak’s track renewal project is complete and NJ Transit will restore full service to and from Penn Station New York, starting September 5, 2017.  The alternate travel options, cross-honoring, and discounted fares will no longer be in effect after this date.  Cross-honoring with private bus carriers, NY Waterways, and Path will end on September 2, 3:00 AM.  New rail schedules are expected to take effect on September 5, 2017 and are available at njtransit.com. The freeB Commuter and Bank of America shuttle schedule changes will be available at gmtma.org starting September 2, 2017.
  • Avoid back to school traffic by carpooling. Check out the largest ridesharing network and register for FREE at njrideshare.org. After you register, sign up for the emergency ride home with your local TMA. Mercer and Ocean county residents can go to gmtma.org.
  • How to save about $2,000/year when you commute? Pack your lunch. Here are some lunch recipe ideas to keep your lunch box and your wallet happy.
  • Speaking of saving money, what’s up with the E-Zpass NJ-NY controversy?  Some commuters with E-ZPasses issued by other agencies other than MTA and travelling into NY were surprised to see they were not receiving a discount and were charged cash rates. MTA have a disclaimer on their website ( “E-ZPass rates apply only to customer tags issued by a New York E-ZPass Customer Service Center (CSC), including MTA Bridges and Tunnels, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, New York State Thruway Authority, the Buffalo and Fort Erie Public Bridge Authority (Peace Bridge), and New York State Bridge Authority. Non-NY CSC customers will pay cash or Toll by Mail rates. Anyone, regardless of residency, can apply for a New York Customer Service Center-issued E-ZPass tag”) informing customers of this, but as it were the case, many NJ commuters were not aware of this because they purchased their passes with other agencies.  So, it looks like if you are commuting into NY from NJ, having an E-Zpass issued by MTA can save you money.  Transit, carpooling and vanpooling will save you even more.
  • NJ Transit cops are now wearing body cams when on patrol. According to an interview given to nj.com, an NJ Transit official said the cameras “will provide more transparency” and “de-escalate situations, minimize confrontation, and reduce civilian complaint.”

Enjoy the long weekend and be safe!

 

Sources:

http://www.njtransit.com/sf/sf_servlet.srv?hdnPageAction=TrainTo

https://www.themuse.com/advice/52-creative-and-easy-lunch-ideas-thatll-make-your-coworkers-jealous

http://www.nj.com/traffic/index.ssf/2017/08/how_to_save_money_during_the_e-zpass_border_war.html

Meet Wally Walker and Becky Biker

11 Aug

As the NJ Department of Transportation’s designated regional coordinator for Safe Routes to School efforts, Greater Mercer TMA works to keep children in Mercer and Ocean counties healthy by encouraging them to stay active through walking and biking to school and offering safety education.

Throughout the years GMTMA has promoted walking and biking with a variety of programming; safety presentations, bookmark contests, walk and bike to school events, bike rodeos, a walking school bus app (available here), and other events.

This year we have enlisted the help of two characters that will join our “staff,” Wally Walker and Becky Biker. They recently had their debut at the Jackson Library where a kindergarten audience had the chance to meet the crew up close and color in their own Wally to take on adventures.  Wally and Becky join us on screen too during our presentations.  The students get to follow Wally and Becky on their trip to school, teaching safety lessons along the way.

Wally and Becky will also be the main characters in our new walk and bike activity booklet. A cut-out version of Wally, included in the booklet, encourages kids to take a walk with Wally and write about it.  We can’t wait to hear about their adventures!

If you are interested in hosting a safety presentation or a walk and bike to school event, please contact our SRTS coordinators. 

Time to Nominate an NJ Smart Workplace

4 Aug

Attention NJ Businesses Offering Commuter Benefits to Employees – You May Be Eligible for NJ Smart Workplaces Awards

 Applications are now being accepted for the 2017  New Jersey Smart Workplaces (NJSW) awards. NJSW recognizes and honors employers who help reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality by providing commuter benefits to employees. Employers of all sizes are eligible to apply. Applying is easy and chances are that employers already provide some of the things that qualify them for this designation. Employers are recognized at one of four levels of achievement: bronze, silver, gold or platinum based upon the programs offered at the worksite.

There are no costs associated with this prestigious designation and all awardees will be featured on our website and recognized at Greater Mercer TMA’s Annual Luncheon in October.

These are some of the things we are looking for:

Bronze Level

  • Establish and maintain a relationship with a local Transportation Management Association (TMA).
  • Designate an on-site point of contact for employee commute inquiries.
  • Place alternative commute information in new-hire packets. (Contact us at tma@gmtma.org to receive alternative commute information)
  • Encourage employees to register for TMA traffic alerts or 511NJ.org or disseminate traffic alerts to your employees.
  • Provide access to a site-specific commuter information display.
  • Regularly promote commute options and TMA incentives through regular memos, postings, e-mail, Intranet or other employee communications.
  • Encourage employees to register their alternate commute with a local TMA.

Silver Level

  • Host or sponsor TMA events/programs such as National Bike to Work Month, National Walk Month, Car Free Week, or Distracted Driving Awareness Week at the worksite.
  • Provide financial or staff assistance for TMA-sponsored community events.
  • Host two or more on-site vanpool/carpool formation meetings.
  • Provide a designated outdoor bicycle parking area or an appropriate indoor area.
  • Provide employees access to basic bike maintenance tools.
  • Provide preferential parking for vanpoolers or carpoolers.
  • Offer a formal flextime program.
  • Offer a formal telecommuting program.
  • Offer a formal compressed workweek policy.
  • Provide pretax payroll deductions for commuting cost for employees (vanpool, transit and/or bicycle commuters).
  • Provide Emergency Ride Home for employees who have exceeded the maximum number of TMA-provided rides.
  • Provide on-site amenities such as food service, dry cleaner, ATM/bank, sundries or showers.
  • Implement a teleconference policy.

Gold Level

Achieve FIVE Bronze Level activities and five Silver Level activities.

Platinum Level

Achieve Gold  level and implement a comprehensive site-specific alternative commute program such as:

  • Telework or compressed work week program that reduces commute trips by 3%.
  • A monthly employer subsidy toward transit passes.
  • A monthly employer subsidy/benefit for employees who carpool or vanpool.
  • Partnering with local gyms, Ys, or other groups to provide off-site showers.
  • Supplement parking by partnering with local organizations to create private park and rides.
  • Provide fleet of bicycles for employee use or rental.
  • Provide an employer-subsidized shuttle.
  • Provide electric vehicles for employee business use.
  • Provide electric vehicles and charging stations for employee use.
  • Contact your TMA for more suggestions.

The program is a partnership of 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.

Go to www.gmtma.org  to register online. If you are not sure you qualify or you have questions about the program, please contact us at tma@gmtma.org.

Bike to Work Week Promotion Winners

16 Jun

It is finally time to announce the bike to work week winners, but first let’s see how the promotion went this year.  112 people took part in the GMTMA Bike to Work Week promotion this year. Participants committed to biking to work either individually or as a part of an employer team. Together we biked more than 1,500 miles and replaced 230 car trips with cleaner, healthier bike trips. And based on the comments, everyone seems to have enjoyed it. We will share those comments with you throughout the week on social media, so be sure to check our social media channels Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

The Employer Team Challenge included teams from Axens NA, Albridge, Bristol Myers Squibb, Isles INC., GMTMA, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Princeton University, Solvay, REI Princeton, KSS Architects, and Maser Consulting. Participants also had the option to participate in a photo contest.

And the winners are:

The photo contest winner is Stacey C. with the photo bellow titled 25 years of biking together”

The Bike to Work Week promotion winners are:

  • Anthony I. – $30 Kopps Cycle gift card
  • David R. – $30 Kopps Cycle gift card
  • Melinda P. – $30 Kopps Cycle gift card
  • Philip C. – $30 Kopps Cycle gift card
  • Michael L. – REI Flash 22 Pack
  • Peter G. – REI Flash 22 Pack
  • Sharon H. – REI Flash 22 Pack
  • Michael M. – Fly 6 camera and light
  • Emma I. – $25 Whole Earth Center gift card
  • Jim S. – $25 Whole Earth Center gift card
  • Ken M. – $50 Sourland Cycles gift card
  • Sean V. – 4 Trenton Thunder tickets

The Employer’s Team Challenge winner is again an REI Princeton team who logged the most miles and most trips.

Congratulations to the winners and thanks to everyone who took part in the Bike to Work Week promotion this year!

And many thanks to the Bike to Work week sponsors: Kopp’s Cycle, REI Princeton, Greater Mercer TMA, St. Lawrence Rehab Center, Sourland Cycles, and Whole Earth Center  for providing this year’s prizes.

Committing to Reduce Emissions

9 Jun

A recent Smart Growth America article highlights the ways in which cities can commit to reducing emissions and steps mayors can take to achieve the Climate Actions Agenda goals.

Some of the steps highlighted in the article are investing in electric cars and clean energy and building walkable neighborhoods which are served by transit.  Compact, walkable neighborhoods are efficient because they reduce the need to use a car and reduce water and energy use.  And as Smart Growth America mentions, compact, walkable neighborhoods are in demand, which is good news for people worried about climate.

Other steps mayors can take:

  • Make walking and biking safer by adopting a Complete Streets approach
  • Make public transit a priority
  • Adopt policies that make it easier  to locate homes and businesses near transit
  • Allow mixed-use development
  • Rethink street networks so that they connect and not end in a cul-de-sac

In Mercer County, Princeton’s Mayor Liz Lempert signed the Climate Mayors open letter to adopt and uphold the climate goals. Some of the highlights are:

  • Adding a new electric vehicle charging station on the first level of the Spring Street Garage
  • Adding a new temporary parklet in front of jaZams along Palm Square which will serve as a playful environment to educate people about renewable energy sources
  • Committing to reducing the municipal environmental footprint by producing less waste and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
  • And a new solar project over the former River Road landfill.

So far, over 270 mayors have committed to uphold the climate goals. And all of us can also commit to taking small steps to support them and the Climate Action Agenda by changing the way we drive and how we drive, use less energy, take public transit, and being more aware of our environmental footprint.

 

Bike Commuter Journal: Bike Commuting to REI

17 May

Aaron is an REI Princeton Employee and he bike commutes very often. One of his colleagues told us that he “bikes more often than anyone I know, in all kinds of weather.” So we decided to ask Aaron to tell what his secret is and he kindly agreed to. From tips on how to be prepared and ride safely, to his nature encounters and racing with a blue heron, he has a lot to say. Here is Aaron’s bike commuting story:

Aaron is pictured here first on the right

  1. Tell us a little about yourself

My biking revival started one day after work staring at a Chick-Fil-A sign at the mall for the MS Coast the Coast Bike Ride. Being active with the MS Walks since I was in 5th grade, I thought it would be a cool way to get more involved. I hadn’t touched my bike since the day I got my driver’s license. After working your standard 9 to 5 job for a couple years I gained an astounding amount of weight to my dismay. I was able to finish the MS Coast to Coast 50 mile bike ride on my old Huffy Mountain Bike with high spirits despite its 40lbs of steel and poor shifting. I felt like I was a kid again and it renewed my love for biking. I was motivated to get a real road bike, complete multiple triathlons, and three cross country bike trips!

  1. How long have you been bike commuting?

I started bike commuting when I began working for the REI in East Hanover back in 2011. It was 23 miles one way so making the journey for every shift was time consuming so I would bike as time permitted.  With the opening of the REI in Princeton/Lawrenceville in 2015, I was now able to take the East Coast Greenway / Delaware & Raritan Canal Path from home to store but it was a longer but safer 30 mile commute. I made the move to Ewing over a year ago which shortened my bike commute to a mere 13 miles!

  1. Why did you choose to bike commute?

Before moving, my car commute was about an hour. After the move, I would still have an hour commute but I could swap out my car for my bike!  I was no longer stuck in route 1 traffic and trading it out for more canal paths and backcountry road time.

  1. How often do you bike commute?

I bike commute every chance I get. Rain, snow, cold, I feel like a mailman. I have only missed a handful of opportunities to bike into work in the past year and a half.

  1. What is one item that you can’t leave home without?

My bike! Besides my helmet, I cannot leave home without my lights. I bike with a minimum of two blinking red lights to shine my presence on the road, even in the daytime. Grabbing the attention of drivers is the name of the game and having them give you the room you need to ride safely lets me know it’s working!

  1. Do you have any tips for people who want to start bike commuting?

For first time riders, I suggest checking in with a local bike shop with popular bike routes in the area. This gives a rough outline for which roads are good for traveling and has a good bike presence as to not surprise motorists. Bike shops usually have good local maps marking which roads as well as the Greater Mercer TMA website (link) which grades roads by its safety factors. Google maps has a biking option but it should not be used as your primary route creating method. I have had Google lead me on roundabouts that were hiking trails, closed trails, and even busy roads. Next, drive the route (if not a pedestrian and bike path only route) to see if you are comfortable with the roads and neighborhoods. Find a free day to test bike the route to give you a sense of how long you would need to get to work on time then factor in extra time for packing your bags, the unexpected flat tire, and getting dressed for work. Bring a friend and make a day of it!

If your ride is long, just find a “Park and Ride” train station. You can also shorten your commute by finding safe public parking along the route or at a friend’s house and bike in from there. Driving to work with your bike so you bike home and back to work the next day can help split up the mileage as well. If all else fails, call a loved one for a pick up!

  1. What do you like most about bike commuting?

The scenery is one of the best things about bike commuting. There are many things to see on a bike commute doing it year round, from the flowers of spring to the frozen rivers in winter. The scenery changes almost on a daily basis to keep things interesting. The exercise I get from it also a big bonus so I don’t have to hit the gym after work all the time!

  1. How long is your commute?

My bike commute is 13.1 miles long. I jokingly tell my co-workers that I’ll run to work one day since I run half marathons as well.

  1. Do you have any advice or tips for people who are thinking about starting to bike to work?

Helmet, Helmet, Helmet! I grew up in a time where it wasn’t a requirement and wearing one is not the cool thing to wear. When I began riding again, I was encouraged by people to wear one and I’m glad I listened. During a group ride, I was able to test the usefulness of my helmet in a pile up. I flipped my bike and landed on my helmet which cracked in half leaving me virtually unharmed. I have also witnessed 2 friends whose life was saved as well. Working at REI, I have seen numerous other people come into the store with similar stories as mine even on what seemed like a “safe” canal ride. Riding with traffic and as far to the right as safely possible is also a requirement. Making your moves smooth and predictable around road hazards allow drivers to predict your direction easier, and looking at parked cars for occupants to prevent getting “doored”.

Saddlebags are a lifesaver as they take the weight off your back and don’t leave you sweaty. They also keep the added weight lower for minimal ride adjustment when properly secured. They also provide the extra room I need for rainy weather gear for that unexpected shower or cold front!

  1. Do you have any funny bike commuting stories?

I once helped 3 turtles cross the canal path on the same day. I was afraid I was going to be late for work helping these little guys and gals out! I had a good discussion with a family about turtles and how we should leave them in the wild and not make them into a pet. Blue Herons are a canal path local and find them all over the place. I once “chased” one down the path for over 2 miles as he would fly down every hundred yards, rest, and fly again! He was definitely going at least 15mph as I wasn’t able to catch up with him.

Thank you Aaron!