Monthly transit passes that exceed the $130 transit tax benefit aren’t limited to the tri-state region. Transit commuters in places like Dallas, Salt Lake City and Charlotte (pictured) can pay more than $130 on their monthly commutes, too. | Photo: James Willamore/Wired
Transit commuters enjoyed parity with those who drive to work when the pre-tax benefits for transit and parking were equalized earlier this year. Like drivers, transit commuters were able to use up to $245 in pre-tax earnings to pay for transit passes. But, unfortunately for transit commuters, that parity will expire at the end of this year. Beginning January 1, 2014, transit users will only be able to use up to $130 in pre-tax earnings for their commute. The pre-tax benefit for commuters who drive to work and must pay for parking, on the other hand, will increase by $5 to $250.
Conventional wisdom has long suggested that the reason parity for the transit commuter benefit lacks support in Congress is because transit commuters who spend more than $130 on monthly transit fares live in only a handful of major metro areas like New York, Chicago, Washington and Boston.
But thankfully for transit riders, that conventional wisdom is wrong.
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The plan to mitigate congestion when the Pulaski Skyway’s northbound lanes close in March doesn’t include enough of an incentive to use transit. | Photo: Flickr/hydropeek
Late Friday afternoon, the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) announced “travel options” for the impending two-year closure of the Pulaski Skyway’s northbound lanes. Whether the options presented will be enough to mitigate the project’s impacts for the 32,500 motorists who currently use these lanes each day, as well as the surrounding communities, remains to be seen.
Changing modes, or changing routes?
NJDOT conducted a survey to help guide the planning of alternate routes and additional transit options. According to the survey’s results, nearly half (46 percent) of those surveyed said they would consider switching from a car commute to a transit commute. But the planned transit improvements don’t appear to be enough to accommodate all of these potential new riders, so it’s no surprise that 75 percent of respondents said they’ll likely continue to drive.
NJ Transit is adding two additional trains in the morning and evening on the Morris & Essex line between Summit and Hoboken, and the North Jersey Coast line will also see one additional train during the a.m. and p.m. peak. On the Raritan Valley line, however, the plan is to increase only capacity — not frequency — during the a.m. (6 a.m. to 10 a.m.) and p.m. (4 p.m. to 8 p.m.) peak travel times. Frequency of service between High Bridge and North Branch is already sparse with only four a.m. peak trains; in the evenings after 6:00 trains run every 30-45 minutes. Increasing frequency on these lines would help draw commuters out of their cars, but it’s not being considered as part of the congestion mitigation plan.
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The New Jersey Department of Transportation recently released an interactive map showing where and what types of projects are planned for fiscal year 2014 in the Garden State.
According to a Tri-State analysis from earlier this year, the New Jersey Department of Transportation’s (NJDOT) $3.98 billion FY2014 Capital Program Capital Program shows some positive trends including greater investment in bicycle, pedestrian and [...]
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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Guide lines have been painted on newly-paved Orient Way. Notice the lack of guide lines for bike lanes. | Photo: Cyndi Steiner
On November 13, the Rutherford Borough Council in New Jersey unanimously approved a new road striping plan for the first phase of the Rutherford Bike Ring. In an ironic twist for the bike plan, this first phase of the striping did not include bike lanes or any other Complete Streets design components. Despite three years of meetings, letters of support from residents, local, state and federal elected officials, the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission, Hackensack Riverkeeper, Rutherford Downtown Partnership and the heads of the police, schools and health departments — and in addition to almost $115,000 in taxpayer supported planning and design work for the original Bike Ring — the latest version of the plan was approved within minutes of first being presented, without public viewing and without public comment.
Not only does the recent action contradict the Borough Council’s previous work to advance the project — the Council passed five different resolutions supporting the Bike Ring between July 2010 and December 2011 – but it directly flouts Rutherford’s nearly three-year-old Complete Streets policy. These Council actions helped contribute to a grant award of $89,600 in March 2012 to undertake a feasibility study to identify the best route for the project. At the time the grant was awarded, the Borough Council had already approved the first phase of the Bike Ring, which included bike lanes on Orient Way, the spine of the Town’s bike plan.
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A “vision zero” approach to traffic enforcement, including strategies discussed by former New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton yesterday, should be adopted by communities throughout the region — not just in New York City. | Photo: Kate Hinds/WNYC
There’s been a good deal of media attention given to a Vision Zero approach to reduce pedestrian fatalities on New York City streets. But, with new data showing pedestrian fatalities increasing in some places in the tri-state region, a Vision Zero approach must take root in the region as well.
According to data released last week by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, motor vehicle deaths in the United States increased last year, from 32,479 fatalities in 2011 to 33,561 deaths in 2012. But, pedestrian fatalities increased at a greater rate than motor vehicle deaths. In 2012, 4,743 pedestrians were killed on the nation’s roadways, a 6.4 percent increase from 2011 (4,457). As Streetsblog points out,“Pedestrian and bicyclist deaths rose faster than the overall rate [of motor vehicle deaths]— 6.4 and 6.5 percent, respectively…Walking and biking are becoming more dangerous relative to driving.”
While TSTC’s annual analysis, Most Dangerous Roads for Walking, will be released early 2014, preliminary analysis of the three years from 2009 through 2011 (the time period of our last analysis) and 2010 through 2012 shows mixed progress:
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Image: Street Smart / bestreetsmartnj.org
The North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority (NJTPA) kicked off its Street Smart pedestrian safety program earlier this month in Hackettstown, Jersey City, Long Beach Island, Newark and Woodbridge. This new public education, awareness, and behavioral change campaign “comes at a significant time as New Jersey is ranked 14th in the nation in pedestrian [...]
Today is the one year anniversary of the day after Sandy. Relief was at the forefront of people’s minds, but it was also a new beginning: it was the day the region began to think about how to rebuild better and stronger.
Although the region’s transportation infrastructure was dealt a series of incredible blows, we can look back one year later with a better understanding of our transportation system’s vulnerabilities, as well as more insight into how state and local governments can improve our transportation infrastructure to become more sustainable and more resilient against future storms. It’s obvious that Sandy presented the region a whole host of challenges, but damage from the storm also presented opportunities:
A chance to plan and rebuild smarter. The last 12 months have seen a variety of new ideas about how to weather-proof buildings and infrastructure. Now that we’ve seen what kind of havoc storms can cause, we must use this rebuilding opportunity to be better prepared for the next storm. Sandy wiped out roads in low-lying coastal areas, which has presented communities with an opportunity to rebuild them in a way that is able to withstand storm surges and provide real transportation choices like walking and biking that keep people moving not only in the time of crisis but also every day.
Another reason to learn how to ride a bike. Riding a bike is a great way to get around, especially when subways are shut down due to flooding. Bicycle ridership skyrocketed in New York City in the days following Sandy.
A wake-up call to refocus on fix-it-first. Sandy took a heavy toll on roads, rails and bridges, which should serve as a wake-up call to state governments: before wasting money on highway widening projects, existing infrastructure must be in a state of good repair and able to withstand wind, rain and flooding.
A reminder that planning is only as good as execution. N.J. Transit failed to follow its own storm plan, and they paid the price with 273 railcars and 70 engines that were destroyed by flooding. The Brooklyn Navy Yard, where yet-to-be-launched Citi Bike equipment was being stored, saw six feet of flooding, which damaged “the bikes—and their circuitry-filled docking stations,” delaying the full first phase of the Citi Bike rollout.
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Orient Way as it currently exists has no striping, so drivers perceive wide travel lanes, which encourage speeding.
The Rutherford Bike Ring plan would add buffered bike lanes, as well as high visibility crosswalks, to Orient Way, a popular route for bicyclists in the area. | Photo: NJ.com
Rutherford’s Bike Ring, a [...]