Saturday, January 21, 2012

When It Comes to the Last Mile NJ TRANSIT Exhibits a Split Personality

The perceived and fluid divide between North and South Jersey becomes real when it comes to NJ TRANSIT's bike access.

If you live in South Jersey bike access on NJ TRANSIT is so well integrated that regular intermodal commuters may not even give it an afterthought. Bike racks on RiverLINE, Atlantic City trains and all NJ TRANSIT buses are available at all hours and well used. Bike parking is available at almost every rail station which are accessible high platform stations.

Meanwhile in the northern half of the state bike access ranks near the bottom of all transit agencies in North America. Only a few select bus routes have bike racks and while bikes are permitted in NJ Transit bus luggage compartments bikes are not permitted in the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Bike on rail rules ban rush hour and holiday travel, but perhaps the most absurd policy in NJ TRANSIT's rule book is its ban on bike boarding and egress at low platform rail stations.

Here is the kicker, NJ TRANSIT and its partners have invested heavily in connecting people using the statewide rail network to their final destination. What is known in the transit world as the "last mile". Counties and Transportation Management Agencies (TMA) operate subsidized shuttle services that are scheduled to meet NJ TRANSIT trains throughout the state.

Shuttles fill a need for many off line residents and business in the state. But they are expensive to run and maintain and consequently only provide services during limited hours. When the budget axe flies these services are cut first. In 2009 the Burlink Bus riders saw a 150% fare increase compounded by a reduction in bus service.

NJ Transit also has a Safe Streets to Transit program providing sidewalks and other pedestrian improvements to transit centers. The one million dollar a year program has more applicants than funds available, it will take decades to fill in all the missing links between stations and destinations.

Restoring bike access to low platform stations would offer last mile access day and night and only requires a directive from NJT Commissioner James Simpson to change the policy. You can write to Mr. Simpson on the issue here. Already more than 200 people have responded so far,

On February 25th the New Jersey Bike Walk Summit will present a session on the difficulties faced in attempting to integrate mass transit and bicycles in New Jersey.

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