Getting Fresh in New Jersey
The New Jersey State Network Project strategy has been to build a network of partners, develop an Action Plan and advance three main priorities: 1) Leverage funding for bicycle and pedestrian construction projects, 2) Facilitate street-scale policies, 3) Advance joint/shared-use agreements, primarily in lower-income communities. The challenge has been to not duplicate the great work that’s already being done in the state, but to convene partnerships that leverage existing efforts for stronger outcomes.
Both the National Partnership’s State Network Project in NJ and the NJ Safe Routes to School Program rely on knowledgeable and committed stakeholders to guide and implement Safe Routes to School in New Jersey. The National Partnership was lucky to have built on the existing NJ Safe Routes to School Coalition, an advisory group to the NJDOT for the NJ Safe Routes to School Program, to develop a contact list for the “NJ Network”. The pool of stakeholders is comprised of approximately 50 diverse organizations, agencies and businesses, and although the goals of both groups are to further Safe Routes to School in NJ, each has a different focus. The NJ Network is tasked with leveraging funding, advancing policies like Complete Streets and increasing shared use agreements statewide. The Safe Routes to School Coalition’s primary role has been to advise and guide the NJ Safe Routes to School Program through the strategic plan and funding guidelines.
The NJ Network has developed a plan called “The NJ State Network Action Plan” which is currently in draft form and is being revised and reworked. The NJ Safe Routes to School Program has a recently-updated Safe Routes to School Strategic Plan which guides and measures the NJ Safe Routes to School Program. Because the stakeholders are the same and the plans are so closely aligned, the efforts have been combined in order to strengthen outcomes of both.
The graphic below illustrates how the NJ SRTS Coalition/NJ Network (the same people!) can help guide both the programs under one umbrella. The new “fresh” Coalition is split into 4 action teams.
Leverage, Award and Obligate Federal Funds Action Team
This Action Team is made up of a dozen stakeholders who have used the new federal transportation bill, MAP-21, to launch a statewide conversation about fully staffing, funding and implementing bicycle and pedestrian projects in NJ. The Executive Director of the NJ Bike & Walk Coalition chairs this committee and is the state lead for Advocacy Advance, a national advocacy resource to help states navigate MAP-21 and maximize the federal funding that is available for bicycle and pedestrian programs and projects.
This team meets monthly and is in the process of working with NJDOT staff on the timeline and process of Safe Routes to School, Complete Streets and Bike/Ped funding at the state level. Meetings are currently pending with NJs three MPOs.
Complete Streets Action Team
The NJ Complete Streets Action Team is also comprised of about twelve members and meets monthly to advance a statewide strategy for municipalities and counties to adopt and implement strong Complete Streets policies in NJ. The team is chaired by the South Jersey Advocate for Tri-State Transportation Campaign. Currently, NJ’s Complete Streets initiative has an award-winning policy and implementation, robust training program, and a strong outreach and resource team. The NJDOT recently released two Complete Streets guides; one on policy development and one on implementation.
In 2012, over twenty new policies were adopted in NJ bringing the total to 46 municipalities and 3 counties. The Complete Streets Action Team aims to significantly increase that number in the coming year.
Joint/Shared Use Agreement Action Team
The goal of the Joint/Shared Use Agreement Action Team is to advance joint/shared-use agreements between school districts and municipalities so kids have more opportunities to be active. There are currently ten members on the team and meetings are scheduled to start next month. We will build on the momentum established with the Communities and Schools in Motion Conference and the Joint Use Agreement Toolkit prepared by ShapingNJ last year. We are also grateful and looking forward to partnering with ChangeLab Solutions to further our efforts in NJ.
Strategic Plan Action Team
The NJ Strategic Plan Action Team advances the mission and goals of the NJ Safe Routes to School Strategic Plan primarily through the NJ Safe Roures to School Resource Center. Some of the highlights include:
- NJ Safe Routes to School Recognition Program
- NJ Safe Routes to School Regional Coordinators
- Roundtable Discussions (Institutionalizing SRTS, Disadvantaged Community Working Group Roundtable, Bridging the Gap Between School Districts and Municipalities)
- Safe Routes Scoop Newsletter
- Trainings and Learning Webinars
For more information, or to join the New Jersey network, please contact me.