NJTPA Update Blog

November 2022

Panel Addresses Last-Mile Access For Freight Facilities

Posted: 11/28/2022 9:46:17 AM

There are many good jobs in the freight sector but attracting workers to them can be difficult as freight facilities often are not easily accessible via public transportation.

The Metropolitan Area Planning (MAP) Forum's Multi-State Freight Working Group hosted a virtual peer exchange workshop on Nov. 15 titled, “Effective Practices for Enhancing Last Mile Workforce Accessibility Options to Freight Facilities.” The panel included a representative from the private sector, a Transportation Management Association (TMA), and a community non-profit that provides a fee-for-service program.

It's not just a freight and transportation issue, David Behrend, Executive Director of the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority (NJTPA), said. “It’s really an equity issue because a lot of these facilities may be located in traditionally underserved communities …and have the potential to really economically benefit those communities,” he said.

A lack of access to transit can potentially shut the door on a six-figure salary for people with a high school diploma, according to Axel Carrion, Vice President, State Government & Public Affairs, at UPS. He said he would not be a vice president today if almost 30 years ago he did not have access to transit in New York City to get his foot in the door at the company.

UPS is the fourth-largest largest private employer in New Jersey. The challenges with worker access, including access during overnight hours, Carrion said is “not a UPS issue by any means, it’s an industry issue.”

Della Walker, Jr., chief operating officer and executive vice president of programs at the non-profit Newark Alliance, explained how creating equitable transportation solutions can eliminate barriers to work. Transportation systems should be flexible and responsive to the needs of employers and workers, Walker said. “There’s not one solution that will fit everyone’s needs.”

The alliance has helped reduce commutes by assessing where people work, making sure schedules address their needs and encouraging companies to hire locally.

Serving warehouse districts with transit can be particularly difficult, according to Peter Bilton, Manager, Sustainable Transportation Planning, at the NJTPA. because they tend to be single-use districts with no residents, making transit “less cost efficient” than in more populous areas.

Common solutions include:

  • Vanpooling, in which a group of employees lease from a vendor and commute together, often with subsidies available to support it;
  • Van shuttles, provided by an employer or employment agency for home-to-work transport, which works best at workplaces with a large workforce and consistent shifts;
  • Carpooling, promoted by employers and supported by TMAs; and,
  • Shuttlebuses, specifically tailored to freight workplace needs, with a fixed or flexible route and schedule, funded by public-private partnerships.

The area around Allentown, Pennsylvania, is also facing difficult worker access issues. Owen O’Neil, executive director of Lehigh and Northampton Transportation Authority (LANTA) said that since 2016 the region has seen some 30 million square feet of logistics and warehouse space approved or constructed – with another 26 million in the approval process.

LANTA has 85 buses covering 324 square miles of service area but faces the demand for more service as development grows and spreads “We don’t have a whole lot of resources to cover all the things we have to do,” O’Neil said.

He noted that the newest employees at warehouses tend to be the most reliant on transit and get the worst shifts until they work their way up. It’s only after a year or two, when they are in steady situations, that they might buy a car or start carpooling, he added.

In the New Jersey Meadowlands area, the non-profit Meadowlands Transportation Brokerage Campaign, more commonly known as EZ Ride, helps businesses get their employees to work.

“Transportation can be a challenge, for people who cannot afford to drive to work, for older adults who don’t drive [and for] those with disabilities,” Krishna Murthy, president and CEO of EZ Ride, said. To provide affordable services, EZ Ride often develops public-private partnerships to fund operations.

Among the organization’s most vital programs is EZ Ride Shuttles. On a typical day pre-COVID, EZ Ride would transport about 2,000 people a day via 30 vehicles by 100 drivers. About one-third of shuttles operate at night, between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m., getting people to Newark Penn Station. Ridership is down about 20 percent since COVID began, with EZ Ride transporting about 400 people a day on average.

A complete recording of the meeting and presentations can be accessed here.

NJTPA Board Names David W. Behrend Executive Director

Posted: 11/14/2022 2:01:41 PM

NJTPA Executive Director David W. BehrendThe NJTPA Board of Trustees voted unanimously during its meeting Monday to name David W. Behrend the agency’s executive director.

Behrend most recently served as deputy executive director. He replaces Mary D. Ameen who retired in June.

“I want to congratulate you and thank you for your work as Acting Executive Director over the past four months,” NJTPA Chair John W. Bartlett, a Passaic County Commissioner, said after the vote. “Your experience leading the agency’s extraordinary staff and collaborating with our many partners will provide important continuity as we look to seize all the opportunities available under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and other initiatives.”

“I’d like to thank the NJTPA Board for entrusting me with this position and the great staff of the NJTPA for all their hard work over many years,” Behrend said. “This is an exciting time to be involved in the world of transportation planning and infrastructure, and I look forward to continuing the growth and improvement of the NJTPA.”

Behrend has been at the NJTPA for more than 20 years, serving in various roles. Prior to becoming deputy executive director, he was director of the Department of Communications and Government Affairs.

Prior to joining the NJTPA, Behrend was an editor and reporter for the Courier News, among other publications.

He holds a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University and a bachelor’s degree in government from Cornell University. He is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) and a Lead New Jersey Fellow, Class of 2012.

NJ TRANSIT, NJTPA announce $43 million in federal funding

Posted: 11/9/2022 9:00:00 AM

NJ TRANSIT and the NJTPA today announced the programming of $43.6 million in federal Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA) funding to seven NJ TRANSIT projects which advance sustainability, bus garage electrification and first/last mile transportation solutions.  The funding will be made available to NJ TRANSIT as part of NJTPA’s Fiscal Year 2022-2025 Transportation Improvement Program.
“By working together at a regional level, we can identify, prioritize and advance critical projects to make the transit system more accessible and sustainable,” said New Jersey Department of Transportation Commissioner and NJ TRANSIT Board Chair Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti.  “The projects selected are exciting opportunities to continue promoting the electrification of buses, using solar power in bus shelters and modernizing our bus network to meet future transportation demand.”
“Public transit is vital to communities across the state, with people depending on it to get to work, buy groceries, and go to the doctors,” said Senator Bob Menendez. “I’m proud to have secured this funding which will advance critical NJ TRANSIT projects, and create a safer, more accessible, greener, and more sustainable transportation network. I’ll continue fighting for robust transportation funding, as it plays a critical role in getting residents safely to their destination and keeping our economy moving forward.”
“This federal funding will help modernize our state’s transportation infrastructure, create a cleaner, healthier environment, and make mass transit more accessible for New Jersey commuters,” said Senator Cory Booker. “I look forward to seeing the benefits these projects bring to our state’s economy and public health.”
“Working with the Biden administration, congressional Democrats are investing in our nation’s roads, bridges, tunnels, and trains. This $43.6 million in federal funding will help our region continue to play an essential role in America’s economy,” said U.S. Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr., who helped approve this funding as part of the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act. “With this funding, our state will receive several upgrades to increase efficiency while strengthening environmental protections. I thank our partners at the NJTPA and NJ TRANSIT for their continued leadership and forward-thinking. These essential funds were made possible because Democrats have unified control of Congress and the White House and are still having a positive impact for New Jersey. This is tremendous news for our state and our region.”
“NJ TRANSIT and the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority collaborated closely to select a slate of innovative, environmentally-friendly, and forward-looking projects to receive this vital federal funding,” said NJ TRANSIT President & CEO Kevin S. Corbett. “As a result, NJ TRANSIT will now advance seven key projects – improving service, first mile/last mile, and micro-mobility options for customers, while supporting New Jersey’s sustainability goals outlined in Governor Murphy’s Energy Master Plan.”
“The NJTPA staff worked closely with NJ TRANSIT to develop an innovative plan to use this funding that will not only benefit transit riders, but also our region,” said NJTPA Chair John W. Bartlett, a Passaic County Commissioner. “The bus electrification, pilot shuttle program, bicycle sheds and studies will help us meet the goals in our long-range transportation plan, by improving air quality, making transportation more accessible, and encouraging healthy alternatives. This is a great example of how we can use federal funding to make a difference for residents and commuters.”
The seven projects included in the funding allotment include:

  • Hilton Bus Garage Electrification Project ($24.5M) – The Hilton Bus Garage electrification project is the next step in NJ TRANSIT’s progress to the transition to a fully zero emission bus fleet in accordance with state law.  Efforts to date at Newton Bus Garage in Camden County focused on the implementation of a limited number of battery electric buses via plug-in charger. The Hilton Bus Garage electrification project in Essex County will implement an overhead pantograph charging system that is both hands-free for increased safety and scalable for mass-charging use. This project will provide a standardized overhead gantry system that will support the chargers and the charging cabinet equipment. Once designed and tested, the intention is to use the refined system to provide simple and efficient charging infrastructure that can be quickly implemented in the majority of NJ TRANSIT’s bus garages. The CRRSAA funding proposed for this project will pay for the pantograph charging system and supporting charging equipment.
  • Microtransit Shuttle Pilot Routes ($7M) – NJ TRANSIT seeks to create two or more community shuttle services to provide first/last mile access to transit hubs, thereby extending the reach of transit to areas where traditional fixed route service may be infeasible or ineffective.  The CRRSSA funds will support a multi-year shuttle pilot program in the NJTPA region that would offer on-demand service using smaller, accessible minibuses or vans, and hailed by an app or other suitable means.  Pilot locations may include connecting residential areas of Monmouth County with the main Rt. 9 corridor, connecting two highly utilized bus corridors between Englewood and Teaneck in Bergen County or first/last mile solutions in the Port Newark/Newark Airport area.
  • Solar Bus Shelters – Retrofit and New Design Constructability & Pilot Implementation ($6M) – NJ TRANSIT is undertaking the design of a new, state of the art solar powered, low maintenance bus shelter.  The primary intentions are to improve safety by providing solar powered lighting, and to develop a practical but aesthetically pleasing shelter design.  NJ TRANSIT is proposing a multi-pronged approach, including retrofit of up to 10% of existing bus shelters in the NJTPA region with solar lighting where feasible, as well as design of a new shelter which would be implemented through a pilot project, and then incorporated into the existing bus shelter program.
  • Bike Sheds ($2M) – NJ TRANSIT is preparing an RFP to obtain a service provider to build, operate, and maintain bike “sheds” that can store multiple bicycles and scooters at rail and bus hubs.  The intended sheds funded by the CRRSSA grant would be durable, secure, and accessible to users 24/7 through an app or other convenient method.  These would encourage non-motorized first/last mile access to and from transit hubs in the NJTPA region. 
  • Electric Mini-Buses ($1.5M) – NJ TRANSIT operates minibuses in its Access Link complementary paratransit system and also purchases and distributes minibuses for use by county, municipal, and non-profit subrecipients of Federal Transit Administration Section 5310 and 5311 funds.  There is growing interest in deploying battery-electric powered minibuses for these services, however, there is currently a low level of experience and readiness to purchase and use these vehicles in daily service.  The CRRSSA funds would allow NJ TRANSIT to purchase up to five (5) battery electric minibuses and chargers to deploy in the NJTPA region as part of the Access Link fleet, potentially through a cooperative purchase with another state also pursuing battery electric minibuses.  These would become a “living laboratory” to demonstrate how to operate, maintain, and schedule paratransit service for NJ TRANSIT and its subrecipient partners. 
  • Local Electric Vehicle Minibus Transition Study and Technical Support ($1M) – Interest in transitioning to battery-electric minibuses by NJ TRANSIT’s Access Link paratransit system, and local and non-profit recipients is growing, and electrification of buses is a key regional greenhouse gas reduction strategy.  Small transportation providers face challenges transitioning to an electric vehicle (EV) fleet, including cost, procurement, charging facilities, maintenance and safety, driver training, and adjustment of routing and scheduling to meet the operational characteristics of EVs.  The CRRSSA grant will fund a study led by NJ TRANSIT, with consultant support as needed, to characterize the knowledge gaps in the transition to EV minibuses and provide technical assistance to subrecipients in the NJTPA region and Access Link looking to deploy electric minibuses. This study will also develop guidance for local and non-profit providers of transit service and support the state and local EV Infrastructure Deployment Plans. 
  • NewBus Hudson ($1M) – This bus network redesign project aims to better understand ridership trends and other barriers to mass transit usage in Hudson County. Study tactics include a market assessment of specific localities and potential customers to determine effectiveness and competitiveness of transit options; service evaluation, an analysis of strengths, deficiencies, gaps, and opportunities of the existing local bus network; and stakeholder and public involvement intended to develop a comprehensive Public Involvement Plan that identifies a range of outreach approaches targeting key internal and external stakeholders. Using the data collected, NJ TRANSIT will create service and capital plans, which are expected to include strategies and solutions for addressing a regional decline in bus ridership.

Projects in Lambertville, Asbury Awarded Technical Assistance

Posted: 11/8/2022 2:51:39 PM

The City of Lambertville in Hunterdon County will develop an augmented reality walking tour with a focus on climate change impacts and a strategic vision plan will be created for the Village of Asbury in Warren County through Together North Jersey’s Vibrant Places Program. The NJTPA funds the competitive technical assistance program, which is conducted in partnership with Rutgers University’s Voorhees Transportation Center. The New Jersey Department of Community Affairs is also participating in the program this year, offering additional support, technical assistance, and guidance. 

City of Lambertville 

Lambertville’s virtual walking tour is called Flowing Together: Building Community Resilience at the Confluence of Collective Knowledge, Creativity, and Action. It will include location-specific visualizations to depict the impacts of climate change and flooding events in the city, from both historic and future-oriented perspectives. The tour’s content will range from photographic renderings and videos to interviews and other multimedia experiences available by smartphone, tablet, or computer. This creative project aims to raise awareness of local ecological connections and to activate community involvement in the process of resiliency planning. 

Village of Asbury 

The Musconetcong Watershed Association, in partnership with the local officials, is developing a strategic vision plan for the Village of Asbury, located in Warren County’s Franklin Township. The goal of the plan is to create a pedestrian-oriented atmosphere that will attract visitors and businesses while leveraging the watershed’s many historic, cultural, and natural assets. Community members will be engaged to help develop plan recommendations. 

For more information about the Vibrant Places Program, visit www.TogetherNorthJersey.com