Traffic Safety Cruiser

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.

The public transport bottleneck. Public transportation

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

neighboring town."

Commuter match-up. Rideshare matching is just like any

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.

Transit info center. Every day New Jersey Transit takes

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

online.

Right to the office door. The real triumph of the auto

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.

Promoting the pedaler. Nothing quite equals the moral

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.

One area where we can least expect hope for fewer autos is technology.

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

Top Of Page
Traffic Safety Cruiser

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 Michael

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,"

says Sharane Orendas, supervisor of highway safety, of the division

of highway traffic safety. Call her at 609-633-8727 to schedule a

visit of the traffic safety cruiser.


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