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Congestion Buster Task Force

Meeting Minutes

NJ TRANSIT Boardroom, Newark, NJ

October 11, 2001

Welcome and Opening Remarks

The meeting was called to order by Chairman Jim Sinclair at 9:42 a.m.

Chairman Sinclair opened the meeting with remarks about the short-term and long-term commuter impacts after the events of September 11, 2001. He stated there will be a tremendous long-term impact on North Jersey and its economy and drivers. Effects will be felt not only by commuters to New York, but by people within New Jersey, due to office relocations here.

A discussion ensued. General comments by Task Force members included the following:
  • Tighter security getting into the city

  • Transportation professionals, and this task force, have an "opportunity" to advance plans and recommendations. This is a chance to encourage teleworking, flexible hours works and other transportation options. A member felt that "CBTF's ideas will go through".
Pippa Woods stated that our transportation systems still have to move people, but have to do it differently. The PATH line will be out for at least two years; the displacement of its 60,000 daily riders is a major disruption. The PATH linked to other parts of lower Manhattan, not just the World Trade Center. The Holland Tunnel carried up to 90,000 people a day; it remains to be seen how traffic will be impacted upon its reopening. Pippa reported that 120,000 jobs are no longer in lower Manhattan. There was 22 million square feet of office space available in northern New Jersey and 13 million sq. feet available in mid-town.

Bill Beetle, NJDOT Director of Planning stated NJDOT's immediate response was to keep things moving. The State's long-term response will be "evolving." He said efficiently handling relocations to New Jersey could be tricky since businesses make private decisions. NJDOT is working to quantify relocation data and system effects into a single picture.

Martin Robins said in light of recent events, NJ Transit's recently released Strategic Plan has not been getting much notice, since the focus has shifted to more immediate concerns. Martin noted two important points from the plan:
  • Northeast Corridor is the "spine railroad line" of NJT. It is extremely overcrowded and even more since September 11.

  • NJT is in fiscal distress. Its ability to do what we want of it is impossible with current funding. It will take political leadership and courage to secure funding for Transit's existing operations as well as for construction and system expansions.
Gerry Keenan mentioned an opportunity exists to take a regional approach to transportation issues. He invited the task force members to a meeting on Monday November 19, 9:00 a.m. at the offices of NJTPA, Newark, NJ. He said this will be a high level meeting with the NJ Governor-elect, Commissioner Weinstein, Jeffrey Warsh, NY DOT officials, members of Congress etc. Agenda items include the new rail tunnel into New York.

Jim Redecker mentioned it will be at least 8 to 10 years before a new rail tunnel into Manhattan is built. The tunnel may include extensions to Grand Central Station and will cost between $3 to $6 billion. In the interim, significant capacity improvements are doable, but not inexpensive.

In regards specifically to Trans-Hudson crossings, there are 30,000 fewer trips into Manhattan, but systems are strained because destinations have changed.
  • Peak Period ridership on the Northeast corridor has grown significantly.
  • Reverse commuting (out of New York) has grown by 45%.
  • NJ Transit has already surpassed the volume anticipated for 2010.
  • Rolling stock is being put into use before routine maintenance is done.
  • Amtrak is honoring NJ Transit tickets and given the use of their tracks (probably temporary).
  • While ridership has increased on rail, no significant changes have been noted on bus and carpooling.
  • People have shifted their driving time to pre-SOV restricted hours rather than carpool into New York.

Old Business:

Pippa Woods stated that the Parkway Congestion Relief Plan as submitted in response to executive order, recommends $800 million in capital improvements to enhance safety and reduce congestion. Legislation has not been sponsored, but this is still an issue. Chairman Sinclair suggested that Parkway pricing, and pricing in general, is something the Task Force should look at.

The CBTF website has been posted on the NJDOT site. Members reported that the site looked visually appealing and they found the links useful. The "Contact Us" selection goes directly to a CBTF mailbox. At each meeting, the number of hits and summary of the comments will be provided. New material will be placed periodically on the site.

New Business:

Bill Beetle, Director of Transportation Systems Planning, NJDOT, made a presentation on the New Jersey Long-Range Transportation Plan. Highlights included:
  • A recent public opinion survey listed congestion as a major transportation problem facing New Jersey.
  • Summary of population and growth trends.
  • Simulation models of the state's three MPOs were woven together to develop a statewide travel demand analysis.
  • Combined strategy of aggressive TDM and transit programs, use of ITS and limited new highway capacity would have the best results to maintain level of service at its current condition, while accommodating future population and employment growth.
  • Compact growth, advocated by the State Development and Redevelopment Plan, reduces the demand on our highway system.
  • Summary of capital costs needed to implement the plan.
Mike Reeves, SJTPO, made a short presentation on the congestion performance measures used by his organization.
  • Volume/capacity (V/C), the primary method used, can be applied in a variety of ways (i.e. peak period, seasonal etc.)
  • Another measurement is duration of over-capacity traffic at a given location
  • Subjective identification of problem areas by residents and government leaders and planners provides a useful prospective that would otherwise be excluded if relying solely on objective, analytical measures.
Members mentioned several topics that the Task Force should learn more about:
  • park-and-ride lots, why some work and some don't.
  • rail park-and-ride are not funded, perhaps money should go there.
  • ITS - people want this information - 5 million hits on website after Sept. 11th attacks.
  • mobility report update.
  • Bus Rapid Transit and identify corridors for BRT in NJ.
  • psychology of people; why is rail preferred over bus.

Organizational Items:

The Subcommittee Formation group presented a list of possible CBTF subcommittees. Members approved the recommendations, but suggested that a legislative committee be added to the list of subcommittees. It was noted that Demand Management includes many strategies; it might have to be broken down into smaller subsets.
  • Pippa Woods stated that the Task Force would likely include legislative proposals as part of their recommendations. Mike Egenton offered to serve on the Legislative Committee.
  • Jack Claffey stated it would be a good idea to have staff from NJDOT, the MPOs and NJ Transit provide professional support to the subcommittees.
  • Janine Bauer said the underlying framework of each subcommittee's final product should include what operational systems, policy, legislation and capital are needed to implement each project or recommendation.
All members will serve on the Congestion Committee and the Marketing and Public Education Committee. Remaining committees are:
  • Demand Management
  • Transit & Passenger Rail
  • Goods Movement
  • Traffic Management
  • Land Use / Growth Management
  • Legislative
Chairman Sinclair asked the members to review the list, and within a week notify the Task Force secretary of one or two committees they would like to serve on.

The Task Force's final product was briefly discussed. Some suggestions from members:
  • Reach out to major employers, such as casinos and pharmaceutical companies, to see if the Task Force's recommendations are useful, practical and doable.
  • Conduct a low cost survey of employers on congestion related issues.

Future meeting dates:

  • Tuesday, November 13th, 9:30 a.m. at Delaware River Port Authority, Camden
  • Tuesday, December 11th, 1:00 p.m. at NJDOT Multi-Purpose Room, Ewing, NJ

The meeting adjourned at 12:10 p.m.


Task Force Members (or Delegates):
Chairman Jim Sinclair, NJBIA
Asst. Commissioner Pippa Woods
Janine Bauer, TSTC
Sandra Brillhart, Greater Mercer TMA
Jack Claffey, DVRPC
Dotty Drinkwater, CSNJ
Mike Egenton, NJ Chamber of Commerce
Jerry Keenan, NJAFA
Stephanie Kudrowitz, Edwards & Kelcey
Hamou Megdir, NJTPA
Anita Perez, RideWise TMA
Bill Ragozine, Cross County Connection TMA
James Redecker, NJ Transit
Mike Reeves, SJTPO
Martin Robins, Rutgers - TPI
Judy Schleicher

Invited Guests:

Jon Carnegie, Rutgers - TPI
Brian Fineman, NJTPA

DOT Staff:

William Beetle
Adnew Tessema
Ray Andrejcik
Bob Miller
Talvin Davis
Mark Stout
Debra Firman

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