According to a new report, the number of miles New Jersey residents traveled by bus and rail has grown by nearly 45 percent from 1997 to 2007, more than twice the growth rate for miles driven.
Release of the report, by the non-profit group, Tri-State Transportation Campaign (TSTC), was timed to inform future debate on the nearly bankrupt Transportation Trust Fund (TTF). Lagging state gas tax receipts mean that the TTF will not have adequate funds to meet 2011 transportation needs unless lawmakers can find additional revenue. The TSTC hopes that as lawmakers work to fill the TTF gap, they will make transportation choices that provide more travel options for New Jerseyans.
"New Jersey residents are embracing mass transit," said Kate Slevin, TSTC executive director. "The facts in this report should guide the next Governor's transportation policies. New Jerseyans clearly need and want more public transportation."
The report, "The State of Transportation: Benchmarks for Sustainable Transportation in New Jersey," examines trends in 25 different measures of transportation in New Jersey, including infrastructure, service, travel choices, congestion and crowding, reliability, and impacts on the state's economy and environment.
The report is illustrated with more than 50 graphs, tables and maps, and is intended to set clear measures of the state's progress toward a more balanced, environment-friendly and reliable transportation system. Preliminary data from 2008 show that current economic conditions are accelerating the trend toward mass transit use and away from driving.
The report is an update to the 2006 report, and includes three additional years of data. Tri-State staff spent more than nine months compiling and analyzing the data from state and federal sources.
Among the report's key findings:
- New Jersey's modest population growth is geographically disconnected from the state's robust employment growth. In other words, more people are living farther away from where they work and where the new jobs are being created. Such a dispersed jobs-housing pattern is difficult to serve with transit.
- The growth in driving has slowed considerably in the most recent year, growing only 0.6 percent from 2006 to 2007, and it's expected to decline by at least 3 percent from 2007 to 2008.
- Mass transit is an increasingly important part of the state's transportation system, with miles traveled on transit growing more than twice the rate of driving.
- Truck travel continues to grow, jumping 30 percent from 1997 to 2007, but is declining in most recent years. And revised FHWA estimates show much more modest projected growth in truck travel than previously forecasted for the state. Trucks are also comprising a smaller share of the vehicle mix on the state's roadways.
- Pedestrian fatalities have held more or less steady at 150 per year over the period, even as total traffic fatalities declined to their lowest level in more than a decade in 2007, dropping to 724 from a high of 775 in 1997. Preliminary data from 2008 show total and pedestrian fatalities dropping steeply, even as bicyclist fatalities nearly double from the previous year.
- New Jersey's fix-it-first policy has improved bridge conditions in recent years, but the state's road and bridges remain among the worst in the nation, with 82 percent of the state's roads in "less than good condition," and nearly 35 percent of bridges rated deficient.
- Economic growth may be decoupling from increases in driving - the economy appears to be becoming more efficient from a transportation point of view, with fewer miles driven for every dollar of economic activity produced.
- The state has made gains in reducing criteria pollutant emissions from cars and trucks, though greenhouse gas emissions continue to grow in-line with fuel consumption.
The full report can be found here.