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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.

 

This Earth Day Green Your Commute

21 Apr

This Saturday, April 22, is Earth Day, marking the end of Earth Week, an event celebrated in 192 countries, to increase awareness about the environment, sustainability, animal extinction, rainforest depletion, and other issues.

This Earth Day we’d like everyone to focus on reducing CO2 emissions from motor vehicles. A recent NJ Spotlight article highlights the need to reduce greenhouse gases and to increase public awareness of the impact climate change had on people’s health.  In New Jersey there are 590,000 adults and 180,000 children that have a chronic respiratory disease.  The asthma rates for adults and children are higher in NJ (9%) than the national average of 8.4% for children and 7.6% for adults. Climate change also exacerbates allergic reactions and infectious diseases. It seems like we have many reasons to keep working on reducing emissions and take steps to improve our health.

This Saturday will be a good day to go out, enjoy the great weather and leave your car at home.  Maybe you can even try extending your active travel to 2 or more days a week by choosing one of the following:

  • Public transit – you can find info about traveling by bus and train in Ocean and Mercer County
  • Try bike commuting and if while you’re at it sign up for Bike to Work Week and get a free t-shirt; you can find more information about bike commuting, bike lockers, ask for maps, and more
  • Give carpooling and vanpooling a try, you can start once or twice a week and go from there – more information and registration form are available here.
  • And if you don’t have a choice and have to drive, why not go electric?!? Kudos if you already did. A lot of Americans were buying trucks and SUVs last year because the gas prices are so low, and while these vehicles may have better fuel economy than they once did, they are still impacting the environment in a negative way.

We know there are many people out there who made active commuting a lifestyle. Many people take the bus or train, bike and walk to work and that is great. Kudos everyone and we hope to see even more.

Happy Earth day and we hope you enjoy the outdoors this weekend.

 

Sources:

http://www.earthday.org/campaigns/green-cities/green-your-ride/

http://inhabitat.com/fascinating-earth-day-facts-that-you-may-not-know/

https://motiondigest.com/2017/04/18/earth-week-2017-lets-go-green-commuting/

http://www.njspotlight.com/stories/17/04/18/is-climate-change-already-aggravating-asthma-other-diseases-in-new-jersey/?utm_source=NJ+Spotlight++Master+List&utm_campaign=714520017d-Daily_Digest2_5_2015&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_1d26f473a7-714520017d-398644857

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.

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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.

zerogrpah

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.

Is It the Low Gas Prices?

9 Sep

The latest National Highway Traffic Safety Administration figures show a large increase in the number of traffic fatalities in the last year. A total of 35,092 people lost their life in traffic crashes, an increase of 7.2% since 2014. The total number includes drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians.  The previous trend of declining traffic deaths has been reversed in 2015 and the main reason cited was increased driving due to the low fuel prices. And according to a CDC study, U.S. now has the highest traffic deaths when compared to other high-income countries.

So is it really just the low gas prices? Not really. Low gas prices led to an increase in the number of people driving, but it didn’t cause the crashes. The CDC study shows that too many people are behaving recklessly, speeding, driving while intoxicated and not always using their seatbelt.

In addition, poor transit options and street design that prioritizes cars over humans also play a big role. And that’s why supporters of Complete Streets policy and Vision Zero are gaining ground in more and more places across United States. Designing our streets to be safer can reduce the instances of traffic deaths by lowering the speed limit, giving pedestrians and bicyclists safe access, and allowing public transit to run on time.

Until we have safer streets and better transit options, we can help change the trend by driving carefully and looking out for each other whether you are a driver, a cyclist, or a pedestrian.

Sources:

http://nacto.org/2016/08/31/traffic-deaths/

https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/motor-vehicle-safety/index.html

http://www.curbed.com/2016/9/1/12737230/streets-traffic-deaths-pedestrians

http://www.nhtsa.gov/About+NHTSA/Press+Releases/traffic-fatalities-2015

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/

 

The Wait is Over! New Jersey Walking School Bus App is Here

3 Sep

Just in time for back to school planning and National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, we have launched the New Jersey Walking School Bus App!

Throughout the year, we work with schools and with towns on a variety of programs to encourage kids to walk and bike to school where it’s safe to do so. The new app allows parents to easily create and plan walks to and from school. Parents in Mercer County and selected areas in Ocean County can search by elementary school for existing walking groups, create walking groups, invite neighbors to join, plan walks to and from school, assign parent leaders to walk with students, group text within the app, and alert parents when students have arrived safely at school!

“Walking School Bus” is a universal term used to describe an organized group of children walking to and from school with one or more adults. It’s like a carpool — without the car!

“Walking to school isn’t just great for the health of our kids and the environment, it’s fun and social too,” said Cheryl Kastrenakes, Executive Director of GMTMA.  “The WSB app gives parents a simple way to find other parents that want their children to walk to school and to set up a walking group.”

More information about the app and demo video are available on the Walking School Bus page on our website http://www.gmtma.org.  All the parents that sign up by October 15, 2015 will be entered in a drawing for a $100 gift card!

Additional features: The app calculates the miles walked, calories burned and reduction in CO2 emissions for the individual, group and school.

GMTMA’s New Jersey Walking School Bus app is sponsored by the NJ Department of Transportation’s Safe Routes to School Program; a comprehensive program that encourages walking and biking safely to school.