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.
A 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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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 Guide. The 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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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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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 [...]
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 York, Pennsylvania 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 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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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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An on-street portion of the Lawrence Hopewell Trail, which received funding though the William Penn Foundation-supported Regional Trails Program. | Photo: http://lhtrail.org/
Funding was approved for 13 Greater Philadelphia multi-use trail projects — including three in southern New Jersey — at yesterday’s Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) board meeting. The funds — totalling $3,988,608, with local matches amounting to $9,318,081 — will largely be used for trail construction, and were available through the third phase of the William Penn Foundation-supported Regional Trails Program.
In South Jersey, the Delaware River Port Authority will receive $400,000 for construction of the Ben Franklin Bridge Walkway Bicycle and Pedestrian Ramp, the Burlington County Department of Resource Conservation will receive $500,000 to move forward with the “Mansfield Community Park Connector” segment of the Kinkora Trail and the Lawrence Hopewell Trail Corporation will receive $250,000 to build one of the final segments of their namesake trail in the Carter Road area.
These relatively low investments stand to have a significant impact on the region, as they advance completion of The Circuit, the region’s multi-use trail network. As each additional segment is built, increasing numbers of South Jersey and Philadelphia area residents will be connected to an integrated transportation network that allows them to walk or bike to work, transit stations and outdoor recreational opportunities.
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Senator Menendez, Camden Mayor Redd, State Senator Donald Norcross and local leaders and community members officially open the Camden TIGER projects. | Photo: Matthew Norris
Today, Senator Robert Menendez, Congressman Rob Andrews and local leaders joined Camden residents to unveil the completion of three TIGER-funded projects in Camden County. The street improvement projects will transform parts of Downtown Camden with the addition of bike lanes, new lighting, signage and extensive street and sidewalk improvements. The completion of the TIGER projects was celebrated with a ribbon cutting ceremony, which included youth from CYCLE (Camden Youth Cycling, Learning and Exercising) who led a ceremonial ride to kick-off the day.
The completion of the three TIGER projects, located along Martin Luther King Boulevard, Pearl Street and Pine Street in Camden, continues the expansion of The Circuit, the region’s growing trail network. When complete, The Circuit will include 750 miles of trails, of which more than 250 miles have already been built. State Senator Donald Norcross, a Camden resident, praised the project and encouraged the Delaware River Port Authority to move ahead with building the Ben Franklin Bridge pedestrian and bicyclist ramp to further increase the utility of The Circuit.
Congressman Rob Andrews (D-NJ1) stressed the public safety and economic development implications of improving walking and biking infrastructure:
America’s cities with the greatest comebacks are places where people don’t just drive in to work in the morning and then drive out, they are places where people live. This project is a small piece in the larger puzzle of improving life for those who already live in Camden, [and it] will also attract new residents. People want to reach destinations without having to get in a car.
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This is the first in a series highlighting the difficulty of being a pedestrian South Jersey.
Part 1, Camden County
Between 2009 and 2011 there were 31 pedestrian fatalities on roadways in Camden County. While residents in some parts of the County can safely access area businesses, transit stops and places of employment on foot, far too many others are met with significant safety hazards while walking or biking due to a lack of pedestrian and bicyclist infrastructure in their communities. Clearly, not all roads in Camden County are created equal.
Route 70 at Garden State Boulevard. Pedestrians walking from the Cherry Hill train station and area bus stops must navigate this narrow and dangerous stretch of “sidewalk” to reach area businesses.
This section of Route 70 is in close proximity to New Jersey Transit’s Cherry Hill train station, which runs between Atlantic City and Philadelphia. While a large retail development is located directly behind the train station, it cannot be accessed without walking along Route 70, a high-speed roadway with six lanes of traffic and a 50 mph posted speed limit, which hinders businesses’ access to customers. Sidewalks in this area are in a terrible state of disrepair. For local residents in wheelchairs, traveling this corridor is all but impossible. There were three pedestrian fatalities on Route 70 in Camden County between 2009 and 2011.
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