Jersey City seeks public input as it launches study on future

Jersey City seeks public input as it launches study on future of alternative transportation. Jersey City is exploring the future of alternate modes of transportation — options like bikeshares, e-scooters and others — and is looking for public input. Over the past five or so years, said Deputy City Manager Barkha Patel, the city has come up with plans covering most existing major forms of transit: walking, biking, cars, as well as the ambitious zero-fatal-crashes plan called Vision Zero. plan.

The next step, currently underway, is “a scan,” Patel said, for alternate transit options to fill in the gaps between new ideas like the ride-share Via and the well-established options like the light rail. “We have the opportunity to step back and try to map out how transportation is going to develop in the next decade or two, which is what makes this more distinct than ones that we’ve done in the past,” she said.

Some 47% of residents use public transit to get to work in Jersey City, one of the highest rates in the nation. But, Patel said, it’s hard to change the workings of systems like the PATH and the bus because of the number of agencies and funding sources involved, so they’re looking into alternatives.

The means by which they’re doing this is the JC on the Move study, a multi-year project to take in feedback from residents and produce a final plan next year to be approved by the Jersey City Planning Board.

There’s already a survey and a mapping activity online where commuters are asked to participate. Over the winter and spring there will be more outreach efforts, Patel said, including possibly town halls and booths at public events like farmers’ markets.

The project will also include demonstrations by vendors of different transportation products, wo will be invited to offer their products in a limited, controlled environment so residents can decide if they think they’re a good fit for their neighborhood.

“We’re going to make it as easy as possible to engage at whatever level (residents) feel comfortable with,” Patel said.

The online mapping activity appears to have received healthy engagement so far. In it, residents can place traffic cone icons on a map of the city where they observe transportation issues; the city is already covered in cones, particularly near the off-ramp of the Pulaski Skyway, the meeting of Palisade Avenue and Route 139, and the block formed by Palisade Avenue, Paterson Plank Road and Congress Street. There’s also a concentration of signs marking an area in need of more transit near McGinley Square.

A particular focus of the project is how to help people who live in “transit deserts,” or areas without reliable access to public transportation. “It’s tough, because when you compare Jersey City to other towns in New Jersey we actually have a lot of transit options, the issue is just the quality of the service that’s available,” Patel said.

Via, the city’s rideshare system launched in 2020 and expanded in 2021 due to high demand, was a “gamechanger” for helping people in transit deserts, Patel said. “But it’s a significant investment for the city and so, we’re continuing to look for ways to close the gap and expand mobility options for people who don’t have them.”

The study, Patel said, hopes to find ways to integrate current transit systems. “If we have the bus and the light rail and the PATH system and the ferries, there should really be something as simple as an integrated payment system,” she said.

Part of the project’s goal will also be to find ways to potentially refine the balance between the regional and local needs of Jersey City’s transportation system, including its roads.

“As much as we want to better facilitate the travel to New York City, we also want to look at ways where Jersey City itself is the destination,” Patel said. “This is going to help us better streamline and better understand where the regional traffic belongs and how we can take better advantage of the other streets to serve the local needs.”

Ryan Williams, a trustee on the board of Bike JC, said he is happy with some forms of alternate transportation like the bike share system Citi Bike.

“Citi Bike is just a really excellent new public transportation that it’s really easy to drop into a place and then you just see a huge amount of usage come out of nowhere,” Williams said, noting that according to data he received from Citi Bike, Jersey City’s system has seen an average of 20% growth year-over-year in the five years it’s been around. “It’s a great way to get more casual users involved in non-car transportation”

He also supports products like e-bikes, vehicles that are partially battery-powered. “E-bikes are a really good way to make biking more accessible,” he said.

Williams also raised the possibility of a bus rapid transit system to improve transit for transit deserts, calling it “low hanging fruit.” Patel said the city considered the option a few years ago before deciding not to proceed.

Williams pointed out that Via, despite its success, does not carry as many people as a bus would; still, he said, “as much of every kind of public transit as we could add capacity for would be amazing.”

Ultimately, feedback by Williams and other like him is the reason for this study, Patel said.

“We’re mostly really excited to see where the residents and where the community stand,” she said. Some alternative modes of transit “are out there,” but “we don’t have a good way to gauge yet exactly how (residents) feel about it, so that’s going to be the most informative part about it.”

Rescuers combed through fields of wreckage after a tornado outbreak roared across the middle of the U.S., leaving dozens dead and communities in despair.

A twister carved a track that could rival the longest on record as the stormfront smashed apart a candle factory, crushed a nursing home and flattened an Amazon distribution center.

“I pray that there will be another rescue. I pray that there will be another one or two,” Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said, as crews sifted through the wreckage of the candle factory in Mayfield, where 110 people were working overnight Friday when the storm hit. Forty of them were rescued.

“We had to, at times, crawl over casualties to get to live victims,” said Jeremy Creason, the city’s fire chief and EMS director.

In Kentucky alone, 22 were confirmed dead by late Saturday, including 11 in and around Bowling Green. But Beshear said upwards of 70 may have been killed when a twister touched down for more than 200 miles in his state and that the number of deaths could eventually exceed 100 across 10 or more counties.

The death toll of 36 across five states includes six people in Illinois, where an Amazon facility was hit; four in Tennessee; two in Arkansas, where a nursing home was destroyed; and two in Missouri.

If early reports are confirmed, the twister “will likely go down perhaps as one of the longest track violent tornadoes in United States history,” said Victor Gensini, a researcher on extreme weather at Northern Illinois University.

The longest tornado on record, in March 1925, tracked for about 220 miles through Missouri, Illinois and Indiana. But Gensini said this twister may have touched down for nearly 250 miles (400 kilometers). The storm was all the more remarkable because it came in December, when normally colder weather limits tornadoes, he said.

Debris from destroyed buildings and shredded trees covered the ground in Mayfield, a city of about 10,000 in western Kentucky. Twisted metal sheeting, downed power lines and wrecked vehicles lined the streets. Windows and roofs were blown off the buildings that were still standing.

The missing at the candle factory included Janine Denise Johnson Williams, a 50-year-old mother of four whose family members kept vigil at the site Saturday.

“It’s Christmastime and she works at a place that’s making candles for gifts,” her brother, Darryl Williams, said. “To give up the gift of life to make a gift. We haven’t heard anything, and I’m not presuming anything. But I’m expecting for the worst.

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