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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.

 

Women’s History Month – Transportation

10 Mar

Since this month is Women’s History Month, we would like to take this opportunity to mention some of the female pioneers in transportation and the contribution women make in this industry nowadays.

Transportation and mobility has been traditionally a man’s interest and men have been predominantly occupying the majority of both low skills as well as high skilled transportation jobs.

Looking at the history of women in transportation and mobility industry, we see that things have changed and women are now encouraged to build careers in transportation and mobility. The Department of Transportation published an article with detailed information on all the women that made their mark in different areas of transportation. We have selected just a few to feature in this post but encourage you to read the whole article.

From this article we found that the first woman to receive a driving license in the 1900’s was Anne Bush. The first woman to ever compete in a car race was Janet Guthrie who in 1976 participated in the Indianapolis 500 and NASCAR.

In 1922 another woman, Helen Schultz, becomes a pioneer of the bus transportation industry by establishing the Red Ball Transportation Company.  Another pioneer, this time in aviation, Amelia Earhart, is well known for her daring attempt to fly around the globe which unfortunately ended tragically.

The first African American commercial pilot, Willa Brown, also became the first female officer in the Civil Air Patrol.

But women did not stop at flying planes, they went beyond, they went to space.  The first American woman to go to space was Sally Ride; the first American woman to walk in space was Kathryn Sullivan.

Many women also had jobs in transportation administration and engineering, starting with Beverly Cover in 1962, Judith A. Carlson who worked as highway engineer, Karen M. Porter a civil engineer, to Elizabeth Dole as a secretary of DOT in 1983 and Carmen Turner Acting Director of Civil rights at the DOT.

These days, women are holding various positions in transportation and mobility, from bus drivers to planners to our current United States Secretary of Transportation. Agencies like WTS (Women’s Transportation Seminar)  are dedicated to the advancement of women’s careers in transportation through connecting women in Transportation, networking, and an annual conference.

While many women have careers in transportation and mobility, the industry is still male dominated.

Working for governmental agencies, private businesses, schools, universities or non-profits, careers in the transportation and mobility industry can be interesting and rewarding.

We hope this will inspire more women to choose a career in transportation. To learn more about opportunities go to http://www.dot.gov/policy-initiatives/women-and-girls/resources

 

This is an updated version of a post initially published on the GMTMA blog on March 27, 2015.

Active Transportation and the Health of Our Communities

20 Jan

Project for Public Spaces (PPS) released a new report, The Case for Healthy Places, in December 2016 in which they highlight key areas that support healthy placemaking.  According to PPS one’s zip code is a better predictor of health than genetic code. Where we live and where we work matters and we can see that from research highlighting health disparities among low-income communities and high-income communities.

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We already know that Americans have some of the highest rates of diabetes, heart disease, asthma and certain cancer types.  Americans also suffer from poor mental health and all of these conditions are linked to insufficient physical activity among other factors. Insufficient physical activity is directly related to the way our communities are designed.   PPS states issues such as sprawl, unwalkable communities, poor air quality, unsafe street design for walking and biking, all have a negative impact on our physical and mental health.

One of the key areas named in the PPS report is Walking and Biking. According to research cited by PPS, placemaking supports more walkable and bikeable communities which leads to improved safety  and accessibility of streets,  a sense of community, increased physical activity, support of local economies, and reduced air pollution. And we now have enough evidence that physical activity helps reduce the risk of chronic disease.

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So what would encourage more physical activity? According to the American Planning Association cited by PPS report, there are nine features that encourage active transportation:

  • Sidewalks
  • Bike lanes and racks
  • Traffic calming measures
  • Crosswalks and signals
  • Aesthetics and placemaking efforts, such as public art and fountains
  • Public space including parks and plazas
  • Street trees
  • Green infrastructures, including greenways and rain gardens
  • Street furniture, including benches, bus shelters, and signage

The report shows that active transportation is not only good for our health but also for the health of our local economies. And studies show that physically active kids have better concentration, mood, self-image, self-confidence, and fewer chronic health problems.

What do you think about the walking and biking conditions in your community?  What do you like? What would you like to change?

Let us know; you can comment on our social media or write a guest blog.

You can find the full report here and the report release article here.

Street Smart Campaign Launch

28 Sep

Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert and the Princeton Police Department are holding a news conference with the Greater Mercer Transportation Management Association (GMTMA) Thursday, September 29 to kick off its participation in Street Smart New Jersey, a pedestrian safety initiative focusing on outreach and education designed to change unsafe behavior by pedestrians and drivers on our streets.

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The event is being held at Hinds Plaza at the intersection of Witherspoon and Hullfish Streets during the Princeton Farmers Market at 12:30pm.

Speakers will include Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert, Princeton Police Chief Nicholas Sutter, and GMTMA Executive Director Cheryl Kastrenakes.

The Street Smart Campaign is launching in early October to coincide with the start of local schools and the return of Princeton University students for the fall semester.  The campaign focuses on compliance of traffic and pedestrian safety laws.  The Princeton Police Department is partnering with GMTMA, a non-profit transportation organization serving Mercer County.

“We want everyone to be safe whether they’re walking to school, to work, to the store, or out for some exercise,” said Mayor Lempert. “Princeton has lots of pedestrians because we’re a great, walkable community, and that’s why this safety campaign is so important. It’s an opportunity to remind both pedestrians and drivers of the rules that are designed to keep everyone safe.”

Street Smart is a collaborative effort between the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority (NJTPA), Federal Highway Administration, New Jersey Department of Transportation and New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety.  GMTMA is working with NJTPA to coordinate Street Smart campaign in communities in Mercer and Ocean Counties.

Street Smart aims to change pedestrian and motorist behavior to reduce pedestrian-related crashes, injuries, and fatalities.  The campaign uses the slogan “check your vital signs” to remind motorists and pedestrians of safe travel roles and responsibilities.  Vital signs are displayed on tip cards, posters, and temporary street signs throughout the community as a visual reminder for drivers and pedestrians.

In the state of New Jersey, from 2010-2014, 750 pedestrians were killed and 17,000 were injured.  Between 2013 and 2015, there were 55 pedestrian-related crashes in Princeton.  Of those accidents 52 pedestrians were injured and there was one fatality.

For more information on GMTMA and the Street Smart campaign in other municipalities, go to gmtma.org/street-smart.

NJ Sustainability Summit Takeaways

24 Jun

Last week on Wednesday, June 15, some of us at Greater Mercer TMA attended the Sustainability Summit organized by Sustainable Jersey.

Several interesting things were announced during the summit, including the new NJDEP “It pays to plug in” campaign, meant to increase workplace charging infrastructure.  There was also some sobering news from the keynote speaker.  Dr. Benjamin Strauss of Climate Central provided the keynote address – a sobering and sometimes frightening view of the current climate change, sea level rise and flooding impacts on New Jersey.  Dr. Strauss explained that while natural causes do contribute to the sea level rise, 67% of the global sea level rise is human caused, and CO2 emissions are the main culprit.

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In the worst case scenario, if CO2 emissions continue to grow at the same rate, the likelihood of experiencing 5 feet coastal flooding by 2030 is 46%, and by 2040 the likelihood increases to 69%. As soon as 2060 the likelihood soars to 97%!  To get an idea of how some parts of the NJ coast might appear you can check out the climate central risk finder tool.

You can see the rest of Dr. Strauss’s presentation here.  On page 57 there’s an amazing picture of what Newark airport might look like given the predicted rising sea level.

The good news is that if we start curbing emissions now, we can avert the worst case scenario. According to Dr. Strauss, taking serious measures now could make a big difference in the long run. Low emissions could decrease the risk of 5 FT flooding to approximately 30% by the year 2100 as opposed to 100% as soon as the year 2070 (on parts of the NJ coast).

In NJ steps being taken to curb emissions. An example is the As Mentioned earlier; the NJDEP is offering grants to increase the number of workplace EV charging stations. Grant and eligibility information available at http://www.nj.gov/dep/aqes/

The first item on Sustainable Jersey’s Energy Goals is “decreasing greenhouse gas emissions in to avert catastrophic climate impacts.” The Energy and Waste Standards were the first ones of the 14 standards in the new Gold Certification announced at the summit.  Municipalities have to lower Greenhouse emission by 3.6% per year.  The new Gold certification is the highest level of certification and will also measure performance, not only implementation of actions. Reductions in GHC will be measured every three years to see whether municipalities demonstrate continued reductions.   More info available here.

And if that got you thinking about climate change and wonder what can you do to reduce or offset your carbon footprint, check out these easy steps.

Sources:
www.sustainablejersey.com
http://sealevel.climatecentral.org/uploads/ssrf/NJ-Report.pdf
http://sealevel.climatecentral.org/ssrf/new-jersey

West Windsor Bicycle and Pedestrian Alliance celebrates 10 years!

18 Mar

Last night the West Windsor Bicycle and Pedestrian Alliance celebrated its 10th anniversary at its Annual Meeting. Ken Carlson, the group’s founder and first president who moved from the area, was back in town to attend and be a guest speaker.

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Presentations from both the current president (Jerry Foster) and past president, covering recent advocacy efforts as well as the history of the group, made it clear that this is an organization that has made a real impact on improving conditions for both cyclists and pedestrians in West Windsor.

Their efforts have made West Windsor a safer place and a more inviting place to walk and bike.  And their work is inspiring other communities and other groups to do the same.   West Windsor is now a bronze designated bike friendly community.  Given WWBPA’s efforts so far… a Platinum designation could be in sight for their 20th!

 

 

What is Vision Zero?

25 Feb

Sweden knows a thing or two about safe streets; they have the safest streets in the world.  That is why their approach to reducing traffic fatalities, Vision Zero, was adopted in other countries and in recent years in a few cities in the U.S.  Vision Zero is not just the latest safety buzzword, it turns the whole idea of traffic safety upside down, from blaming fatalities on what motorists (cyclists, pedestrians, etc.) did wrong to shared responsibility with road designers as well. For example, a traffic fatality at a curve might prompt installation of a guide rail today, while under Vision Zero the lane might additionally be narrowed and the speed limit reduced, to prevent another crash by encouraging lower speed.

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In Sweden roads have many speed bumps and raised crosswalks, and the speed limit is 19 miles per hour. The chance of someone dying is significantly lower when being hit at 19 mph vs. 40 mph. Also, there are separate bike lanes for cyclists.

In U.S., New York adopted Vision Zero in 2014, and the results show that traffic fatalities have declined since then.  The speed limit in NY has been lowered from 30 mph to 25 mph, and police are enforcing speed limits citywide. Other traffic calming measures include creating more bike lanes, educating public about safe driving habits, redesign dangerous intersections, and installing speed cameras.

Other cities in U.S. that adopted Vision Zero are Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, Los Angeles, Austin, San Mateo, San Jose, Santa Barbara, San Diego, Washington D.C., and Fort Lauderdale.

Let’s hope we will adopt Vision Zero in every city in the U.S. and we will see a major decrease in traffic deaths and injuries. Or better yet, many more people will feel safe enough to walk and bike more often.

 

Sources:

http://www.visionzeroinitiative.com/en/Concept/

http://www.pri.org/stories/2016-02-23/these-americans-want-behave-more-swedish-road

http://citylimits.org/2015/12/14/de-blasios-vision-zero-appears-to-have-dented-traffic-deaths/