Archive | Land Use RSS feed for this section

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.

 

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.

buildings-1853891_1920

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.

street-351548_1920

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.

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.

sand-1358809_1280

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

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.

vision zero

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/

 

Mobility As A Question Of Equality

24 Jul

In this TED talk Enrique Peñalosa, former mayor of Bogota, speaks about mobility and why buses represent democracy in action. Although he talks mostly about mobility in developing countries, it is hardly an issue limited to developing countries. It is something every country should consider seriously in the future.

Peñalosa says that mobility gets worse as societies get richer, and it becomes a question of equality. The definition of an “advanced city is not one where even the poor use cars, but rather one where even the rich use public transport.”

Road space is a valuable resource for a city, and it is important for a city to distribute it equally. It is important for all modes of transportation to share resources and the way Bogota solved the problem was to implement, lanes for buses, dedicated bike lanes, and sidewalks. A mass transit system where buses enjoy their dedicated lanes and zoom by cars stuck in traffic.

Protected bicycle lanes are considered a right. Being able to bike without the risk of being killed is a “powerful symbol of democracy because it shows that citizen on a $30 bike is equally important as one in a $30,000 car.”

Also, Peñalosa refers to walking as a need and says that:  “In terms of transport infrastructure, what really makes a difference between advanced and backward cities is not highways or subways but quality sidewalks.”

According to Peñalosa in developing countries more than 80% of the cities will be built in the next 4 or 5 decades. But this massive development is not limited only to developing countries.  The US alone will build more than 70 million homes in the same time frame.

He considers the current road space sharing model unsustainable and before building these cities, the relationship between pedestrians and cars has to be reconsidered. Cities that give priority to people rather than cars; cities that protect all individuals need to be built.

Peñalosa speaks based on the measures he implemented in his city, and he admits it was not easy. He proposes a few solutions and urges countries to think of these solutions when considering the next wave of massive city development.

Listen to his TED talk to find out about his work and what solutions he proposes for the future.

Let us know what you think and as always if you have a blog post you would like to share please contact us. You could be our next guest  blogger.

GMTMA’s Bike to Work Week and Photo Contest Winners

19 Jun

A big thank you to everyone who rode their bike to work during GMTMA’s Bike to Work Week challenge this year! In just one week you eliminated 300 car trips and rode over 1800 miles!

While many people that registered for bike to work week do regularly or occasionally ride their bike to work, 15% of our bike to work registrants were first-time bike to work riders. Sixty percent of these new riders were women.  Some could not bike to work but chose to swap an errand typically done by car with a bike ride. Cargo bikes proved to be great for running errands and grocery shopping.

33% of the participants that reported their rides for the week, rode to work five times, 23% rode three times, and 8% ride their bike seven days.

The longest commute by bike was 32 miles/day which adds up to 160 miles per week and five people reported more than 100 miles rode in a week.

This year’s participation by gender:

gender

The incentive to ride was great this year, besides the great weather, we had 25 prizes to give out thanks to our generous sponsors:

Hart’s CycleryMcCaffrey’s SupermarketWhole Earth CenterKopp’s CycleSt. Lawrence RehabREISourland CyclesHalter’s Cyclery,Knapps CycleryWhole Foods Market (Princeton) and NJ Bike Tours.

The prizes ranged from Trenton Thunder tickets, $25, $50 and $100 dollars gift cards to helmets and bike tune-ups.

The winners are: Jenny M., Deniz D., Robert W., Sharon H., Sena V., Jim S., Christian J., Marc B., Sam B., David B., Vanshaj B., Daniel W., Chris S., Elizabeth M., Joseph K., Charles K., Michael L., Philip C., Ellen F., Ken M., Jenny G., Ted B., and Edwin S.

The Bike to Work Week Team Challenge prize goes to a group of four riders from Maser Consulting.

Maser Consulting Team

Maser Consulting Team

The Visions of Bicycling photo contest winner is Deniz D.

Who needs a car on a beautiful spring day? We are a car-free family. You ask if that is even possible in New Jersey? It sure is and we love it! Here’s a classic example of a resourceful bicycle moment: my wife managed to get an entire piece of plywood home (cut to fit in our daughter’s chariot, yet just the right length for our project). But if that wasn’t enough, she stopped to pick up a watermelon along the way. The best part was the proud smile on her face when she got back home!

-Deniz D.

Kudos to Deniz and his family and thank you for the great picture!

GMTMA Visions of Bicycling photo contest winner

GMTMA Visions of Bicycling photo contest winner

And as one of the riders said: “It’s not over yet!!   The more I ride the more I enjoy my bike! Thanks for the extra push on my spring and summer riding. “

We hope this was an incentive to get you started and you will keep biking every chance you get.

Don’t forget to join us for the next Bike to Work Week Challenge!

Until then send us your stories or join us as a guest blogger.

We will follow up with a post about all the suggestions we received to make our communities more bike friendly.

GMTMA Launches New Program

5 Jun

Good moves slide

GMTMA is excited to announce the launch of the brand new “Good Moves” program. Good Moves is a personalized transportation planning service for Mercer and Ocean counties residents. It is a free resource that provides personalized transit schedules, bike maps, carpool matching, and more! No more wondering about how to get from Point A to Point B without driving alone in your car!

We want residents to know that driving alone in a car isn’t the only option for getting around. There are other transportation options including transit, biking, and walking that are easily accessible. Good Moves is a valuable resource to residents that are new to the area and are unfamiliar with the plethora of transportation options. However, Good Moves is available to anyone!

To kick-off the program we sent direct mailings about our service to new residents in the area.  We quickly began to receive requests for information from people who are ready to make a good move.

A Lawrenceville resident requested a personalized public transportation plan and a biking map to ride to get to transit.  

Another resident wanted a personalized plan including public transportation options to Manhattan.

Good Moves is happy to connect all of these people to sustainable transportation options in their community! Not only does taking other transportation options besides a car connect you to your community, but it provides numerous other benefits! You will save on the cost of gas and the upkeep of a vehicle and reduce carbon emissions and road congestion. Additionally, walking and biking around town offers exercise and health benefits.

If you are interested in receiving your free personalized transportation guides, visit http://www.gmtma.org.