The Circuit Trails Coalition Welcomes New Jersey Future

The new year is off to a strong start #OnTheCircuit! At the close of 2023, we reflected on the progress made and the momentum gathered to help complete 500 miles of Circuit Trails by 2025. Together, these funding wins, impactful community programming along the trails, added mileage and other successes move forward the Circuit Trails network, helping to create more trail connections and access to spaces bike, walk and get outdoors in the Greater Philadelphia and southern New Jersey region. 

Working to make this vision a reality is the Circuit Trails Coalition. Since 2012, this coalition of nonprofit organizations, foundations and agencies has collaborated with supporters and other stakeholders to advance and enhance the Circuit Trails. The goal to create a trail network in the region wouldn’t be possible without the collective efforts and unique contributions of the entire coalition and its partners, which is why we are thrilled to announce that New Jersey Future is the newest member of the Circuit Trails Coalition!

Learn more about New Jersey Future and how they’re strengthening the coalition: 

New Jersey Future (NJF) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization founded in 1987 to advance smarter land use and growth policies at a time when the state faced severe concerns in balancing development, preservation, and spurring redevelopment in the densest state in the nation.  

Today, NJF is a respected voice on policies and practices for advancing equity, propelling community redevelopment, and making sustainable land-use decisions—like connecting our active and public transportation infrastructure to bustling downtowns—to benefit current and future generations. NJF believes that the future of transportation is the individual, not the automobile.  They recognize the need for active transportation networks—such as the Circuit Trails network—to connect communities and neighborhoods to amenities, green spaces and places of opportunity, because spaces to walk and bike offer affordable, equitable, healthy and sustainable travel options. Therefore, they embrace the vision that a well-connected trail network will make our region stronger by providing transportation access and connectivity without the need for a car.  

With experience working alongside state government agencies and state-level decision makers, NJF intends to serve as one of the Circuit Trails Coalition’s state advocates for New Jersey. As a statewide organization, they are familiar with New Jersey’s funding opportunities and processes needed to achieve the Circuit Trails’ regional priorities. NJF will work with the coalition to leverage research and public support to help advocate for the state of New Jersey to take additional steps toward advancing the Circuit Trails.  

The New Jersey Future staff at the 2023 Smart Growth Awards in New Brunswick, NJ.

How does NJF’s work relate to trails and how people interact with trails?

As one of New Jersey’s leading active transportation and smart growth organizations, NJF encourages the transition away from a car-oriented society. In doing so, NJF advocates for policies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and vehicle miles traveled, and policies that increase affordable and safe transportation alternatives. Their 2023 report, “Reducing the Need to Drive Is a Win for Both Climate Change and Quality of Life,” articulates the importance and benefits of shifting toward non-car travel options. The report complements the vision that well-connected trail networks serve as transformative community connectors. Transitioning away from car dependency requires the expansion of alternative transportation options like the Circuit Trails.

More recently, NJF published the report, “Rolling Along: Why New Jersey Should Join Other States and Offer an E-Bike Incentive Program,” emphasizing the need for increased access to electric bicycles. NJF believes that to transition the transportation sector away from mobility options that emit greenhouse gas emission, and do so equitably, there must be affordable transportation choices in addition to Electric Vehicles.  They think electric micromobility options, like e-bikes, have huge potential to increase transit equity while addressing emissions concerns, since they add a transportation option for those who can’t afford a car, choose not to have one or are unable to drive. Getting folks out of their cars and onto e-bikes requires well-connected active transportation facilities, such as the Circuit Trails. An extensive trail network will provide a safe and reliable mechanism for folks to transition from car travel to micromobility, whether it’s walking, biking, rolling or riding an e-bike.

NJF’s blog on active transportation funding opportunities, “Accessing New Federal Funding for Active Transportation Projects: Camden County Got a Bunch, How Can You?,” highlights the Camden LINK segment of the Circuit Trails as a monumental win for the county, the city and its residents. The blog also emphasizes the need to educate localities on the funding opportunities available for similar active transportation related projects. NJF believes that a major obstacle to many of these initiatives, like trail planning and development, are the upfront cost and staff capacity limitations. Therefore, they are working to identify the opportunities and resources to address the needs of counties and municipalities when considering active transportation projects.

A photo of two kids riding their bikes on an existing LINK Trail segment through East Camden. Taken by New Jersey Future’s, Zeke Weston, while researching the Camden LINK.

Since 2002, NNJF has honored more than 130 projects with Smart Growth Awards (SGA) at their annual ceremony. The SGAs honor projects, plans, and policies across the state that demonstrate smart growth principles in action. In 2022, Dundee Island Park was a SGA recipient for its ability to redevelop a public open space in a way that is accessible to pedestrians and provides a range of recreational activities available to all visitors. The Dundee Island project’s sustainable design and commitment to meeting the needs of local community members, aligns with the principles of smart growth that NJF embodies.

NJF is also working with local partners on a project to turn Route 29 on the Delaware River in Trenton into a boulevard, including community members and staff at the City of Trenton and County of Mercer. NJF was recently selected by Smart Growth America as one of 15 recipients of the Community Connectors Program, which will give them more resources to build transportation partnerships. Currently, Route 29 is a high speed freeway that divides the city from the Delaware River. NJF’s goal is to turn the road into a more accessible, safe, and pedestrian friendly boulevard. This will provide direct access from downtown Trenton to the riverfront for local residents and state workers to enjoy and explore. Additionally, the Route 29 project will include trail connections between the newly formed boulevard and surrounding Trenton trail network. This will increase the ability for folks from all over the city to get around and safely access the riverfront without the need for a car.

To learn more about New Jersey Future’s active transportation initiatives or to work with them on trail advocacy, and visit their website and contact their team.

You can learn more about the Circuit Trails Coalition here.

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