Corrections or additions?
This article by Bart Jackson was prepared for the September 25, 2002 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Transit Alternatives To Solo Autos
Every morning 3.8 million Garden Staters pour out onto
Route 1, the Turnpike and other gridlocked byways, making a commute
averaging 30 minutes each way. The dumb news is that nearly two thirds
of the workforce makes this dreary drive all alone in their private
auto as it merrily gushes out its own weight in pollutants each year.
The smart news is that this trend is reversing — somewhat. Carpooling
percentage has hit double digits and bicycle commuters have more than
doubled in this decade. Since l997 the number of auto miles traveled
annually has decreased steadily.
That’s good news for the Greater Mercer Transportation Management
Association (TMA), which is sponsoring its annual Community in Motion
Day on Thursday, October 3. Much of the activity of this celebration
will come in the form of municipal resolutions supporting public transit
along with the announcement of specific bills to aid alternative transport,
carpooling, and public transit routes.
But on the personal side, Sandra Brillhart, TMA’s executive director,
wants to challenge the public to try two new things. On that Thursday,
she asks every commuter to take public transportation to work. And
then that weekend she asks residents to plan a family outing using
alternative or public transport. To help execute this challenge, commuters
and travelers can call the TMA at 609-452-1491.
"It is a little bit like pushing water uphill," says Brillhart.
"People just do not want to change, particularly when it comes
to their beloved auto." It is a true love affair. Today, 84 percent
of all American trips to anywhere are made by car, compared with 45
percent in equally automated Germany.
Brillhart, a native of Philadelphia, has spent all her working life
teasing apart the transportation snarls of the northeast. After earning
a bachelor’s, then a master’s in public administration at Temple University,
she worked for the Philadelphia zoning board. Crossing the river,
she joined the New Jersey Department of Transportation, finally bringing
her talents to the TMA in l992.
Since its birth in l984, TMA has battled the increasing onslaught
of more cars, gridlock, and filthy air with an inventive and multi-pronged
approach. Privately and publicly funded, the TMA has enlisted the
aid of lawmakers, municipal planners, area corporations, and everyone
from outing clubs to planning boards. Through a series of programs,
the organization tries to make it easier for folks to hop on a bicycle,
bus, train, or vanpool, or to join a carpool.
in New Jersey, as in most states, is largely in the hands of one agency,
New Jersey Transit, which naturally sees it in its own best interest
to run only the most profitable bus and train lines. TMA works to
show the transportation agency where additional demand exists. The
new bus routes to ETS are a prime example of its success. "If
we can prove profit potential," states Brillhart, "New Jersey
Transit is more than willing to put in the route."
In analyzing demand, TMA has uncovered a throw-back to the days before
the Route 1 Corridor was chock-a-block with offices and the Exit 8A
area of Cranbury was sprouting more warehouses than soy bean plants.
"At this time, every transport route is geared around the out-dated
idea of Trenton as our main commuter hub," notes Brillhart. "Thus
frequently, one must bus into Trenton and bus back out to get to a
other computer dating service, but a lot less risky and much more
efficient. TMA lists of thousands of daily commuters on its disks,
each seeking a buddy or two to share gas and the driving grind. To
find your mate, simply tap into www.GMTMA.org. There you can fill
in an application and you will receive by mail or E-mail a list of
drivers and riders who are going your way. Who knows, in addition
to saving on gas and stress, you might find a fishing buddy or even
Mr. Right sitting in your passenger seat.
over 360,000 people somewhere. Fine. But how do you get to where you
want to go with the least cost, time, and hassle? TMA knows the tri-state
public transportation network, and will gladly assist in planning
your commute or trip for you. Currently, you must call the offices
at 609-452-1491, but soon an updated website will also provide answers
over most public conveyances is its ability to get you from your cozy
nest right to your cubicle. TMA has labored with Bristol-Meyers, Merrill
Lynch, Firmenich, and other area corporations to provide shuttles
from bus and train lines right to the plant, without the parking traumas.
When New York and Garden State commuters began training down to the
new Hamilton Station, TMA arranged a direct shuttle to Merrill Lynch
for its employees, taking hundreds of cars off Route 1.
smugness of a bicyclist as he or she gloatingly pedals past a long,
gridlocked line of Route 1 or Route 130 commuters. "While cycle
commuting has leveled off since ’97," says TMA staffer Peter Bilton,
"it has actually doubled within the last 10 years."
The Greater Mercer area holds legion of cyclers, backed for the most
part by very helpful municipalities. For them TMA supplies the expertise.
It begins with small promotion programs, such as the Bike to Work
Days, held the third Friday of each month from 7:30 to 9 a.m. at Kopps
Cycle in Princeton, offering a social break with refreshments. The
TMA also provides board members to municipal bike-advocacy groups,.
TMA’s latest project will soon allow cyclists to commute from the
center of Princeton, along the towpath, all the way down to Riverside
complex in Trenton. This new city and state funded project would unite
old trails and create new, linking Stacy Park, the Assunpink, the
floating docks by Waterfront Park and other stretches along the river.
Not every effort works, Bilton admits. The Freewheels Program, which
eight years ago provided old bikes free on a use-once-and-return basis,
experienced an unfortunate shift to use-once-and-purloin. However,
he points out, even in the Netherlands, where the program originated,
city officials soon found that all the bikes were being stolen. Not
discouraged, Bilton is investigating a subscriber option for communal
bikes, which he feels might work.
Currently a mere 106,000 New Jersey residents work at home. But this
does not necessarily condemn central New Jersey to gridlock. A new
option, Bus Rapid Transit, holds out the promise of substantial relief.
It gives buses dedicated lanes, control over traffic lights, and special
easements (see story, page 14).
We don’t need to wait until Princeton, like Los Angeles, grips its
average driver into 88 hours of traffic jams annually. If we pump
a little power into our legs and a little into our state and local
votes, perhaps we can keep our kids’ air clean and our commuting byways
something other than parking lots.
— Bart Jackson
The New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety (NJDHTS)
has a new traffic safety program, a "traffic safety cruiser"
that can visit corporations to train drivers. This 20-year-old converted
bus has a driving simulator, which represents a variety of real-life
driving conditions such as weather, skids and drunk driving. It also
has a safety video, a baby seat to demonstrate proper installation
and 3D Fatal Vision goggles, which demonstrate a person’s vision under
the influence of alcohol.
The safety cruiser made its first stop at A-1 Limousine on Emmons
Drive to provide a refresher course in safe and defensive driving
for A-1’s 450 professional chauffeurs. It also can be booked for public
events and schools.
"The Garden State experiences some of the highest levels of accidents
in the country resulting in injury and death," says
Starr, CEO of A-1. "We welcome this opportunity to partner
with the NJDHTS and to educate and encourage A-1 Limousine drivers
to continue to drive safely and responsibly. With more than 300 A-1
vehicles and 1,000 passengers on the road daily, safety is always
a primary concern."
"Our mission is to reduce fatalities, injuries and property damage,"
of highway traffic safety. Call her at 609-633-8727 to schedule a
visit of the traffic safety cruiser.
Corrections or additions?
This page is published by PrincetonInfo.com
— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.