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Workshop Offers Advice for Implementing Micromobility  

Posted: 6/24/2020 12:12:01 PM

Communities across New Jersey are exploring alternative modes of transportation to help residents and visitors get around without adding to congestion. But the addition of electric bicycles and scooters — part of a class of personal vehicles called micromobility — can present some challenges, including safety, parking and regulation. 

A panel of experts offered insight and advice to communities interested in implementing micromobility during a Together North Jersey workshop, hosted by the NJTPA on June 16. 

Micromobility is a class of lightweight, low-speed vehicles that are either partially or fully motorized, said Aimee Jefferson, a Principal Planner for the NJTPA. Jefferson reviewed regulations that apply to these personal vehicles. For example, helmets and insurance are not required for low speed electric bikes as they are capped at around 15 mph, but both are required for motorized bicycles and scooters with higher speeds. All bikes and scooters are bound by and must adhere to all traffic laws and signals. 

Several communities in New Jersey have taken steps to allow and support the use of electric bikes and scooters. 

Asbury Park first implemented a bike share program in 2017 and last year added electric scooters, which proved to be much more popular, said Mike Manzella, the city’s Director of Transportation and Deputy City Manager. A key to making the programs a success was ensuring people had access to pick up and return scooters in communities throughout the city, not just around the train station or in the downtown. 

“A third of our households don’t have access to a vehicle so it’s really important for us to look at ways to try and provide better access for these households,” he said. 

Manzella said one key to getting the programs off the ground in Asbury Park was being able to visit Hoboken, which had already implemented bike share and e-scooter share programs.  

Peter Kim, a member of Bike Hoboken, a community group that supported the city’s implementation of the bicycle and e-scooter share programs, said these new travel modes have benefited residents in the busy city, while also helping address congestion and improve air quality. He said other communities with mass transit should consider implementing bike or scooter share programs. 

“A lot of New Jersey towns are built around NJ TRANSIT stations and they act as a hub, so it’s really important to have efficient modes of transportation to get to that transportation hub,” he said.  

In Newark, the founders of the Newark Bicycle Co-Op and the non-profit Girls on Bikes partnered to launch Food on Bikes, a program that delivers fresh produce from local and urban farmers in Newark to farmers markets and those in need. They also helped deliver water during the Newark water crisis and delivered food to people in need during the pandemic.  

“Using electric bicycles has been really a great step for us because with our program alone we were able to reduce the number of cars that were typically used for deliveries,” said Kala La Fortune Reed, founder of Girls on Bikes. 

In 2019 they travelled over 200 miles, delivering over 1,000 tons of produce and helped reduce emissions. Another benefit is that the business created jobs for young people of color, La Fortune Reed said. 

Marco Germano, founder of the Newark Bicycle Co-Op, said while the deliveries are made using bicycles, they can pull large loads. “Electric bikes are very powerful, we are able to carry over 200 pounds of produce per bike,” he said. 

Dr. Michael Smart, Associate Professor at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University said there are a lot of myths and fears surrounding scooter or bike sharing. He said safety remains a top concern, but other issues – like fears over parking the vehicles – are proving to be less of a problem as more cities adopt micromobility. 

A recent study of eight cities looked at vehicle parking and scooter parking. “About 1 percent of scooters were parked incorrectly and about 27 percent of cars were parked incorrectly,” he said. 

And while studies show an uptick in emergency room visits when these programs are implemented, Smart said there is a lack of data to determine whether the injuries are worse than those caused by automobiles.  

Several other speakers also addressed safety. La Fortune Reed said many areas in Newark are not bicycle-friendly, making riders feel unsafe. In Asbury Park, the city has worked to raise awareness about safety and the rules of the road. They also implemented software that requires scooter riders to scan an ID to confirm they are over the age of 18. Their e-scooters are for adult use only.  

Despite the safety concerns, the panelists agreed that micromobility has the potential to help North Jersey address issues of congestion, air quality, travel efficiency and more. 

Click here to view the webinar. 

Freight Continues to Move through the Port Despite Challenges

Posted: 6/23/2020 6:58:54 AM

Container Ship at PortGoods have continued to move through the port, helping supply the region and state with food and other essentials needed to get through the COVID-19 pandemic.  A panel of experts discussed how this is being accomplished during the Annual Port and Maritime Update at the NJTPA Freight Initiatives Committee meeting on June 15.

Committee Chair Charles Kenny, a Middlesex County Freeholder, welcomed and introduced the three panelists, representing the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the New York Shipping Association and New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT).

Bethann Rooney, Deputy Director of the Port Authority’s Port Department, said container volumes at the port declined 3 to 4 percent through the end of April. While significant, she said that is much less than the 30 percent decline some expected.  However, she noted other Port Authority facilities had more drastic losses: 90 percent drops in airport travelers and PATH ridership, and a 60 to 70 percent decline in bridge and tunnel traffic.
She said the port remains an attractive destination because it serves a vast multistate region, with up to 45 million people. The volume also reflects the port’s increasingly diversified partners. While China remains the top trading partner, many counties are now shipping to the port through the Suez Canal. “That has helped us in many regards weather the storm,” Rooney said.

She said the crisis has presented many challenges, including keeping workers safe and communicating with states and businesses to ensure that warehouse closures do not leave goods stranded at the port. 
As the port and economy rebound, Rooney said the Port Authority intends to continue the investments outlined in the Port Master Plan, including improving express rail, reducing greenhouse gas emissions from operations and undertaking major projects such as upgrading the entrance and exit at the port’s north side.

While Rooney focused on port operations, John Nardi, President of the New York Shipping Association, spoke about the effects the pandemic has had on the workforce. He said the Council on Port Performance, composed of public and private port stakeholders, increased the frequency of its meetings from quarterly to bi-weekly in March and shifted its focus from workforce development and rail network optimization to more immediate crisis-related concerns.

Labor issues were particularly challenging, he said.  The port was deemed essential and operations continued, but workers had to be protected from the virus.  The New York Shipping Association joined with the International Longshoreman’s Association to create joint guidance for workers and operators.  Nardi said “no expense was spared” in providing workers with personal protective equipment and implementing other safeguards. Interactions between workers and truckers were minimized and staffing of equipment was modified. Despite the precautions, 61 workers were afflicted and many more were required to quarantine due to potential exposure. 

In addition, up to 800 of the 3,500 workers at the port were unable to work due to the drop in shipping volumes, he said.  The New York Shipping Association is working closely with the State of New Jersey, the Port Authority and industry groups on economic recovery efforts.  “It’s been a great working relationship, the communication is fantastic, we just need the freight to come back,” Nardi said.

The meeting also featured Genevieve Clifton, Manager of the Offices of Maritime Resources, Freight Planning and Grants Management at NJDOT, who spoke about the prospects for expanding marine highway operations in the state — particularly at Raritan Business Center in Woodbridge.

She said the current crisis has underlined the need for improving logistics redundancy, such as through marine highways, and Raritan Business Center offers a prime opportunity for this. 
“Port Raritan is at the confluence of rail, transportation, water and highway in a way that just not many sites are in our area,” she said, adding it has access to the New Jersey Turnpike, shortline rail service and a wharf on the Raritan River being used to transport construction materials.

The federal Maritime Administration (MARAD) has called for a marine highway, M-95, along the Atlantic Coast, and this project would support that. She said NJDOT will seek MARAD support for the Raritan Center project.
Potential services from the site could include barges carrying “roll-on, roll-off” truck trailers delivered to New York City and surrounding areas. This kind of operation would bypass crowded highways, offering savings of up to 20 percent to shippers and reducing congestion, crashes and environmental impacts of truck traffic.  She said the project is an example of “what government does best.”

“We’re facilitating public and private partnership for the benefit of our region,” she said.
The slides from the three presentations can be viewed here.

Chair DeFillippo Discusses Pandemic’s Impact on Planning Work

Posted: 5/19/2020 3:17:34 PM

Freeholder Kathy DeFillippo - Ocean CountyThe NJTPA has continued to work to advance transportation projects and programs amid the COVID-19 pandemic. NJTPA Chair Kathryn DeFillippo, a Morris County freeholder, recognized this at Monday’s virtual Board meeting while also reflecting on how much has changed in recent weeks.
The NJTPA was already preparing its next long-range transportation plan, which will consider game changers — such as technological advancements and climate change — that could affect the future. The pandemic will be a key factor in this planning effort.
“We must consider how our plans and programs can help our region bounce back and adapt to the new realities of public health,” Freeholder DeFillippo said.
The Board began its meeting with a moment of silence for Jersey City Councilman Michael Yun, who served as an alternate member for several years. Councilman Yun died last month due to complications from COVID-19.
“COVID-19 has brought tragedy to families across our region and shaken our economy, threatening the lives and livelihoods of many, many of our friends and neighbors,” Chair DeFillippo said.
She also paid tribute to the essential workers who are putting themselves at risks to help others — healthcare workers, grocery store employees, factory and warehouse workers, first responders, truck drivers, delivery people and postal workers, transit workers, road maintenance crews and those working at the port.
“It should be noted that many of the essential workers stepping out of the safety of their homes every day are public servants working in the agencies that sit on this board, including NJDOT, NJ TRANSIT, and the Port Authority,” she said.  “Others are employed by county or local governments.  They all deserve our thanks for helping us get through these troubled times.”
While the NJTPA is not on the front lines, Chair DeFillippo noted that the agency must ensure the region remains eligible to receive federal funding by maintaining the Transportation Improvement Program, updating the long-range plan and monitoring air quality, among other things. She said the Board could also be tasked with approving transportation funding under future federal stimulus bills.
“I look forward to working with you to navigate these uncharted waters,” she said. “Above all, I hope you and your families stay safe. We will get through this together.”

Webinars Feature Transportation Modeling Approaches from Around the Country

Posted: 5/18/2020 3:37:00 PM

NJTPA staff hosted four webinars from mid-March to mid-April to hear from other MPOs around the country about their travel demand modeling experiences and approaches. The webinars were part of efforts by the NJTPA to consider upgrades to its computer model which is used to simulate the operation of the regionwide transportation system and to forecast and analyze travel patterns for required planning activities.

The webinars each featured two presenters from around the country. They allowed NJTPA and partner agency planners and technical staff to learn about using models to help answer questions facing the region — the impacts of emerging transportation technologies, changing demographics and behavior, new travel modes, and economic changes.

The NJTPA’s model currently uses traditional “trip-based” methods to predict where and when individuals travel for specific activities such as work, education or shopping. A more complex approach, “tour-based” modeling, is used by several of the agencies that presented in the webinars. This approach considers travel behavior in greater detail. It groups together trips into a tour, which reflects an individual’s travel from home to one or more destinations and then back home. In contrast, trip-based modelling does not associate various stops with the same individual. Some of the agencies also discussed “destination choice” models, which could improve accuracy as well.

Webinar participants also heard about useful online resources such as the OpenStreetMap, a collaborative online map built on the model of Wikipedia, and General Transit Feed Specification data which allows transit schedules to be compiled from various providers. These can help to better represent road, public transit, walking and biking trips.

In addition to assessing regional travel and air quality impacts, the NJTPA model is adapted by partner agencies and subregions for use in predicting local effects such as land use changes. Any upgrades to the NJTPA model would consider these functions. As highlighted in the webinars, added complexity would require more data, computing power and staff time, but could strengthen the ability of planners and policy makers to understand the choices and needs of the traveling public.
Webinar presenters included the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council and the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission; metropolitan planning organizations in Baltimore, Atlanta, San Francisco, Dallas/Fort Worth, Portland (Oregon), and Seattle; and the North Carolina DOT, which conducts modeling for Charlotte. Partners from NJTPA subregions, NJ TRANSIT, the New Jersey Department of Transportation, the Port Authority of NY and NJ, and Federal Highway Administration participated. The webinars were held on March 11th, March 23rd, April 8th and April 22nd.

Data Shows NJ Had Highest Initial Stay-at-Home Response in Nation

Posted: 4/22/2020 10:59:14 AM

On March 21, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy issued a stay-at-home order for nearly all of the state's 9 million residents.  In the week following, people took the order very seriously, with about 45 percent staying at home. 

Analysis by the University of Maryland Transportation Institute indicates that New Jersey had the highest increase in the percentage of people staying at home during the week after a statewide order — a 13 percent increase from the previous week  (the next highest were New York, Illinois and California at 11 percent).

The Institute’s ongoing analysis of nationwide travel behavior during the pandemic crisis draws on privacy-protected data from mobile devices, government agencies, health care systems, and other sources.  An online interactive analysis tool provides a wealth of data about the travel impacts of the crisis.  It is updated daily.

The analysis indicates that New Jersey residents are practicing a level of social distancing and travel reduction in keeping with the devastating impacts of the pandemic experienced here – second in the nation in COVID-19 fatalities.  As of April 14, the state scored 65 on an index of social distancing compared to 52 for the nation overall.  The index considers stay-at-home behavior and reduction in trips, among other factors.  

The percentage of people in New Jersey staying at home increased from 34 percent in the week prior to the Governor’s announcement to 47 percent in the second week of April.  Miles travel per person per day dropped 30 percent to 16.8 miles over the same period. 

The three counties hardest hit by the illness – Bergen, Hudson and Essex – have stay-at-home rates over 50 percent.  A county-by-county breakdown is compiled here .

The Maryland researchers find that nationwide there has been a lack of progress in getting more people to comply with social distancing and reduced travel..  A press release  notes: “The percentage of people staying home nationwide increased from 20 percent to 35 percent at the onset of COVID-19 in mid-March but then stagnated at 35 percent for three weeks, despite skyrocketing new COVID-19 cases.”