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Benson on Introduction of Bill Package to Improve Transportation Equity

(TRENTON) – The Assembly Transportation Committee plans to consider a package of eight bills to address barriers to transportation for individuals with special needs, committee chair Assemblyman Daniel Benson (D-Mercer, Middlesex) announced today.

The bill package introduced Wednesday is the result of a report by the New Jersey Task Force on Transportation, Mobility, and Support Service Needs of Adults with Autism created under a 2017 law. The task force, chaired by Cecilia Feeley, Ph.D, of the Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation at Rutgers University, was developed in response to a 2015 study by Rutgers and Autism Family Services of New Jersey.

The legislative package aims to improve reliability and accessibility of public transit for those with special needs and promote greater inclusivity and understanding across transportation services.

Several measures address the needs of individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other special needs, including requiring driver education programs to be inclusive of all students; creating an Office of Statewide Mobility manager to assist residents with ASD and their families with transportation services; requiring research into the transit needs of individuals with ASD and identify potential improvements; implementing Complete Streets policies that consider the needs of people with ASD; and requiring NJTRANSIT (NJT) to expand or modify transportation routes and solicit input from those with special needs.

Other legislation in the package would update the 2-1-1 hotline to include information on transit accessibility and create payment programs for the purchase of transportation services from public and private providers.

Assemblyman Benson, who sponsors several of the bills, released the following statement on the introduction of the package:

“Public transit must be inclusive, reliable and accessible to all. For too long, individuals with special needs have encountered unnecessary difficulties.

“As we look to improve our transportation system, we must be mindful of the needs of the those with ASD or other special needs. A late or delayed train can bring extreme stress or disorientation to someone with ASD. Youth with neurodevelopmental differences may need specialized instruction when learning to drive. Families may not be aware what public transportation options exist for their loved ones with special needs.

“New Jersey is the most densely populated state in the nation. The Transportation Committee has made it a priority to ensure every individual with developmental or physical disabilities has access to transportation mobility. With this bill package, our mission is to make transit more reliable, providing greater peace of mind to those with special needs and their families.

“I look forward to working with my colleagues on the committee to advance these bills and advocate for equitable transportation for all.”

The Transportation Committee is expected to consider the bills this spring.

The measures include:

  • A-5338: Requires certain transportation research to consider needs of individuals with physical, sensory intellectual and developmental disabilities.
  • A-5339: Requires driver education programs to be inclusive of all students.
  • A-5340: Establishes Office of Statewide mobility manager to assist individuals with autism and their families with transportation and mobility needs.
  • A-5341: Updates the 2-1-1 telephone system information to include all modes of public transit and information in access and usage.
  • A-5334: Requires the New Jersey Department of Transportation (DOT) and NJT to study and implement transportation mobility and accessibility improvements for persons with autism and developmental disabilities.
  • A-5335: Requires NJT to expand or modify routes of certain transportation services and to solicit input from individuals diagnosed with autism.
  • A-5336: Requires Director of Division of Developmental Disabilities to establish payment programs for purchase of transportation services from private sector and government transportation service providers.
  • A-5337: Requires DOT to implement Complete Street policy that considers individuals diagnosed with autism.