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Calling All Artists Grades 3 – 5!

17 Feb

Greater Mercer TMA’s (GMTMA) fourth annual Safe Routes to School Bookmark Design contest is now underway.  Mercer County and Ocean County students in third through fifth grade are eligible to show their love of walking by creating a bookmark with the theme “I like to walk to … with….”


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Exercise your feet and your brain! Draw a bookmark of who you like to walk with and where you like to go. The winning bookmark designs will be printed and distributed to area schools and local libraries.  Each winner will also receive a $50 gift card.  For more information about the contest and the Safe Routes to School Program, go to gmtma.org.

Submission deadline is March 24, 2017! Bookmark entry forms are available at gmtma.org

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.

Welcome 2017

6 Jan

Goodbye 2016!  What a wild ride we’ve had this past year—in self-driving cars and buses, on bikes and trains, walking and driving.  Let’s take a look back on the good and not so good.

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Technology and its potential took a front seat in transportation news this year.  Uber launched its first fleet of autonomous vehicles for use with its ride-hailing service in Pittsburgh this year and it seems clear that this is just the beginning. US Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx predicted that “By 2021, we will see autonomous vehicles in operation across the country in ways that we [only] imagine today… Families will be able to walk out of their homes and call a vehicle, and that vehicle will take them to work or to school.”

There was increased interest on how the autonomous vehicle industry should be regulated, especially after Tesla cars using the autopilot feature were involved in three crashes, one of them fatal. The feature was in the testing phase, and the drivers were supposed to have their hands on the wheel.  At the end of 2016, Michigan became the first state to pass self-driving regulations.

In 2016 we also saw the first self-driving buses. Helsinki started testing two of the world’s first self-driving buses, and they are looking into using them as a “last mile” solution to ta take commuters to larger transit hubs.

Looking to use new technology to improve transportation, the US Department of Transportation launched the Smart City Challenge, challenging cities to develop ideas for an integrated, first-of-its-kind smart transportation system that would use data, applications, and technology to help people and goods move more quickly, cheaply, and efficiently.  Columbus, Ohio walked away the winner.

Smart bikes ruled with more cities and towns, both large and small adding bike share as an option in their community.  Locally, Princeton University expanded their Bike Share program in 2016, and anyone can use the bikes by signing up for an account with Zagster.  The Bike Share system also exists beyond campus with stations at Princeton Forrestal Center, Princeton Shopping Center and the Institute for Advanced Studies.

Ridesharing became easier than ever this year with apps and other options for the occasional ride-share, and there are also the more traditional commuter options like your TMA’s ride matching programs. They are free, and you can be matched with someone who lives/works near you and has same the schedule.

Safety unfortunately took a backseat this year.  New Jersey saw an increase in the number of traffic fatalities, 607 people lost their lives in a crash last year, 8% higher than in 2015.

New Jersey’s depleted Transportation Trust Fund resulted in a work stoppage on state transportation projects this summer, but the passage of a $.23 increase in the gas tax has given the State a dedicated source of funding for infrastructure projects and improvements.

Infrastructure was a winner in the 2016 election; many cities passed transit-oriented and biking measures—a hopeful sign  for 2017 that people are willing to reduce their driving  and looking for other options!

What do you think? What have we missed?  Let us know; we want to hear from you.

Holiday Season is Near, Drunk Driving is the Wrong Kind of Cheer

9 Dec

From December 14th to January 1st, NHTSA will run the Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over Campaign to raise awareness and prevent drunk driving.  New Jersey is cracking down starting today, December 9, until January 1!

Infographic source: NHTSA

Infographic source: NHTSA

Every year during the winter holidays there is an increase in the number of drunk-driving crashes and according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In 2014 10,076 people died in drunk driving crashes, in 2015 10, 265 people died in drunk driving related crashes. Over a five-year period, close to 4000 died in drunk driving related crashes during the month of December. It is sad to see these figures and the fact that they are going up every year. It is very sad to think that 181 children 14 and younger were among those who died in a crash involving a drunk driver.

The most dangerous times are nights, weekends, and the holidays.  In December 2015, the number of fatal crashes that involved drunk driving was 4 times higher at night than during the day. Let 2016 be the year when the trend reverses.

You can help! Be prepared and have a plan in place before going out. Have a designated driver if you plan to drink, call a cab or try NHTSA’s SaferRide mobile app, which allows users to call a taxi or a friend by identifying their location so they can be picked up. The app is available at http://ow.ly/RWs3S for Android and http://ow.ly/RWs8h for iPhone users.

Another option for planning a night out, a company holiday gathering or other social events and trips, is to hire a professional driver to get you there safely and in comfort. Greater Mercer TMA members: A1-Limousine, Starr Tours, and Stout’s Transportation have limousines and buses available to ferry you and your guests to holiday festivities.

Other things you can do to keep the Happy in Holidays are: helping other people be responsible, if someone you know has been drinking, don’t let them drive and if you see a drunk driver, call the police.

Happy and safe holidays!

Source: http://www.trafficsafetymarketing.gov

Thanksgiving Travel and Transit Tips

23 Nov

The AAA report is out and it looks like the number of people travelling this Thanksgiving weekend is even higher than last year, 48.7 million to be more exact.  With so many people on the roads and the possibility of wet and slippery conditions on Wednesday night into Thursday, we wanted to share a few driving safety tips.  If you don’t plan to drive, we have also included other helpful information regarding public transit and area airports.

If you plan to drive this Thanksgiving weekend here are some safety tips:

  • Get plenty of rest before you start your trip
  • Make sure that everyone is buckled up
  • Keep your focus on the road, and don’t drive distracted
  • Expect traffic and be patient
  • Make sure your car is ready, tires inflated, windshield wipers work, have a tune-up before you plan to travel
  • Check the weatherroad and traffic conditions
  • Keep a first aid kit in your car
  • Carry an emergency kit in case of inclement weather, flashlight, bottled water, blankets, food, flares, snow shovel, jumper cables, ice scraper

If you are planning to travel by train or bus, these are the Thanksgiving schedules:

Northeast Corridor Rail will be operating on Weekend/Holidays Schedule. Rail Schedule available here.

Mercer County Bus Service

The following buses will operate on a Sunday Schedule: 600, 601, 605, 606, 607, 608, 609, and 613.

There will be no service on: 603, 610, 611, 612, 619, and 624 buses.

NJ Transit bus schedules are available here.

NJ Transit early getaway service information available here.

FreeB Commuter and FreeB Neighborhood will not operate on Thanksgiving Day

Ocean Ride

Will not operate on Thursday, November 24  Thanksgiving Day  and Friday, November 25 Thanksgiving Friday.

Riverline will operate on a Sunday Schedule .

SEPTA

Thursday, November 24
Thanksgiving Day – Thanksgiving Parade

Special schedules operated on Market-Frankford Line and Broad Street Line with Night OWL Express Bus service beginning at 12:00am

Regional Rail and Surface Transportation routes will operate on a Sunday/Holiday schedule.

Additional service will operate to King of Prussia Mall.

Friday, November 25
Black Friday

Regional Rail Trains will operate weekday service.

SEPTA schedules available here.

PATH

Thanksgiving Day – Thursday, November 24, 2016
Saturday Schedule

Day after Thanksgiving – Friday, November 25, 2016
Modified Weekday Schedule*

PATH schedules available here. 

Amtrak

Special Northeast Thanksgiving schedules available here.

 

Airport Information

Newark Liberty Airport or on Twitter @NY_NJAirports

Philadelphia International Airport  or on Twitter @PHLAirport

 

 

We wish you and your family a Happy and Safe Thanksgiving!

October 16- 22 is Teen Driver Safety Week

20 Oct

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) designated October 16 to October 22 Teen Driver Safety Week. NHTSA is spreading the message on social media, through web videos, and other types of media that make it more likely to reach teens. Statistics show that car crashes are the leading cause of death among teenagers, 15 – 19 years old. Many of these fatal car crashes have these causes in common:  cellphone use while driving, speeding, drugs and alcohol, having extra passengers in the car, and not wearing a seat belt.

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Source: trafficsafetymarketing.gov

That is why the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends that parents impose the following rules:

  1. No cell phone use while driving – When you are distracted, your reaction time slows down,  you can’t execute emergency maneuvers, and you are less likely to be able to avoid collisions with other vehicles.
  2. No speeding– Every time you increase your speed, the stopping distance increases, and your chance of being able to control the car decreases.
  3. No alcohol– Driving impaired impacts your reaction time, your judgment, your vision, and it is not legal.
  4. No extra passengers – No more than one passenger at all times. When you have more than one passenger in the car, the risk of getting distracted increases and so is the risk of getting into an accident.
  5. No driving or riding without a seatbelt– Wearing a seatbelt can significantly reduce your chances of being seriously injured or even killed in a car crash. You and your passenger have to wear a seatbelt.

For more information, resources, and statistics regarding teen driving, please visit www.safercar.gov/parents .

And as always, stay safe!

Oh Deer, It’s That Time of the Year

14 Oct

October through January is deer breeding season which means more deer – driver encounters on the road. Unfortunately, many times these encounters lead to collisions. The animal usually comes out second-best in this type of close encounter, but the toll on vehicles and their occupants can also be substantial. According to a State Farm statistic, in 2013, 191 people died as a result of collisions with animals. Vehicle damage can exceed $4,000 and the parts most prone to damage are the front bumper, grille, headlamps, hood and fender areas; sometimes the windshield is broken and air bags deploy.

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No foolproof way has been found to keep deer off the roads and away from vehicles. Deer whistles have their advocates; some motorists insist the devices have helped them avoid collisions. But the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) says there’s no scientific evidence to support claims they prevent deer from approaching cars or reduce crash risk. Perhaps a more promising approach is roadside reflectors, designed to reflect light from vehicle headlamps and cause deer to “freeze” rather than cross the road. Studies and field tests suggest they do reduce crash frequency to some extent.

Here are a few tips to help you avoid an unplanned meeting with a deer:

  • Be aware of your surroundings. Pay attention to “deer crossing” signs. Look well down the road and far off to each side. At night, use your high-beam lights if possible to illuminate the road’s edges. Be especially watchful in areas near woods and water. If you see one deer, there may be several others nearby.
  • Be particularly alert at dusk and dawn, when these animals venture out to feed.
  • If you see a deer on or near the roadway and think you have time to avoid hitting it, reduce your speed, tap your brakes to warn other drivers, and sound your horn. Deer tend to fixate on headlights, so flashing them may cause the animal to move. If there’s no vehicle close behind you, brake hard.
  • If a collision seems inevitable, don’t swerve to avoid the deer; your risk of injury may be greater if you do. Hit it, but control the vehicle. Report the accident to the police.

Always obey the speed limit and wear safety belts.

Stay safe!