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Be Air Aware During Air Quality Week May 1-5

28 Apr

Talking about a double whammy, pollen counts are giving a lot of us serious sneezing, red eyes, and breathing problems. Now, it is also the beginning of ozone season, a real air pollution problem in our region. When high pollen counts and air pollution occur together, their combined effects are even worse.

And while we can’t do much about pollen (check pollen counts here http://www.nynjpollen.com/), we can take a few steps to reduce ozone levels. That is why the DEP is kicking off the Air Quality Week between May 1-5 to educate the public about the health impacts of ozone and what to do to protect ourselves. Some things to know and actions to take to protect your health and the environment:

  • Ozone in the stratosphere is good because it protects the earth from ultraviolet rays. Ozone at the ground level is harmful for plants and humans. Elevated levels of ground ozone can trigger coughing, throat irritation, congestion, and can worsen bronchitis and asthma.  Ground ozone levels can be reduced by conserving energy, not idling, and driving less.
  • Ground level ozone is also known as smog and it is the large health threat in New Jersey. Smog damages lung tissue, and impacts natural photosynthesis in plants. Protect yourself when ozone levels are high by limiting outdoor activities. You can monitor air quality by signing up for alerts at http://www.gmtma.org/pg-community-air-quality.php.
  • Ozone levels in New Jersey have decreased in the past 10 years but we still have a lot to do.
  • Energy consumption is one of the big causes of air pollution because power plants release greenhouse gases, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides. Turn off electronic devices when they are not used, unplug extra refrigerators if they are rarely used

You can calculate your carbon footprint here. New Jersey offers financial incentives to people who adopt greener driving habits. You can learn more about it here.

The Air Quality Partnership, a program of the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) also encourages ozone reducing actions such as:

  • Take transit or rideshare.
  • Don’t top off your gas tank. Spillage adds two tons of pollution to the air each day.
  • Refuel at the end of the day. Ozone levels are highest in mid- to late-afternoon.
  • Be sure to clean out your trunk, since an extra 100 pounds reduces gas mileage by up to 2% and wastes fuel.
  • Trip-link when possible. Combining errands with your daily commute will save time, money, and the environment.
  • Follow regular maintenance schedules for your car. A properly running vehicle emits less pollution and saves gas.
    • Check your owner’s manual and properly inflate your tires. Properly inflated tires can improve your gas mileage up to 3.3%.
    • When changing your oil, use a manufacturer-recommended grade motor oil to improve fuel economy by 1-2%.

If you want to further reduce your carbon footprint, learn how to reduce waste and save money along the way here.

Be air aware to enjoy an easy breathing Spring!

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

Transit as a Habit

17 Mar

In a recent blog post on planetizen.com, two researchers, Michael Smart and Nicholas Klein discussed the  findings of their  study to determine what shapes our travel behavior.  The authors of the study found that “habits and preferences for transit may be formed at an early age” and “the quality of transit experienced earlier in life can be just as important as the quality of transit in the current neighborhood.”

Smart and Klein also say that being exposed to high-quality transit during our 20s and 30s increases the chance of using transit later in life and the habit of using transit is maintained even when moving to a location with low transit choices. And as someone who likes public transit and used it a lot in my early life, I can attest to that. However, when it comes to NJ public transit, we could all use a little guidance.  For some reason, buses especially seem to be a little intimidating to some people. How do you pay? How do I know how much to pay? Can I pay the driver?

To make this a little easier, try to take a trip one day on the bus or train when you are not in a rush to get somewhere.  And why not make it a family trip, take your kids with you and help them form that habit earlier in life. Here are some tips to help you get started:

  • NJ Transit makes it easy to purchase tickets, see schedules, and plan your trip with the help of their NJ Transit Mobile app. You can download the app from the AppStore or on Google Play.
  • If you do not use the NJ Transit app, you can find schedules and fare at http://www.njtransit.com/sf/sf_servlet.srv?hdnPageAction=BusTo or you can ask us to send you a hard copy. We usually try to supply enough schedules at the local libraries and municipalities as well.
  • Local bus route tickets cannot be purchased with the app so you will need to have exact change when you get on the bus. Fares are based on zone. You can find the zone by looking at the map printed on the schedule.
  • When the bus arrives at the station, raise your hand to signal the driver you want to get on.
  • When you want to get off the bus, press the signal strip located near the window to let the driver know you want to exit at the next stop.
  • If you are planning a train trip and you do not have the app to purchase tickets or find a schedule, schedules can be found at the train station and tickets can be purchased at the ticket vending machines located near the station. The ticket vending machines accept all types of payments and fares are based on the location you wish to travel.
  • You can take your bike to transit and on the NJ transit buses and trains. There is no extra charge, but there a few restrictions for bicycles on NJ Transit train. More Bike& Ride info is available here.

Check out our mobility guide for more details on planning your bus or train trip.  You can also find bus and rail schedules and the mobility guide Spanish version on our website.

We hope you give transit a try and enjoy the ride! Let us know how it went.

Sources:

http://www.njtransit.com/rg/rg_servlet.srv?hdnPageAction=BikeProgramTo

https://mobilitylab.org/2017/03/09/transit-lifelong-habit-study/

 

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.

Life in Transit: Take the Bus to Princeton

3 Feb

This week’s post comes from a guest blogger, Tineke Thio, who also serves on Princeton’s Bicycle Advisory Committee, and it also appears on their blog – thanks!

Some are un-apologetical fair-weather riders. Some don’t leave home without their bikes unless a brutal polar vortex has parked itself over New Jersey.

Wherever your limit lies, for those days that you have places to go, but don’t want to or can’t get there on your bike, try the bus. Sure, NJ Transit buses go through Princeton – but here I want to tell you about Princeton’s local buses.
blog

FreeB
The FreeB is Princeton’s jitney; its cute logo, the blue “B” surrounded by a constellation of orange dots, is displayed on the bus stops and on the bus itself (named “Marvin”, after former Princeton Borough Mayor Marvin Reed).

It comes in two versions, commuter and daytime; the latter runs between 9.40am and 4.30pm. The two versions have different routes: for instance, only the commuter FreeB goes to Princeton Station, and only the daytime FreeB passes by the Municipal Building on Witherspoon Street. If you click on the links in this sentence, that downloads the PDF files of the map and schedule for the Commuter FreeB, and the Daytime FreeB. (In case you’re wondering: Yes, Princeton is working on getting the FreeB schedules on Google Maps).

Note: even though the schedules say you can flag down and board the FreeB between stops “where it’s safe to do so”, in practice you’re best off boarding at a designated stop. Bus drivers are highly risk averse – and that’s how we like them!

The FreeB is equiped for wheelchair access.

Best of all, it’s free!

Tiger Transit
As you can see from the maps, the FreeB services mostly the town side of Nassau Street. For travel on the University side, there’s Tiger Transit, Princeton University’s bus service which is also free and open to the public. Their buses are fully accessible, and have bike racks.

Tiger Transit coverage is of course densest around Princeton University, but its routes cover an area extending to the new Merwick Stanworth apartments, the Forrestal Center / Plasma Physics Lab, and Canal Pointe Boulevard.

Moreover, Tiger Transit buses have trackers, so you can see where they are at any time on this TigerTracker map.

Try the bus, it’s fun!

And tell your friends about it.

 

We would like to thank her for sharing her thoughts!

If you have a transit story that you would like to share, please let us know.

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.

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.