The New Jersey Assembly’s Transportation and Independent Authorities Committee will consider five transportation-related bills this Monday, February 8. The bills cover a variety of issues, from pedestrian and bicyclist safety to the makeup of the New Jersey Transit Board of Directors.
A1348 (sponsored by Assemblywoman Grace Spencer) requires motorists operating vehicles to maintain a reasonable and safe distance when overtaking pedestrians and people on bicycles. New Jersey is the only state between Virginia and Maine to not have a safe passing law. Such a law seeks to ensure that motorists allow adequate space when passing people on bicycles to prevent sideswiping them or causing them to overcorrect to avoid a vehicle. This particular bill would extend the protection to pedestrians and other vulnerable road users. New Jersey has been called out for the lack of such law and continues to hold the state back from rising to the top of bike-friendly states rankings. While the bill passed the Assembly last session, it continues to stall in the Senate Transportation Committee.
A1461 (sponsored by Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt) establishes the Pedestrian Safety Study Commission. This bill should be amended to mirror the more comprehensive S631 (sponsored by Senator Nia Gill), which would establish a Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Advisory Committee. As more people choose to walk and bike, the way streets are designed must evolve to accommodate this shift in transportation priorities. This bill would bring together key stakeholders over a diverse area of expertise with this goal in mind. S2521 (also introduced by Sen. Gill) was pocket vetoed by Governor Christie last month.
A1919 (sponsored by Assemblyman John Wisniewski) would add two public voting members to the NJ Transit board. If passed, this bill would fill a void on NJ Transit’s Board of Directors by providing riders with a voice beyond simply public comments. While the current law says that at least one member of the board is required to be a regular transit rider, no current or past board member has ever been specifically designated this transit-riding member. Last year, the board voted unanimously in favor of the 9 percent fare hikes and service cuts despite overwhelming opposition from riders. The only dissent came from Ray Greaves, the board’s only non-voting member. The entire voting membership of the current NJ Transit board has gone 12 years without a dissenting vote on its record.
A227 (sponsored by Assemblyman Wayne DeAngelo) requires NJ Transit to hold public hearing and provide notice prior to any curtailment of certain bus and rail services. While riders knew about the 9 percent fare hike and accompanying service cuts, last September, NJ Transit delivered additional service cuts without any public notice, citing a current law did not require it.
A2205 (Assemblyman Tim Eustace) requires NJ Transit to provide locations at bus terminals and rail stations where bicycles may be safely secured.
Monday’s meeting of the Assembly Transportation Committee will take place at 10 a.m. in Committee Room 11 (4th Floor) at the State House Annex in Trenton.