By Carla Villacis, M.A., Devon Ziminski, M.S., Kristin Curtis, M.A., & Mavis Asiedu-Frimpong, J.D., M.P.H.

Transportation continues to be an area of focus in the Southern New Jersey region. In recent months, Senator Walter Rand Institute (WRI) researchers synthesized ten years of previously collected WRI data that highlight how Southern New Jersey residents get around, barriers to transportation, the effects of these gaps, how residents and communities address them, and the types of transportation initiatives they support. WRI’s forthcoming report–Transportation Accessibility in Southern New Jersey: Barriers, Effects, and Considerations–will provide a deeper examination into these areas across the region.

Key findings indicate that residents across Southern New Jersey experience challenges with long commutes, unreliable or inconsistent transit times, and a lack of convenient options. A dearth of transportation access and high costs of transportation limit residents’ access to various basic services and needs, many of which are directly tied to social determinants of health (e.g., access to health care, food, employment). Residents often employ “workarounds” to manage transportation needs for their families and get themselves to work, school, and social service programming. Sometimes community nonprofits and private organizations supplement public transit options. Given the number of transportation initiatives already underway or forthcoming in the region, these findings indicate that transit solutions may lie in locating services and job opportunities closer to existing transit lines, and in connecting informal and formal transit options.

Community input is critical in not only identifying challenges, but also outlining effective solutions. Therefore, WRI is furthering its initial transportation-focused research through a new study–“Outlining the Public Transportation Priorities and Recommendations of Communities in Camden County.” This research is funded by the New Jersey State Policy Lab, and WRI seeks to build on previous findings by identifying community priorities and policy recommendations around transportation.

This study will focus on Camden County residents who drive, use shared ride services (e.g., Lyft/Uber), or other public transportation (e.g., RiverLine, NJ TRANSIT buses, PATCO). Survey and focus group data collection will target the existing variety of transportation methods and areas that would benefit from new routes or transportation alternatives. This information will provide a comprehensive picture of residents’ nuanced and specific insights about transportation needs and provide a platform for strategies and recommendations favored by the community.

The Senator Walter Rand Institute for Public Affairs (WRI) at Rutgers University-Camden has been a long-standing and trusted regional community partner for over 20 years. WRI honors former Senator Walter Rand’s dedication to Southern New Jersey and exists to produce and highlight community-focused research and evaluation leading to sound public policy and practice in the region. Senator Rand acted on his commitment to transportation in the Southern New Jersey region by authoring the bill that created the South Jersey Transportation Authority, among many other achievements in this area. His contributions have been so significant that the Walter Rand Transportation Center, the principal transportation center in Camden City, was named after him.

Learn more about the Senator Walter Rand Institute for Public Affairs here and in this Rutgers-Camden feature.