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Congestion Buster Task Force

Meeting Minutes

NJDOT Multi-Purpose Room, Ewing, NJ

July 11, 2001


The meeting was called to order by Chairman James Sinclair shortly after 1:00 p.m.

New members to the Task Force or those not present at the last meeting introduced themselves and spoke briefly about their organizations.

The Chairman stated that he has spoken with many members of the Task Force and continues to learn about the subject of congestion. He hopes to be able to visit all members and view their organizations. Some observations for the Task Force to consider:
  1. Freight is an important issue; volume is projected to increase 4 - 5 times its present amount.
  2. People don't know how to take a bus; they have trouble reading schedules and making connections.
  3. People are unaware of transit options. Educating the public is usually one of the first items to face funding cuts. Have any studies been done that can tie an increase in mass transit ridership to public education?
  4. Tolls are confusing.
  5. Plans exist - with both short-term and long-term solutions; we should be talking to the groups that developed these plans.
  6. There is a lot of skepticism about the subject of reducing congestion; Task Force members should prioritize, look at funding issues and then recommend projects.
  7. It is hard to build railroads. Strategies could focus on land use, development of bus hubs and maximizing development along bus and rail lines.
  8. In theory, each person who switches to mass transit removes a car from the road, since most cars are singly occupied.
  9. Congestion problems vary in different parts of the State; perhaps the Task Force should look at regional projects.
The Chairman posed three questions to the members for their consideration:
  1. What is congestion? What level will we put up with, before we ask for intervention?
  2. What is pricing strategy?
  3. What do we know about making behavioral changes?

Old Business

Pippa Woods spoke briefly about Executive Order No. 128 and related press release regarding toll elimination on the Garden State Parkway. At this time, NJDOT is working on a "Garden State Parkway Congestion Relief Plan." More details on toll study methodology and the Department's recommendations will be available at the next Congestion Buster meeting.

A brief update on the Secaucus Transfer was given. This is a public/private partnership that will connect the Hoboken and Newark rail lines. Hopefully, this connection and future ones like it will make transit more attractive to future riders.

New Business

Judith Schleicher, Chairperson of the I-80 Mobility Task Force, made a presentation
  • Convened in 1997, shortly after the dismantling of the HOV lanes
  • Broader group reduced to a "working" group of around a dozen people
  • Four subgroups were formed that met quarterly
  • Planning & Technology - Communications
  • Transit & Trucks - Employer Issues
  • Education was recognized as a necessity
  • TIP map was developed
  • Interviewed groups such as county planners and a Southeastern Connecticut business group
  • Focus was narrowed to peak-hour commuter traffic. Lunch hour, tourist and retail congestion were not addressed. Origin and destination points were important.
  • 24 strategies that were doable, convenient and able to be accomplished in a timely manner were developed. The strategies were divided into short-term, intermediate-term and long-term recommendations.
  • Progress has been made; the full group met and was presented with the ideas; the recommendations have been reduced to 19 as reported in the I-80 Mobility Task Force Subcommittee Report II distributed at the CBTF meeting.
Richard Kerr, NJ Transit, spoke about Transit Incentives in NJ and distributed a handout that elaborated his presentation.
  • Traffic congestion is an incentive pushing people to try transit
  • Balance of modes and alternatives is needed, linking development patterns and site plans with transportation
  • Short haul trips are a growing market; the agency is seeking to widen its reach
  • Transit now faces its own congestion - overcrowding and standees
  • Fares have remained unchanged since 1990; statistics were provided on the number of boardings and destination points
  • Transit incentives, their features and volume was discussed:
    • Monthly passes
    • NJ Transit BusinessPass
    • TransitChek
    • NJ Transit WorkPass
    • NJ Transit Vanpool Sponsorship Program
Noreen Cardinali, NJDOT, spoke about Commuter Tax Legislation
  • Bill A190/S1051 was recently passed both houses on the State Legislature and was sent to the Governor on June 28, 2001 for approval
  • Permits a State and local government employees' salary reduction program for qualified transportation benefits
  • Increases the Travel Demand Management Program gross income tax exclusions for commuter transportation benefits
  • Enables employers to establish "parking cash out" programs without penalizing non-participating employees
  • Matrix comparing commuter tax benefits under State and Federal law, bill summary, copy of A190 and Fiscal Note were distributed at the meeting
NJDOT staff will keep a list of incentives and ideas to reduce congestion as found through research and suggested by CBTF members. Incentives can include those used in other states and countries, with an emphasis on proven ideas. Some ideas presented at the meeting include:
  • Increase size and number of carpool lots on Garden State Parkway
  • Transit overload and lack of parking at Transit lots should be considered as well as roadway congestion
  • Install road dividers, landscaping etc. to eliminate rubbernecking across the road
  • Provide "shared" parking for emergency situations to those that do not normally drive
  • Promote community shuttles to link workers with Transit locations or worksites
  • Encourage employers to coordinate staggered work hours for regular workdays not just for emergency situations (snowstorms etc.)
Pippa Woods talked about congestion "hot spots." As of meeting time, 11 Task Force members had submitted their list of hot spots. Chairman Sinclair encouraged the remaining members to submit their lists. NJDOT had identified 40 congestion "hot spots" in their recent "Vision Statement;" they now have 42. When comparing the CBTF members' list with NJDOT's, it was noted that 17 spots overlap. It is good that there is some congruence; hopefully, some of these "hot spots" will be addressed in the CBTF's final recommendations.

Public outreach was briefly discussed
  • NJDOT staff to look into the ability to have deliberations and activities of the CBTF posted to the NJDOT website
  • Barry Lem, Jennifer Jaroski, NJDOT staff and Chairman Sinclair were appointed to the Public Outreach sub-committee
Report titled "Mobility and the Costs of Congestion in New Jersey" was distributed by Jerry Keenan, the New Jersey Alliance for Action delegate. Mr. Keenan offered to make a presentation to the CBTF at a future meeting.

Other members offered to make presentations on Intelligent Transportation and Incident Management. It was suggested that the MPO's be invited to present a "regional" slant on congestion.

Organizational Issues

Mike Reeves, Gail Toth and Anita Perez were selected by the chair to develop the agenda for the next meeting.

The next meeting date is August 7th at 9:30 a.m. at NJDOT

Preliminary agenda items include:
  • 1999 peak-hour baseline
  • Congestion in freight sector
  • Congestion in tourism and retail sectors
  • Report on NJDOT website
September and October meeting dates were not selected; meeting places will probably be other than Trenton

The meeting was adjourned at 3:12 p.m.


Task Force Members (or Delegates):

Chairman James Sinclair, NJBIA
Asst. Commissioner Pippa Woods
Sandra Brillhart, Greater Mercer TMA
Jon Carnegie, Trans. Policy Institute
John Claffey, DVRPC
Erica Ferry, Pharmacia Corporation
Joanne Jaeger, LFR Levine
Jennifer Jaroski, TSTC
Jerry Keenan, NJAFA
Stephanie Kudrowitz, Edwards & Kelcey
Rich Kerr, New Jersey Transit
Barry Lem, L-3 Communications
Hamou Megdir, NJTPA
Joseph P. Miele, CSNJ, NJTA
SFC Dan Morocco, NJSP
Anita Perez, RideWise
William Ragozine, CCC TMA
Mike Reeves, SJTPO
Judy Schleicher

Invited Guests:

Dotty Drinkwater, CSNJ
James Crane, RideWise

DOT Staff:

William Beetle
Patricia Snyder
Noreen Cardinali
Talvin Davis
Debra Firman, CBTF Secretary
Jim Lewis
Maureen Sweet
Adnew Tessema
Thomas Thatcher

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