Bike share at Rutgers

The Rutgers campuses at New Brunswick have been preparing the bike share program as mentioned in the news, “Rutgers Prepares to Expand Bike Share Program on Campus | The Daily Targum” by Sharbel Skaff on Friday, Dec. 2. There are some roads on the campuses that have already added the bike roads to prepare for the program. This program will definitely provide a boost in transportation for students, and others as well, who are traveling between the campuses.

There are so many benefits for having the bike sharing program  such as traveling within campuses, reducing traffic on the crowded main roads, and having a boost in the economy. First of all, people have more options for traveling between classes. During the rush hours, buses are usually full and they do not come in on time, and people who are rushing to get to their next class can ride the bike. Secondly, some roads change to reduce traffic. For example, the Seminary Place on the College Ave. campus changed the road from two-way road into a one-way for vehicles and replaced it into a two way bike road. Furthermore, it helps the economy. It provides job opportunity for bike maintenance. Last but not least, it promotes students to exercise. Students get some chances to rides within the campuses and to the Johnson park. Perhaps, an increase admission during summer since the weather is nice out, and the having public bikes can promote people to travel in the nice weather.

However, I worry about the safety and law regulations for riding the bicycle. The laws in New Jersey do not require people who are above 18 year-old wear helmet, and the city is a very chaotic place especially during the rush hours. Also, there are not many laws that protect bicyclists. In the New Jersey’s law bicyclist must know and follow the auto vehicle law without giving classes and information. The lack of laws for bicycles does not just happen in New Jersey; it happens in New York City as well. If the New York City, a city with an average of  million people traveling with bikes, does not have laws for bikes and protect the bikers, then it is very hard for the government of New Jersey to set up laws for the bikes. Also, a lot of drivers do not respect bikers and the bike lanes, the cars are often stopped in the bike lanes. Perhaps, auto vehicles drivers need some time to address the new changes on the roads.

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The “Watcher” House

Professional planning can be one of the most interesting careers to get involved with. Each time you get a job offer, you really never know what to expect. As a planner you could be doing something as simple as getting a sign variance for a McDonalds to something as complicated as converting a three bedroom residential dwelling into a bed and breakfast. With so many different types of structures and each town having their own set of rules, every job is different. In addition to each job being unique, each client has a story of their own, sometimes making the approval process much more complicated. A few weeks ago my father, who is a New Jersey professional planner had one of his most interesting planning cases that I’ve witnessed.

In 2014 a house was sold to a couple with three young children in Westfield NJ. Three days later, the new owners started to receive threating letters from someone that identified themselves as “The Watcher.” The messages asked questions asking if the owners had found what was in the walls and stated the watcher would call the young blood to them. The couple ended up not moving into the house because of the messages and instead tried to sell the house but no one wanted to move in. The house soon became known as the “Watcher” House and started to gain national attention. Because no one would buy the house, the owners decided to tear down the house and replace it with two smaller homes, which they needed approval from the town to do. The homeowners needed a variance to create two lots, which is the job of the professional planner to testify and obtain. Unfortunately for the homeowners, much of the community came out in opposition to the proposal, stating that two smaller homes didn’t fit with the overall feel of the community although the house was one of the largest in the area.

The meeting ended up getting extended but there was an objective lawyer that asked a lot of questions at the first meeting. The objective lawyer intends on putting an objective planner on the stand to counter argue all the points that my dad had made. The next meeting will most likely take place in January or February of next year and we will see if the family will get the approval that they seek.

 

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The Future Outlook on Affordable Housing

Housing has been a main priority of the planning field, ever since its origins. People need a roof to live under, and somewhere to grow and raise a family. As many know, it is not an easy task to be able to afford a comfortable environment for a family, so what are these lower-income families supposed to do? Mark Chiusano explains the future plans of Donald Trump in his article “What Donald Trump and Ben Carson mean for affordable housing.”

Donald Trump and Ben Carson have plans to address affordable housing, and as Republicans, you can be sure it doesn’t involve using more government money. But, all hope is not lost because their plan involves increasing private development,” Chiusano said. They plan to use the approach of giving away subsidies, or tax breaks, to companies who come in and build an affordable housing project that complies with the basic standards set by the government. The concern with these houses is their upkeep. New York City alone had to invest about $300 million to replace leaking roofs in very many of their affordable housing structures.

 

Affordable housing is extremely important to community development, and must be taken seriously as a planner, because people will alway need somewhere to live, and the people who can’t afford to live under a  roof should be able to get help to afford that. Affordable housing is tricky because it could potentially bring in lower-income residents which would result in more crime and a lower quality of life for an area, which would drastically change property values and make people not want to live there. These projects typically meet with resistance from the citizens already living in the area where the affordable housing should be built.

Trump and his father were sued in 1973 for allegedly not renting his property to African Americans, because of their skin color. This is a very interesting case, now considering that Donald Trump is president and will now have to ensure people have a place to live,  even people of lower incomes, who can’t exactly afford a roof for their families. The hopes are that a program called Rental Assistance Demonstration will help New Yorkers be able to understand and more easily control their affordable housing needs.

Bicycle Safety, Freight, and the Future of Delivery?

Bicycles are becoming increasingly popular in New York City, especially with the implementation of Citi Bike a few years ago. However, one issue in the transportation field that always seems to be overlooked is bicycle safety. According to statistics from the New York City Department of Transportation, bicyclist injuries involving motor vehicles have not decreased over the past five years. In fact, bicyclist injuries have slightly increased. While there are many areas in New York City with bicycle lanes, in today’s day and age with an increase on the utilization and reliance of delivery, I find that many bike lanes get blocked by freight trucks parked in the lanes while making their deliveries. When these freight trucks block bicycle lanes, bicyclists are forced to expose themselves to the blinded drivers caused by the freight trucks. Due to this sudden emergence of bicycles riding into traffic, this creates a huge risk for collision, injury, and fatality.

In the field of transportation planning, it is the outlook of many that with every solution, there are three problems that emerge as a result. Therefore, this is not an easy solution to fix. While one can simply say that the law should prohibit these trucks from parking in the bicycle lanes, this would cause many businesses to lose business due to the lack of delivery service that they often rely on.

This issue seems to be an issue with the implementation of more complete streets, so that all modes of transportation could easily coexist on the same streets. However, this is far too complicated and expensive for a city as complex as New York City. While I do not have a foolproof solution to this issue, there are some interesting ideas that I believe could be expanded on. One possible solution could be Uber. Uber has a service called UberRUSH that is essentially Uber for delivery. What if this service were to be expanded for businesses? While these vehicles would also have the problem of parking, compared to freight vehicles, they would not take up as much room, they would not need to stay as long, and they would not be able to reserve these “parking spots” for other delivery trucks (as they often do) because the Uber drivers are independent. While this solution definitely has its flaws, I believe that it may be able to help reduce bicycle injuries. Another idea that may or may not be more futuristic involves self-driving vehicles. Would these possibly help? I believe that with self-driving vehicles being able to detect objects in its surroundings, that bicycle safety would improve. While I am not so familiar with this technology, I cannot say that it would be effective, however it may be something to consider as our technology advances.

New Jersey Water

Water in New Jersey overall is safe to drink.  There are many articles online that talk about lead in Jersey’s water or the cancer inducing chemical, Chromium-6 that was made famous in the 2000 Julia Roberts movie “Erin Brochovich,”.  According to the new study published by the Environmental Working Group at least 138 New Jersey towns have this cancer causing chemical in our water.  The findings would pose a negligible risk over a lifetime of consumption according to the environmental protection agency (EPA).  The point I am trying to make is that we have to be very careful with our drinking water and where we get our water from in order to keep us safe.

New Jersey is thankful to have no shortage of water unlike California.  We have no mandatory water restrictions on our water usage.  In some areas of New Jersey there is a voluntary water conservation observed, even and odd watering in areas like Howell, around Philadelphia, Union, and Hillsborough.  For the full list and to see if your town observes waster conservation go to njaw.wateroutage.com and check.

It is important to check where you get your water from and check the quality of the water.  Depending on your location where you get your water can be different. In more rural areas with low density your water probably comes from a private well.  Public water is too expensive to provide in areas where that homes are very distant from each other.  With a private well there in no annual water quality check to see if your water is safe it is up to you to do that.  In New Jersey most homes are supported municipal or public water because our state has the highest population density out of all 50 states.  There is usually one water pipe that goes into your house with a meter that measures how much water you use.  If you get billed for water it is because you are on a public water system.  They are legally responsible for testing your drinking water and providing an annual report that is available for their consumers. To identify your public water system in New Jersey, you can visit NJ Source Water Assessment Program.

The future of New Jersey water infrastructure lies in projects like Jersey Water Works.  Their job is to improve urban water infrastructure by investing in sustainable, cost effective solutions that provide communities with clean water and waterways.  Other issues like storm drains overflowing causing flooding and combined sewer overflows are being addressed by the Build it Green (BIG) Competition in three selected cities: Gloucester City, Jersey City, and Perth Amboy.  These water infrastructure needs to be great because of the high demand from the high metropolitan population.  Also the drainage system must be good because of the lack of green space to absorb the rainfall.  BIG will provide technical assistance and engineering support services for those three cities.  But all these improvement cost a pretty penny and with all that’s going on in New Jersey this is just another issue that will need to be addressed or we could see another major problem with our infrastructure.

The Transportation of the Future

Back in 2013, Tesla and Elon Musk the SpaceX founder idealized the Hyperloop. The npr article “Elton Musk’s Hyperloop Dream Has Its 1st Public Demo” condensed the framework of the idea:”The Hyperloop would move passenger-filled pods through special tubes at incredibly high speeds — as in possibly crossing the 400 miles between San Francisco and Los Angeles in a mere 30 minutes.” Since the idea was conceived, many firms have been pursuing the development of the Hyperloop, but currently Hyperloop One is one of the companies that is closest to creating the first system. Hyperloop One,formerly Hyperloop Technologies, was a startup in 2014 based in a garage in Los Angeles. Today they have developed into an innovative company of engineers, welders, machinists, designers and builders. They call their full scale prototype DevLoop, which is short for development Hyperloop. They promote the DevLoop as a form of transportation that has “airline speeds for the price of a bus ticket. It’s on demand, energy efficient and safe.”

Back in May of 2016 they ran their first public test in Nevada. During the test, a metal sled practically flew on a 3,280 foot track hitting 116 mph in only 2 seconds. More recently, on November 22, it was reported by Daily Mail that the first tube of DevLoop has been installed in North Las Vegas and if they complete the 1.8 mile tube, it will be the first full scale Hyperloop System. Although, the prototype has yet to be tested with passengers and over longer distances.

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Pictured is the metal sled that was tested during the May 2016 run.

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Laying of the first tube of the 1.8 mile stretch in North Las Vegas.

While the logistics are still in the works, ideas and future benefits of this system have been long pondered over. The pods are envisioned to be a living-room like space that will be customizable and fit about 6-100 people. Some custom examples are a office space for meetings or a temporary care facility for ill patients. In an article on fastcoexist.com, the CEO of Hyperloop One Rob Lloyd wants people to:

Think of Hyperloop as the end-to-end network connector for all these forms of transportation, and one that will connect to existing modes where the volumes are high. That’s why the small footprint of our portals, the ability to access a city center in a tunnel, the point-to-point nature of our system really matters, because we don’t stop along the route, only at the destination.

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Model of a pod

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Model of the line that would stretch from Dubai to                                                                               Abu Dhabi.

This idea would revolutionize the transportation system by addressing the day to day problems that transportation planners must face. Problems like traffic congestion,affordability, accessibility, and sustainability which are discussed in Chapter 12 of Contemporary Urban Planning by John Levy. This fast, futuristic mode of transportation would relieve the amount of cars on the roads, money spent to go from place to place, and the amount of time spent sitting in traffic or airport security. Ideally, Musk’s vision includes pods departing every 30 seconds with tickets costing around $20 each way as opposed to the hundreds spent on intrastate flights. Presently, there are plans by Hyperloop One in collaboration with BIG,AECOM, and Arup for a line to be created connecting Emirati, Dubai to Abu Dhabi within the next 5 years. It is estimated that the usual 2 hour trip could be cut down to 12 minutes at 760 mph with Hyperloop. Only time will tell if this innovative system will be successful.

Sources:

Levy, John M. 2014. 10th Edition. Contemporary Urban Planning.

http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/05/11/477645103/elon-musks-hyperloop-dream-is-about-to-have-its-1st-public-demo

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3960584/Construction-world-s-scale-Hyperloop-begins-Las-Vegas-Futuristic-pods-travel-760mph-tested-year.html?utm_campaign=PostBeyond&utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Twitter&utm_term=%2311361

https://www.fastcoexist.com/3065166/change-generation/what-will-it-actually-be-like-to-ride-the-hyperloop

https://hyperloop-one.com/media

 

 

Transportation Funding for New Jersey

As discussed in the Transportation Planning section of Contemporary Urban Planning by John M. Levy, transportation is funded through self-finance, such as the purchase of a car, gas, insurance, etc., as well as through taxes and fees paid to government institutions that facilitate the roadways. In New Jersey, capital improvement programs for the Department of Transportation are funded through the Transportation Trust Fund (TTF), which was created to provide a consistent source of transportation funding, because the state had had issues with unpredictable annual spending and borrowing that was higher than projected. As stated by the TTF’s website, it is financed by motor fuels tax, petroleum tax, toll road authorities such as the Parkway and Turnpike, and a percentage of sales and use tax.

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Assembly Speaker Vince Prieto (center), with Governor Chris Christie on the left and Senate President Stephen Sweeney on the right, announces a deal on the Transportation Trust Fund.

Lately, the TTF has encountered problems because its funds are no longer sufficient to cover the necessary capital improvements. This is partially because it is now covering more maintenance costs that were originally paid for by other sources of funding, so its debt has been steadily rising over the past few years. This year, the fund completely ran out of money, and Governor Christie was forced to shut down all non-emergency roadwork. Far and away the highest contributor to the TTF’s expenditures is the motor fuels tax, and New Jersey’s is the second lowest in the nation. It had not been increased since the 1980s, and state lawmakers recognized that they had to raise the gas tax in order to address this growing deficit. I actually interned in the Governor’s office this summer, while he was negotiating with the state Senate and Assembly, and I read the proposals that they were all presenting in attempts of coming to a compromise, as well as sat in on sessions that discussed the bill. The government is so heavily involved in urban planning, especially in transportation planning, and I had a unique perspective. Our governor and the legislative bodies are opposing political parties, so it was particularly interesting because Governor Christie insisted on tax-fairness, meaning that other taxes be reduced to offset this increase. Although I do not intend on pursuing a career in urban planning, it was fascinating to see how my interest, politics, plays a large part in this field.

Ultimately, they were able to come to an agreement and our TTF should be sufficiently funded for years to come. Interestingly enough, less than a week after the Governor signed the bill into law, a notoriously unpleasant bridge in my town riddled with potholes was paved over and is now very easy to drive over. It’s always fulfilling to see our government and its agencies working efficiently, and to directly see and enjoy the benefits of our tax dollars.

New Jersey Transportation

The State of Jersey has a bad report card on the state of their transportation.  Civil engineers declare that our bridges have serious safety issues and our roads are low quality.  So much stress is put on our infrastructure but what is being done about it.

In the past decades New Jersey has mostly focused on our roads and highways, that is where New Jersey spends most of its money about a fifth of that money goes to NJ Transit.  This is all funded by the New Jersey Trust fund along with the federal government that puts a dollar up for every dollar the trust fund spends.  Even with all this money being put to use New Jersey still has major problems with roads bridges and public transportation.  New Jersey needs the trust fund to keep its infrastructure strong and safe.

Over the past decades New Jersey legislation has been borrowing money from the trust fund with the idea that they will pay it back as they go.  Well the revenue from the gas tax, highway toll roads, fee increase on heavy trucks, petroleum product receipt tax, and sales tax that go into the trust fund and the amount the government has been borrowing does not add up. It not even close, New Jersey has borrowed around 11 Billion dollars from The Trust Fund and The Trust fund generates almost 1 Billion dollars.  The gap is only getting bigger because of the growing interest on the loans and New Jersey continues to borrow.  By 2023 the the Trust Fund will go bankrupt if something is not done. The money that the federal government matches New Jersey on will be gone, and the money that small towns and municipals need will be gone too.

New Jersey can not let this happen or we are in for a huge set back in our economy.  If people can not get to work or go out and buy merchandise because the roads are awful or bridges get closed because they are not safe or the bus and train system shut down because there are no funds from the Trust Fund. Then New Jersey economy will crash because no one can get to where they want.

Solutions have been posed most of them include raising the gas tax, taking more money from the public to solve the problem.  In the last couple years, Democratic lawmakers have offered a couple options, one that would mean motorists would pay another 25 cents per gallon at the pump, and another that would phase a 15 cent per gallon increase over three years.  Another plan by Sen. Jennifer Beck to replenish the trust fund without tax increases, saying natural revenue growth can pay for it. Her $1.6 billion annual plan assumes total state tax collections grow 3.34 percent a year.

New Jersey needs a solution for this ever increasing problem but the burden is probably going to end up on the public’s shoulders. With no solution New Jersey is going to have an economic crisis.

Thoughts on Transportation Inequality

As Levy discusses in Contemporary Urban Planning, automobile ownership surged post-WWII. In response, public transportation was deprioritized, and both the maintenance and growth of existing public transportation infrastructure slowed significantly. [1] If every US resident owned an automobile and had the financial wherewithal to fuel and maintain their vehicle, this wouldn’t present an issue. But automobile ownership isn’t possible for a significant number of Americans, especially those who live below the poverty line. It’s a well-documented fact that poverty disproportionately affects minorities in America; as a result, the crumbling transportation infrastructure disproportionately affects the same minority groups. According to the 2013 US Census, 15.9% of Black people and 9.1% of Hispanic people live in households without cars; in contrast, only 5% of White people live in households without cars. [2] For these people, the lack of affordable, efficient transportation presents a very real obstacle to socioeconomic mobility, health maintenance, and usage of social services.

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Infographic on the average cost of automobile ownership. Source.

Underdeveloped, poorly-maintained transportation infrastructure is commonly seen in low-income areas. When transit authorities have limited funds and are allowed to individually prioritize the segments of transportation that are developed or renovated, money inevitably becomes the deciding factor. The most lucrative lines are the least-subsidized lines, and so when cheap buses get old and break down, it’s often more financially beneficial for transit companies to eliminate the routes and funnel the money into fancy high-speed rail lines with expensive tickets and wealthier passengers. [2] But the social impact of this action cannot be understated. These bus routes carry children to school and adults to work, connect residents with groceries, doctors, and other basic needs, and represent the bare minimum of government action to ease the burden of poverty.

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Crowding on New York City bus. Source.

In order to make economic progress, access to jobs, healthcare, childcare, and education is of the highest importance. [3] But past even economic progress, these lines can be the very real difference between life and death. When standard fares on subway lines are hiked up, when government subsidies decrease, when bus routes are eliminated, the social realities manifest in jobs lost, food deserts, and unschooled children. Without money, without access to food or education, how are families supposed to thrive?

Transportation planning needs to center on the needs of the people who are constantly forgotten. It should center on the needs of the poor minorities who cannot afford alternate means of transportation, instead of working within a racist system that caters almost exclusively to the needs of the upper-middle class. Subsidized public transportation needs to grow both in size and in reach before there can be any semblance of transportation inequality in this country.

References

  1. Levy, John M. 2014. 10th Edition. Contemporary Urban Planning.
  2. Ramey, Corinne. “How America’s Transportation System Discriminates Against the Most Vulnerable.” Slate Magazine. N.p., 26 Feb. 2015. Web. 29 Nov. 2016. <http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2015/02/america_s_transportation_system_discriminates_against_minorities_and_poor.html>.
  3. White, Gillian B. “Stranded: How America’s Failing Public Transportation Increases Inequality.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 16 May 2015. Web. 29 Nov. 2016. <http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/05/stranded-how-americas-failing-public-transportation-increases-inequality/393419/>.

Dead Zone

Since the beginning of civilization burials have been apart of cultures of all different kinds. This is a way of the living to honor their loved ones and help both the deceased and the living to move on. This is a beautiful concept but there is a nasty side effect of doing this and that is graveyards/ cemeteries. There are millions if not billions of grave sites around the world and these sites take up space which adds up.

On my way home for Thanksgiving break and I had to drive up parkway North and I just took notice to this huge graveyard around Newark. Later I do research on it and find out that there are four different cemeteries in that area, the biggest being one called Fairmount Cemetery. This cemetery is takes up 150 acres of land which is pretty substantial. This made me wonder how much space cemeteries take up in our country and world wide. Space is such a limited resource and as a humans we must use it wisely.

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– image from FindAGrave.com (Micheal Holmes)

When I saw these cemeteries in Newark I just thought about all of the things that this space could have been used for, specifically I thought that is could be a park or some type of recreation area and even more so a site for housing. Newark is an city filled with poverty and I just thought that there could be more projects to help them if there were the space and the funds. Cemeteries take up  the potential and they are nothing more than just space for bodies to lie in forever doing nothing. Cemeteries are just for the living relatives of the decease to feel some temporary comfort but there will be a time when that body put six feet under is forgotten and now it is just space taken up to sit. Space should be used for the living, we are the ones directly effected by the use of space. Its a harsh thought but space and the way we zone it is for the people living in today so we should be efficient about how we go about this. I know it would be very difficult to remove existing cemeteries but there should be some regulation of how many people get buried and where this happens. If we continue to fill space up with bodies we may end up over-saturating our world with negative space. We as a society and world need to make sure all of our space is used in the most beautiful and most efficient way.