NJTPA Update Blog
Posted: 3/22/2023 4:17:09 PM
The first rule of holes is when you find yourself in one, stop digging. That’s the challenge when it comes to reducing carbon emissions in the United States as laid out by Jesse Jenkins during a 30-minute presentation, “Pathways to Zero: Decarbonizing the Transportation Sector,” at the NJTPA Board of Trustees meeting on March 13, 2023.
Net zero carbon emissions in the United States is the point “where we stop digging ourselves a deeper hole when it comes to the challenges and damages and impacts of a changing climate,” he said. An assistant professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment at Princeton University, Jenkins outlined the progress and challenges of the U.S. goals of reducing emissions by half by 2030 and reaching zero by 2050.
Since carbon emissions in the U.S. peaked at 6.6 billion metric tons from 2005 to 2007, there’s been a decline of about 1 billion tons. But the pace of carbon reductions each year must triple from the 2 percent realized on average over the last decade to 6 percent to get to the 2050 goal.
“The challenge is to go faster, faster, faster. And that requires foresight, public policy and investment, and significant efforts to overcome coordination challenges so that we can move faster collectively,” Jenkins said.
The electricity sector is really the linchpin, according to Jenkins. The U.S. must double the current amount of carbon-free electricity generated, building upon the growing contributions from wind and solar power.
The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) will help do that, closing between half to two-thirds of the 1.5-billion ton gap between the current pace of carbon reduction and what is needed to roll back emissions to half of those in 2005 by 2030. Both through subsidies and driving clean energy costs down over time, the law will “make it easier and cheaper for households and businesses across the country to pick the clean option over the dirty option” according to Jenkins.
The academic REPEAT consortium, which Jenkins leads, estimates that the law will enable the U.S. to reach about 42 percent by 2030, shy of the 50 percent goal but a substantial reduction.
But he said that estimate only accounts for the direct effect of the law. He said the law could also accelerate the rate of reductions, as states, cities, and companies increase their “climate ambition” in response to the reduced cost of clean energy and other climate options. This is already being seen in New Jersey. Gov. Phil Murphy announced moving the target for 100-percent carbon-free electricity from 2050 to 2035 to take advantage of all the new affordable options created by the law.
In addition to a $7,500 tax credit for a new electric vehicle (EV), there’s a $4,000 tax credit for the purchase of used EVs, which is important because most Americans don’t ever buy or lease a new vehicle, Jenkins said. There also are various incentives for installing charging stations and purchasing charging equipment and for purchase of clean light, medium and heavy duty vehicles used by businesses and local governments.
With subsidies in the IRA, purchasing an EV he said is becoming “a no-brainer for households.” About 5 percent of all vehicles were EVs in 2021 and that grew to about 8 percent in 2022. A similar 60-percent expansion is expected in 2023. Continued growth at that pace could achieve the goal of 100 percent of new vehicles being electric well before the 2035 targets set by New Jersey and other states, he said.
To prepare for this growing demand, Jenkins said, the U.S. must make investments in the electric grid and other infrastructure not seen in decades. But he said strains on the grid could be lessened if consumers and households were given incentives for efficient charging practices, including charging at night and less frequently. He noted that using a Level 2 home charger has the energy demand of plugging in 12 window-mounted air conditioners.
For the first time in history, he said the IRA has aligned the full financial might of the federal government behind clean energy transition. The challenge he said is “how fast can we scale up all of our efforts; how fast can we move to take advantage of the opportunities.”
A recording of the presentation from the March 13, 2023 Board meeting is available here. The slide presentation is here.
Posted: 3/15/2023 10:23:55 AM
The NJTPA’s immediate-past-Chair, former Morris County Commissioner Kathryn A. DeFillippo, was honored by the NJTPA Board of Trustees at its March 13, 2023 meeting. Commissioner DeFillippo retired last year after serving three terms as a county commissioner. She represented Morris County on the NJTPA Board since 2014 and was elected NJTPA Chair for the 2020-2021 term.
NJTPA Chair John W. Bartlett, a Passaic County Commissioner, and NJTPA Executive Director David Behrend presented former Commissioner DeFillippo with a framed resolution on behalf of the Board.
The Board resolution highlights former Commissioner DeFillippo’s “capable, confident, and collaborative leadership to meet the many challenges of a regional and global pandemic.” After just one in-person meeting as Chair in January 2020, Commissioner DeFillippo several weeks later helped guide the NJTPA as it pivoted to all-virtual operations.
“I am very proud of what this Board, and particularly our staff, was able to accomplish during a time when we were all trying to figure out how to make work happen,” said former Commissioner DeFillippo at the March 13 Board meeting. “My thank you is to the Board and the staff for everything you did to keep the NJTPA moving in the right direction.”
In his remarks, Chair Bartlett emphasized, “It really took a special kind of leadership and judgement to cope with all of [the pandemic’s] challenges.”
“Kathy moved our agency forward through adoption of an updated long-range plan; progress on the Morris Canal Greenway and other trails; ongoing critical investment in roads and bridges; and continued advocacy for safety,” he said.
NJTPA First Vice Chair John Kelly, an Ocean County Commissioner, commended the former chair for providing leadership and continuity through the pandemic and many virtual meetings, adding, “We didn’t get much of a chance to say ‘thank you;’ but now you’re here today, and we can all just say ‘thank you’ for your leadership during those difficult times.”
Even before former Commissioner DeFillippo’s term as NJTPA Chair, Behrend noted that she had been “a great advocate for the NJTPA, participating in public engagement events; just a very hands-on member of our Board and we always appreciated that.”
Morris County Commissioner Stephen Shaw, who succeeded former Commissioner DeFillippo on the NJTPA Board said, “I’m honored now to be sitting in her seat; I know I have very big shoes to fill.”
The NJTPA previously released a video, posted on its YouTube channel, that also sums up former Commissioner DeFillippo’s service as NJTPA Chair.
Posted: 3/13/2023 9:12:14 AM
The Board of Trustees of the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority (NJTPA) approved 19 projects totaling $188 million that will make travel safer for motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists throughout the region at its March 13, 2023 meeting. The projects were approved for grants through the NJTPA’s fiscal year 2022 Local Safety and High Risk Rural Roads programs, which provide federal funds to counties and cities for cost-effective solutions that can make an immediate impact on their target areas.
“These projects will deliver much-needed upgrades to roads and intersections, enhancing safety for all travelers,” said Passaic County Commissioner John W. Bartlett, the Chair of the NJTPA. Elements include new and upgraded traffic signals, modern roundabouts, turning lanes, pedestrian countdown signals, high visibility crosswalks, bike lanes, and more.
Projects will be funded in Essex County, Hudson County, Jersey City, Middlesex County, Monmouth County, Morris County, Passaic County, Somerset County and Union County. Fact sheets on each of the projects are available here.
Bartlett noted that the $188 million in projects represents a doubling of funding since the last round of Local Safety and High Risk Rural Roads projects in 2020. The increase, he said, “is the result of effective partnerships between the NJTPA and its member agencies.”
Since 2018, the NJTPA has provided consultant assistance to help interested member agencies apply for project funding under the two programs. This has increased the number of applications and the size of projects applied for. Consultants help with traffic data collection, crash diagrams, environmental impacts, alternative analysis and other application requirements.
Posted: 2/23/2023 1:33:34 PM
Fuel prices and shortages of drivers and parking are among the trucking industry’s biggest challenges as it returns to some semblance of normalcy after three years of pandemic-related upheaval. That was the assessment of two trucking industry experts at the NJTPA’s Freight Initiatives Committee meeting on February 21 which featured the committee’s annual Trucking Industry Update.
Darrin Roth, vice president, highway policy, for the American Trucking Associations (ATA) said “The freight market is a little worse than the macro economy, for a number of reasons,” but overall it’s moving back to historical norms after a spike in demand during the pandemic.
Consumers have moved back to the service economy after high demand of consumer goods over the past almost three years of the pandemic, he said. A significant drop in housing starts is expected this year due to rising mortgage rates with somewhat of a recovery in 2024. Spending on construction via the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act , Roth said, “will mitigate some of this, which is not all bad news for this sector.”
He said there was a fairly significant drop-off in contract loads in 2021 not due to demand but supply. Trucking companies were unable to find enough equipment and drivers to meet demand so they went to the spot market, which saw a huge increase, according to Roth.
But as shippers went back to contract carriers, the spot market “fell off a cliff” in 2022, Roth said. “If you’re a contract carrier, you’re doing OK, you’re seeing a bit of downturn. If you’re in the spot market, you’re just being killed,” he said.
While the driver shortage peaked in 2021 at about 80,000 drivers and now is easing, all is not well for the long term. By 2031,Roth estimates a doubling of the shortage to about 160,000 drivers. “If this happens, supply chain disruptions are going to be significant,” he said. The U.S. is not unique as the driver shortage is a worldwide problem. “It’s not just a case of just ‘Pay them more and you’ll find more drivers.’ We have a worldwide demographic problem.”
While there is a very high driver turnover rate, the vast majority is not drivers leaving the industry but rather churn within the industry as drivers leave for more money or recruiting bonuses, according to Roth. At the same time, the industry is facing other rising costs including fuel, insurance premiums, equipment and maintenance.
“What does that mean? Potentially a lot of bankruptcies, particularly for small carriers,” said Roth.
Roth described the New Jersey and the larger northeast region as “the epicenter” for truck driver and parking shortages. A recent Department of Transportation survey indicated that 98 percent of drivers said they experienced difficulty finding a safe place to park in 2019, compared with 75 percent in 2015. That’s a safety problem that also becomes a productivity problem, Roth said.
The critical nature of truck parking was echoed in a presentation by Jeff Short from the American Transportation Research Institute. He reported on his organization’s survey of thousands of industry executives, commercial drivers, stakeholders and others. While fuel prices and the driver shortages topped the list of concerns, truck parking was third overall. For commercial drivers, it was first.
He said whether at private facilities in rural areas or public rest areas in the Northeast, truckers often are parking along on- and off-ramps of these areas because there simply is not enough spaces. The challenges to addressing the shortage include cost of land, zoning laws and community concerns, with “folks not necessarily wanting a truck parking location near them.“
His organization also looked at the age of drivers which continues to rise. Going back 25 to 30 years, Short said the largest category of drivers used to be 25- to 34-year-olds, which today make up less than 20 percent of drivers. The two largest demographics are 45- to 64-year-olds, which is not sustainable, he said, and the industry must shift that curve to attract younger adults.
A recording of the Freight Initiatives Committee meeting is available here. Slide presentations are here.
Posted: 2/17/2023 10:10:00 AM
While New Jersey is benefiting greatly from the increased funding under federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), more must be done to help counties and municipalities compete for available grant funding. That was the message of testimony submitted by NJTPA Chair John W. Bartlett, Passaic County Commissioner, to a hearing of the New Jersey Assembly Special Committee on Infrastructure and Natural Resources on February 16, 2023. The written testimony is here.
Bartlett said that the NJTPA is working closely with its partners, N.J. Department of Transportation (NJDOT) and NJ TRANSIT, to identify and fund the highest priority transportation projects with available IIJA formula funding. Ongoing management of this funding through the NJTPA Transportation Improvement Program (TIP), allows NJTPA and its partners to be “nimble and to quickly seek out and program new federal funds when they become available.”
He noted that the NJTPA is also making increased federal funding available to member counties and cities for the initial concept development and environmental work to prepare local bridge and other projects for eventual federal funding for construction through the TIP. NJTPA also provides federal funds for local safety improvement projects, 19 of which are slated for approval in March. But Bartlett indicated that much IIJA funding is distributed through competitive grants, requiring the investment of considerable staff time, expertise, and resources in developing grant applications, “which present challenges for many county and local governments.”
The NJTPA, he said, has sought to assist its member agencies in grant activities, including by providing information about funding opportunities, consulting on local applications, and providing data and letters of support. In the next fiscal year, it will assist interested member agencies in the development of local safety action plans, a requirement for applying for IIJA safety implementation grants. In addition, NJTPA support for planning efforts by counties and municipalities, in many cases, he said results in recommendations “ideally suited to compete for IIJA-funded grants.”
The need for such support for local grant activities under IIJA will grow over the next four years, according to Bartlett. While state level investments are “helping immensely, he said, many needs can be addressed most effectively and promptly by county and local governments.” This includes helping address aging infrastructure; reducing crashes and improving safety, particularly for pedestrians; expanding and improving the bus and transit network; and, support for disadvantaged communities, many of which have been traditionally underserved by transportation programs.
The needs, he said, also extend to water infrastructure such as stormwater management and flood prevention, which is a particular concern in his home county of Passaic along the Passaic River basin.
The State Legislature and State agencies should do more to “bolster the capabilities and resources available to counties and municipalities, both in the application process and in successfully implementing their grants.” The result he said “will not just be improved competitiveness for IIJA funding but also capacity building that will benefit our municipalities and counties in other ways.”
Posted: 2/16/2023 9:13:51 AM
Middlesex County in July became the first county in New Jersey to formally adopt a Vision Zero goal, seeking to completely eliminate fatalities and serious injuries on its roads. The county Board of Commissioners adopted the goal and established the Vision Zero Partnership which will implement the county’s Vision Zero action plan.
Vision Zero goals have also been adopted by the cities of Jersey City and Hoboken. The NJTPA recently adopted regional safety performance targets that seeks to meet Vision Zero goals regionwide by 2050.
Middlesex County Planning Director Doug Greenfeld shared the county’s approach to its Vision Zero action plan during the NJTPA’s Regional Transportation Advisory Committee (RTAC) meeting on Tuesday.
The Middlesex County Vision Zero Action Plan, an initiative of the Transportation and Mobility Chapter of the county’s strategic plan, Destination 2040, is organized around the five elements of the Safe System Approach recommended by the U.S. Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration (FHWA):
- Safe roads
- Safe speeds
- Safe road users
- Safe vehicles
- Safe post-crash response and care
“With Vision Zero, our approach is that traffic deaths are preventable, humans make mistakes and human bodies have limited ability to tolerate crash impacts,” Greenfeld said. As such, streets should be designed to minimize the impacts of mistakes, with a focus on systems rather than relying on the individual. “Saving lives does not have to be expensive, there are many low-cost solutions,” he said.
“Our objective is to change culture and we’re partnering with our municipalities to be successful,” Greenfeld said. The partnership comprises a Leadership Committee, composed of county and municipal elected leaders, with two working groups reporting to it. The Complete Streets Working Group focuses on safer roads and safer road users while the Culture of Safety Working Group focuses on safer vehicles, safer speeds, and post-crash care.
Traffic deaths are on the rise across the United States and in the county. Between 2010 and 2019, there were almost 300,000 recorded crashes in Middlesex County, with 466 resulting in fatalities and 964 in suspected serious injuries. On average, the county saw two crashes per hour, four fatalities and 23 injuries per month.
Bicyclists and pedestrians comprised less than 2 percent of collisions but accounted for 24 percent of high-severity crashes which reinforces that the “most vulnerable roadway users are people who walk or bike,” Greenfeld said. These crashes were particularly concentrated within urbanized New Brunswick and Perth Amboy.
More than half of fatal or serious injuries (52 percent) occurred on county and municipal roads, with almost a third (32 percent) on state roads and one in eight (12.5 percent) on interstates or the New Jersey Turnpike or Garden State Parkway.
Fatal and serious injury crash hot spots were clustered around New Brunswick, Perth Amboy, Edison and Woodbridge, and along major roadways. Most of these crashes are in the northern half of the county especially around major intersections such as GSP and Route 9 junction. Based on more recent 10-year crash data ending in 2022, the deadliest roads in the county are Route 1 and the New Jersey Turnpike.
The presentation can be found here. A recording of the RTAC meeting can be accessed here.
Posted: 1/26/2023 12:15:40 PM
Six additional community members, from a variety of interesting backgrounds, have been recruited to participate in the second year of the NJTPA’s innovative pilot Outreach Liaison Program. Two previous participants also are continuing with the program, which kicked off in 2021. Profiles of the eight liaisons are here.
Participants receive training about the NJTPA and conducting outreach and then go on to serve as trusted advocates, leveraging their community connections to help to gather public input for various projects and programs across the region.
The Outreach Liaison Program is intended to increase diversity, inclusion, and participation of groups that have been traditionally under-represented in transportation planning work. The new recruits include individuals with experience working with low-income families, senior citizens and care givers, individuals with disabilities, children, minorities, and those with limited English proficiency.
Outreach liaison activities might include attending community events on behalf of the NJTPA, distributing information about projects or public surveys, organizing and conducting community conversations, or sharing information through their social media and other online networks. Outreach liaisons who are bilingual may also provide translation services.
In the program’s first year, NJTPA outreach liaisons helped engage the public in the development of a Regional Active Transportation Plan, which will be completed this year and aims to establish a safe and functional regional network of pedestrian and bicycle facilities. Outreach liaisons have also helped promote subregional studies in Essex and Somerset counties.
Beyond providing the NJTPA with valuable insights for its projects and programs, outreach liaisons also gain valuable skills in networking, communication, event planning, meeting facilitation, and public outreach and engagement techniques. Participants are required to live in the 13-county NJTPA region and receive a stipend for their time.
The NJTPA is conducting the Outreach Liaison Program with support from the Public Outreach and Engagement Team at Rutgers University’s Voorhees Transportation Center. To learn more about the program visit www.njtpa.org/OutreachLiaisons.
Posted: 1/17/2023 1:15:58 PM
David Antonio, Essex County’s Director of Planning, and Andras Holzmann, Supervising Planner for Passaic County’s Department of Planning, were elected to two-year terms as chair and vice chair of the NJTPA’s Regional Transportation Advisory Committee (RTAC), respectively, during its meeting Monday.
Antonio, who has represented Essex County on the Committee for more than 20 years, replaces Mark Jehnke, Assistant Ocean County Engineer, who served two terms as RTAC chair. Holzmann, who replaces former Hudson County Supervising Planner Byron Nicholas, has represented Passaic County on RTAC for more than two years. Prior to joining Passaic County, Holzmann previously worked for Somerset County and served on RTAC in that capacity.
RTAC is comprised of technical staff (planners, engineers) from each of the NJTPA’s 15 subregions — the 13 counties in northern and central New Jersey and the cities of Jersey City and Newark — as well as representatives from NJ TRANSIT, the New Jersey Department of Transportation, the Governor’s Office, and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
Jehnke’s strong leadership and friendly, collaborative approach helped RTAC navigate through the many difficulties of the pandemic. He was thanked by NJTPA staff for remaining on as RTAC chair through a second term, providing critical continuity amid the challenges of virtual meetings and presentations. Jehnke will continue to represent Ocean County on the Committee.
The committee’s next meeting is scheduled for February 14.
Posted: 1/11/2023 3:09:57 PM
The NJTPA’s Board of Trustees is transitioning back to in-person meetings, beginning with the March 2023 meeting.
“In-person meetings provide more opportunities for Board members and staff to collaborate and share ideas, and they allow us to interact with members of the public, who come to speak about the items we are voting on and other matters,” Chair John Bartlett, a Passaic County Commissioner, said at Monday’s meeting.
This will be the first in-person meeting since the Board moved to a virtual format during the pandemic in March 2020.
Chair Bartlett noted that the decision to return to in-person meetings was made after polling members of the Board.
“While there were mixed responses on whether we should continue with virtual or in-person Board meetings, there was consensus that there is value in meeting face-to-face,” he said.
Committee meetings will continue to be held virtually, based on the poll results.
Chair Bartlett noted that if there is inclement weather or a public health reason, the Board could shift to a virtual meeting.
Board meetings will continue to be livestreamed on the NJTPA’s website and YouTube channel.
Board and committee meetings are open to the public. For additional information on how the public can participate visit https://njtpa.org/publiccomment.
Posted: 1/11/2023 1:53:22 PM
y City is one of several municipalities across the country to launch an on-demand transportation service to address gaps and connect to a vast public transit network that includes NJ TRANSIT buses and light rail, PATH and ferries.
City partnered with Via to launch the service two years ago. The New York City-based transportation technology company
works with more than 600 public entities and facilitates 2.5 million shared rides each month. Eric Gardiner, East Coast partnerships director, told the NJTPA Board of Trustees during a presentation Monday
said microtransit is best used to:
- Fill gaps where fixed-route network is limited, especially fixed route as an artery
- Complement fixed route with first- and last-mile solutions
- Convert underperforming fixed routes into on-demand services
- Increase mobility for seniors or disabled riders
Sometimes called on-demand transit,
microtransit is technology-enabled transportation that uses real time, on-the-ground information to group passengers into shared rides based on traffic and where rides are being requested, Gardiner said. (The latest issue of NJTPA’s InTransition biannual magazine, examined microtransit efforts around the country.)
There are two models that Via offers:
- Licensing software to transit agencies and operators who prefer to use their own vehicles and drivers.
- A turnkey solution operated on behalf of partners that includes technology, drivers and vehicles, which is how it’s used in Jersey City.
In Jersey City, Via’s 44 Mercedes vans (
eight are wheelchair accessible) and two electric vehicles cover a service zone of 15 square miles on weekdays from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Six of 10 trips connect to transit and 70 percent of rides are shared, according to Gardiner.
Jersey City launched in early 2020, it’s provided more than 1.25 million rides, averaging 57,000 per month or around 2,000 rides per day. In the third quarter of 2022, Gardiner estimated that Via helped to avoid more than 300,000 miles of single-occupancy vehicle (SOV) driving.
have been questions about whether on-demand microtransit cannibalizes existing fixed-route services and if privatization is the answer for improving public transportation. Analysis by Via showed that less than 25 percent of trips taken by the service could have been served by existing transit services. “Via Jersey City is really showing that it’s enhancing, not taking away from, fixed-route services,” Gardiner said.
Jersey City also plans to integrate
public transit service into its app, allowing riders to choose public transportation over Via, or see where they could connect a Via ride to transit.
This city is spli
t into two zones, a center zone concentrated around the downtown and an outer zone. Fares are $2.50 anywhere from the center zone to the outer zone; beyond the outer zone is an additional $0.50 per mile. Given the geography of Jersey City, fares don’t tend to be more than $5, he said. These fares cover only a portion of actual costs which in 2021 were $11.61 per ride, according to Gardiner.
More than half of users report a household income of less than $50,000, according to Gardiner, while 88 percent identify as minorities, 58 percent as women, and 68 are under the age of 35.
Michael Manzella, Jersey City’s Director of Transportation, said Via is serving the exact population it was expected to, with ridership growing about 23 percent from 2021 to 2022 and approaching five passenger rides per hour.
The program is helping Jersey City meet other goals,
including improving safety by reducing automobiles on the road, Gardiner said.
“The fact that people are able to access the service
for the first and last mile is probably reducing pedestrian crossings at roadways and increasing pedestrian safety,” NJTPA Board Chair John W. Bartlett added.
, Via’s funding policy researcher, said there are several federal funding programs that communities could use to create microtransit programs, including:
- Carbon Reduction Program: $1.28 billion per year ($13.5 million allocated to northern New Jersey), which can be used for on-demand transportation service technology.
- Congestion Relief Program: $50 million per year, which can be used for on-demand microtransit. The notice of funding opportunity is expected to be issued in the coming months.
- Rural Transportation Program: $300 million to $500 million per year, which can be used for an integrated mobility management system and on-demand mobility services.
- Advanced Technologies Program: $60 million per year, which can be used for on-demand transportation service.
Jersey City subsidizes its program to keep fares affordable but has received
grants to support its Via program, including $600,000 from the state Department of Environmental Protection to further electrify the fleet and $250,000 from the federally-funded NJ-Job Access and Reverse Commute program administered by NJ TRANSIT. The city has also generated $100,000 in revenue from advertising on the interior and exterior of Via vehicles.
A recording of the presentation is available here.