Delays continue to plague NJ Transit’s everyday riders, but the agency and state leaders remain focused on trying to solve what happened on Super Bowl Sunday. | Photo: CBS New York
After the Super Bowl transit “nightmare,” New Jersey Transit (NJT) announced there would be special legislative committee hearings and a Board investigation to figure out what caused such a “hellish commute to and from MetLife Stadium.”
If only state officials focused their efforts instead on solving the problems that plague NJ Transit commuters every day. February has been a dismal month for NJ Transit so far, with delayed trains becoming just another part of the daily routine. So why hasn’t anyone launched an investigation into the cause of these problems? The Super Bowl has come and gone, but the daily commute is here to stay.
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TSTC’s new analysis of the New Jersey Department of Transportation’s (NJDOT) and New Jersey Transit’s (NJT) Transportation Capital Program for fiscal year 2014 reveals encouraging shifts towards greater investment in bicycle, pedestrian and transit projects. However, the agency is still spending too much money to build new roads and bridges for short-term traffic congestion relief instead of redirecting more of these funds to maintain the State’s existing roads and bridges and retrofit more of the State’s most dangerous roads to be Complete Streets compliant.
The analysis finds:
|The percentage of dollars going to projects that significantly expand New Jersey’s roadways and bridges has decreased by 16.5 percent.
||The percentage of funds dedicated to expansion projects is still high.
|The percentage of dollars going to projects that make the streets safer for pedestrians and bicyclists has increased by 34 percent.
||The percentage of dollars going to projects that maintain the State’s roads and bridges has decreased by 16.2 percent.
|The percentage of dollars going to NJT has increased by 5.5 percent.
||A little over 30 percent of the NJT portion of the 2014 Capital Program will go towards funding for buses, yet in Fiscal Year 2012, bus trips made up almost 60 percent of NJT’s average weekday unlinked passenger trips.
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Instead of “spot fixes” that offer no long term relief (like the plan to convert a shoulder to a travel lane on NJ Route 9), NJDOT should consider an exclusive bus lane on the entire Route 9 corridor.
Just a decade ago, New Jersey became a national model for a progressive and environmentally-friendly transportation system. State leaders seemed to understand that you can’t build your way out of congestion with wider roads, and began prioritizing investments in proven congestion busters like transit, walkability and fix-it-first. Unfortunately though, it seems that New Jersey may be slowly retreating back to a time before transportation planners had ever heard of induced demand.
Howell Township Mayor Bill Gotto, along with State Senator Robert Singer of Lakewood and New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) Commissioner Jim Simpson, are mulling over the idea of opening up the shoulder on Route 9 from Aldrich Road to Interstate 195 to ease evening congestion. According to a release on Howell Township’s website, “[t]his highway is heavily congested from I-195 to Aldrich Road, and the area experiences bumper-to-bumper traffic and gridlock for several hours on a daily basis, especially between 3:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.”
Although opening up Route 9′s shoulder wouldn’t cost anywhere near Connecticut’s $500 million plan to widen Interstate 84, the additional capacity will do very little to ease the township’s congestion woes. While it may temporarily ease traffic congestion, drivers will soon find themselves sitting in the same traffic they did before.
But perhaps a smarter and more sustainable solution to Route 9 congestion is already at Howell’s and NJDOT’s fingertips.
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NJ Transit advanced a plan to extend Hudson-Bergen Light Rail to Englewood last week. | Photo: The Jersey Journal
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