Camden Passes New Jersey’s First Sustainability Ordinance

CAPTION: Developers in Camden will be required to submit documentation of the environmental impacts and benefits of proposed projects. | Source: Rutgers University

Now that a sustainability ordinance has been passed, developers in Camden will be required to submit documentation of the environmental impacts and benefits of proposed projects. | Source: Rutgers University

Camden, New Jersey has solidified its commitment to continued environmental and economic progress by adopting the Garden State’s first-ever sustainability ordinance. Passed by the Camden City Council on Tuesday, the ordinance had support from the many community groups that make up the Camden Green Team (of which Tri-State is an active member) along with support from prominent City leaders, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and Cooper’s Ferry Partnership.

The Ordinance Adopting Sustainability Requirements for the City of Camden requires developers to submit an Environmental Impact and Benefit Assessment (EIBA) to be reviewed by the Camden City Planning Board and Zoning Board of Adjustment before project approval. These agencies will then make a determination on the extent to which applicants can provide environmental and public health benefits as part of the proposed project.

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Walking Towards the Green in Camden, New Jersey

The assessment will seek to plan for infrastructure that expands upon existing projects with the power to improve community health in Camden, including the Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority (CCMUA) and Camden SMART Initiative’s ongoing transformation of former industrial property into parkland on the Delaware River waterfront. | Photo: Doug Burns, CCMUA

The assessment will seek to plan for infrastructure that expands upon existing projects with the power to improve community health in Camden, including the Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority (CCMUA) and Camden SMART Initiative’s ongoing transformation of former industrial property into parkland on the Delaware River waterfront. | Photo: Doug Burns, CCMUA

Can community gardens in Camden, New Jersey help to support local health needs and, if so, are the surrounding streets and intersections safe conduits for residents to access these spaces for healthy eating and recreation?

TSTC was recently awarded a grant that will seek to answer this question.

The grant will support a day-long health impact and livability assessment in Camden called “Walking Towards the Green.” The assessment will take place in the spring, and will include a walking audit to inventory and note community assets and needs such as sidewalks, bicycle lanes, trails, green space, community gardens and access to community gardens. This work is funded through the Shaping New Jersey program, which “focuses on environmental and policy change to reduce obesity and chronic disease.”

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New Camden Development Must Prioritize Transit and Active Transportation

Subaru plans to move its U.S. headquarters to the Gateway Office Park site in Camden, NJ. Image Source: Philadelphia Business Journal

Subaru plans to move its U.S. headquarters to the Gateway Office Park site in Camden, NJ. Image Source: Philadelphia Business Journal

It was recently reported that car maker Subaru of America will be moving its national headquarters to Camden, New Jersey, bringing along 500 of its employees who currently work in Cherry Hill and Pennsauken, NJ. The company has also pledged to add 100 new jobs to the new headquarters in the next two years. Subaru will become the anchor tenant of a vast tract of land known as the “Gateway Office Park” owned by Campbell’s Soup, which is based adjacent to the site.

With such significant new development in this section of the city, it is imperative that the City of Camden continues to work with developer Brandywine Realty Trust, and with Subaru and Campbell’s, to promote access to nearby transit and active transportation amenities. The development site is just over half a mile from the Walter Rand Transportation Center, which houses the Broadway PATCO High Speed Line station, NJ Transit RiverLINE and 25 NJ Transit bus lines – not to mention the planned Glassboro-Camden light rail and South Jersey Bus Rapid Transit lines. The new offices will also be adjacent to existing and planned Circuit walking and biking trails. By using transit and trails, employees can quickly and easily travel to and from downtown Camden, Philadelphia, Trenton and the surrounding South Jersey suburbs.

The development is also adjacent to two major highways, so it will be essential for the site and surrounding area to be designed in a way that promotes transit usage and active transportation. In order for this to be successful, the following must occur:

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Camden’s Large Carless Population Deserves Priority

Parking lots dominate some areas of the Camden waterfront. Image Source: www.bridgeandtunnelclub.com

Parking lots dominate some areas of the Camden waterfront. Image Source: www.bridgeandtunnelclub.com

Spend any time at all in Camden, New Jersey and you’ll notice people getting around without cars. Rutgers students flood out of PATCO and RiverLINE stations in the mornings and afternoons. Residents walk to work, transit hubs and local restaurants and shops. Whether by choice or out of necessity, locals rely on travel modes other than driving. To serve this large population, funding for transportation networks that accommodate Camden’s non-drivers must be prioritized by state and local agencies, and must be reflected in New Jersey’s Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) for the region.

recent study by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group and the Frontier Group showed that millennials accross the country are choosing to live and work in places where they don’t have to drive. This is also true in Camden, where students who either commute to Rutgers University-Camden or live nearby are shunning cars in favor of commuting by public transit, on foot or by bicycle. According to the US Census, just 4.9 percent of workers nationwide aged sixteen and older commute by public transit and 2.5 percent walk to work. Compare that to Camden, where nearly 16 percent of workers aged sixteen and older take public transportation to work, and 6.5 percent commute on foot.

Nearly 35 percent of occupied housing units in Camden do not own a motor vehicle–a rate nearly four times higher than the national average of 8.9 percent. This largely carless culture is due in part to factors like the high cost of owning and maintaining a motor vehicle. Regardless of the reasons behind low car use, these numbers clearly show that additional investments in transit, sidewalks, bike lanes and trails will improve the safety and convenience of getting around Camden for all residents, and will surely help convince more people to ditch their cars.

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Tennessee Adopts NACTO Guidelines; Still Waiting on New York, New Jersey and Connecticut

The NACTO "Urban Street Design Guide" provides detailed guidance on how to create vibrant streets that accommodate all road users as safely as possible. Image Source: NACTO

The NACTO Urban Street Design Guide provides detailed guidance on how to create vibrant streets that accommodate all road users as safely as possible. | Image: NACTO

Tennessee recently became the sixth state to formally endorse the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) Urban Street Design GuideThe guide provides technical standards that departments of transportation can use to create streets that safely accommodate all road users, including pedestrians, bicyclists and transit riders. Thirty-seven cities, including New York City, and six states have adopted NACTO standards, but New York State, New Jersey and Connecticut are not included in this list.

Leaders in Tennessee have set an example for the rest of the nation by publicly stating the goal of “having the best multimodal transportation system in the nation.” They have also taken an innovative approach to transportation planning by aligning transportation projects with public health goals and implementing transportation investment strategies that prioritize pedestrian and bicyclist projects and public transportation over building new roads.

It’s encouraging to note that until recently, places such as metropolitan Nashville were on a similar trajectory to much of the nation by building infrastructure that promoted suburban sprawl development, but have since responded to the demand for walkable, higher density development by planning for growth along existing corridors and downtowns. Analysis of recent commercial real estate trends shows that walkable urban and suburban places demand a 74 percent rental premium over auto-dominated suburban areas. Likewise, 85 percent of all recently built rental apartments have been built in walkable urban places.

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What’s Next for New Jersey’s Most Dangerous Road?

Operation 130 Safe Passage has been a success by all accounts, but what's the future of New Jersey's most dangerous road after the period of increased enforcement ends?

Operation 130 Safe Passage has been a success by all accounts, but what’s in store for New Jersey’s most dangerous road after the period of increased enforcement ends?

Year after year, pedestrians have been killed while walking along or attempting to cross Route 130 in Burlington County — the most dangerous road for walking in all of New Jersey. According to the most recent federal data, 12 pedestrians were killed on Route 130 between 2010 and 2012.

Last year, the Burlington County Sheriff’s Department received $225,000 from the state for “Operation 130 Safe Passage,” a program to step up enforcement of reckless driving on the roadway. It’s been a year since the program’s inception, and so far there have been zero fatalities. While this is an enormously positive step forward, it’s also essential to physically transform Route 130 to ensure the safety and comfort of pedestrians after the increased enforcement operation ends.

Pedestrians use Route 130 to reach work, shops and bus stops that dot the highway. Like nearly all of the most dangerous roads for pedestrians in the region, Route 130 is a multi-lane arterial road with fast-moving traffic and few sidewalks, and even fewer crosswalks. Pedestrians often have to walk more than a half-mile out of their way just to reach a crosswalk. In many instances, walking on Route 130 involves navigating a muddy patch of grass rather than a safe sidewalk, and darting across the road, hoping to make it all the way across before the light changes, rather than having access to a median or refuge island to rest in if you’re a slower walker.

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Camden Night Garden Demonstrates how Public Spaces Can Help Revitalize and Connect Neighborhoods

The Camden Night Garden transformed a vacant plot of land on the Delaware River into a festival of art, music, food and bicycling. | Photo: Courier-Post Online

Over 3,000 local residents and visitors came out to bike, dance, eat and celebrate at the Camden Night Garden on the Delaware River waterfront in Camden (NJ) last […]

Get Ready, Garden State: Funding for Pedestrian and Bicycle Projects is Coming!

TIGER, SRTS, TE and TAP funds present opportunities for New Jersey to address pedestrian and bicyclist safety on its most dangerous roads, like Black Horse Pike, shown here. | Photo: Danny Drake/Press of Atlantic City

TIGER, SRTS, TE and TAP funds present opportunities for New Jersey to address pedestrian and bicyclist safety on its most dangerous roads, like Black Horse Pike, shown here. | Photo: Danny Drake/Press of Atlantic City

UPDATE: Both the Safe Routes to School and TE/TAP application deadlines have been extended to June 30, 2014.

Funding opportunities to build sidewalks, bike lanes, multi-use trails and other pedestrian and bicyclist-focused accommodations are coming to New Jersey through the Safe Routes to School (SRTS) and Transportation Enhancements (TE)/Transportation Alternatives (TAP) programs. This funding comes in addition to the most recent grant round for federal funding through the TIGER program that has recently become available to local entities throughout the country.

Applications for TIGER grants are due on April 28, 2014, and the SRTS, TE and TAP grant rounds begin this week. Although it is behind all of its neighbor states — New YorkPennsylvania and Delaware — who have already begun to solicit TAP grant applications, New Jersey will have some real opportunities to improve its most dangerous roads and expand Circuit trails once this funding is made available. Counties and municipalities need to start preparing applications for these programs now, as demand for funding is expected to be high.

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DRPA’s Next CEO Must Support Changing Transportation Preferences in South Jersey

DRPA's next CEO will be charged with overseeing a track replacement project on the Ben Franklin Bridge and will also be responsible for the timely completion of a new bicycle/pedestrian ramp on the bridge. | Photo: Bob Snyder/Flickr

DRPA’s next CEO will be charged with overseeing a track replacement project on the Ben Franklin Bridge and will also be responsible for the timely completion of a new bicycle/pedestrian ramp on the bridge. | Photo: Bob Snyder/Flickr

The Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA), which runs the PATCO rail system and four major bridges in the Greater Philadelphia/South Jersey region, has been mired in scandal for years and is under investigation for ethics violations mostly related to spending on non-transportation projects in the region. The agency is in the process of choosing a permanent replacement for former CEO John Matheussen, who was recently appointed to the New Jersey Superior Court. Former DRPA CFO John Hanson has been named interim CEO, and it has been reported that he is being considered for the permanent post.

The next permanent CEO should be chosen not only based upon his or her ability to see a number of crucial regional projects through, but also should be someone who will prioritize maintenance of DRPA’s existing infrastructure and improving the agency’s transparency. Here are some important issues the Board should consider when choosing its next CEO:

Completing the Ben Franklin Bridge Pedestrian and Bicyclist Ramp

After pressure from Tri-State, the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia and numerous elected officials, businesses and local organizations, the DRPA committed in 2012 to build a pedestrian and bicyclist ramp on the Camden side of the Ben Franklin Bridge that will connect to the Circuit regional trails network. The DRPA received a $400,000 grant from the William Penn Foundation through the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission in 2013 to build the ramp, and design work on the ramp is currently underway. Although the DRPA CEO does not vote on Board actions, the new CEO must make certain the project the continues to progress as well as support allocating additional resources to ensure the project is built in a timely manner.

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To See the Potential of New Jersey’s Cooper River Trail, Just Look Across The State Line

The completed "Cooper River Trail" would allow users to trail between Camden, Philadelphia and numerous Camden County communities.

A completed “Cooper River Trail” would allow users to travel by trail between Camden, Philadelphia and numerous Camden County communities. | Map: connectthecircuit.org

Pick any day to visit the Schuylkill River Trail in Philadelphia and you will see a fully-functioning commuter corridor — women and men bicycling and walking to work, while, across the river, motorists sit in miles of gridlock on the chronically jammed Schuylkill Expressway. Over a million people use the trail every year. But what makes this multi-use trail so attractive to commuters and different from other trails in the region? And what lessons can the Schuylkill River Trail offer for trail planners and builders across the state line in New Jersey?

The Cooper River Trail

Like the Schuylkill River Trail, Camden County’s (currently incomplete) Cooper River Trail corridor runs alongside a river and runs through a mixture of urban and suburban communities. But unlike the Schuylkill River Trail, which connects Center City Philadelphia with suburbs to the north, the existing segments of the Cooper River Trail remain disconnected and fail to form a coherent route that could be used by local commuters to reach centers of employment in Philadelphia and Camden. Closing these gaps — which is a key component of the Circuit regional trail initiative — is an essential step in producing a viable active transportation network.

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