Jacob joined the GMTMA team last summer.
Here is what he has to say:
What is your job at GMTMA?
I am a Transportation Planning Associate, focusing on bike and pedestrian safety.
What attracted you to this job?
The versatility of being able to work with various levels of state and local government and to create documents that can help municipalities and/or school districts secure funds to improve safety and mobility.
Why is transportation important for you?
I want everybody to have the option to be able to walk, bike, take public transportation, or drive if they want to go out or run errands or go to work or school, but unfortunately so many people don’t have that choice because they live in a place where one mode of transportation is forced upon them. Ideally we would all have access to everything we need within a 5 minute walk, especially grocery stores.
As someone who enjoys driving for fun, I think relying on cars for the main way to go about your daily life is exhausting and by designing cities around the assumption that most people will be driving leads to extremely unattractive landscapes.
A good is example is Rt 18 in New Brunswick: instead of having several acres of waterfront land, be it for a public park, or waterfront shopping, dining, or other events, instead we have 6+ lanes of traffic that is traveled on nearly 24/7. That’s just one local example, but think of any urban freeway and what prioritizing cars over people does.
Another important aspect of urban freeways or other major roads is to think about who is bearing the brunt of the negative effects: it is mostly nonwhite and/or low-income populations who have to deal with the air and noise pollution, the fatalities that arise from living near major roads, as well as the social isolation of being virtually cutoff from other parts of a city.
What is your favorite thing about your job?
Being able to learn about the cities and communities we work in, as well as staying up-to-date on statewide and nationwide happenings in the planning and policy world.
I like the variety of work that is being done at GMTMA and my coworkers. It’s nice to be able to work with so many different people within different occupations, like teachers, principals, mayors, or other planners. It keeps things interesting and can add some perspective that I might not otherwise get. The walk audits are fun too.
Tell us something about your commute.
I am lucky enough to live and work close to a train station so I can bike and take the train to work in about 30 minutes total. The train is rarely late but the congestion and crashes on Rt 1 are always there. It’s much more enjoyable to wait on the platform and sit and relax on the train and get some light cardio in on my bike than be stuck sitting in rush hour traffic for 40+ minutes.
What motivates you to want to change the way people commute?
I think if we dedicated more time and effort towards public transportation or bike and ped infrastructure we could reclaim all the public spaces we have lost to moving and storing cars, which would make our environments more visually pleasing, reduce noise and air pollution, reduce traffic fatalities, and promote a community identity.
Where do you stand on the climate change debate? Do you believe climate change is real?
It’s obviously real and it is extremely irritating that there are still people who argue otherwise.
What are your hobbies?
I love to eat and cook (I used to be a sous chef), especially as a way to learn about history and culture through cuisine. I am an aspiring “Jeopardy!” contestant, so over the past year I’ve been reading and watching a lot of “the classics” (pretty boring). I like attending sporting events when possible, mostly boxing, hockey, college football, and soccer.
What is your favorite book? What is your favorite movie?
My favorite books are Brave New World, Frankenstein, and The Stand. My favorite movies are 28 Days Later, Tommy Boy, and Ace Ventura.
What was the best moment of your life?
Italy winning the Euros on my birthday was pretty good; winning the World Cup in 2006 was a good one too.
Favorite transportation/commuting story
I used to see this guy I recognized from magazines (Angelo Piovano, the most tattooed man in Italy and the most-tattooed man over 65 in the world) all the time on the tram I used to ride every day as a kid. One day we chatted for a bit and from then on we’d always say hi when we’d run into each other. Great guy, RIP.
Favorite commuting app/gadget
I don’t think I have a favorite, but I use Google Maps or the NJ Transit app the most for commuting and traveling.
What else would you like to do if you would not be working in transportation?
Be a farmer, a butcher, or a stay at home dad.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Play videogames, watch TV, try new recipes, hang out with friends, go to live events (mostly sports, but I’m trying to broaden my horizons by going to theater and seeing musicals). Hopefully, I can travel again soon.
For any questions about bicycle and pedestrian planning in Mercer and Ocean County, you can reach out to Jacob at email@example.com