A TransOptions Narrative
TransOptions' story begins in Basking Ridge, NJ. In 1985, Morris 2000, a non-profit "think tank" dedicated to improving the quality of life in Morris County, created a task force to deal with the county's transportation issues and to suggest alternatives. From that initiative, Morris County Rides (MCRIDES) was created as an independent 501(c)(3) in November of 1986. Judith P. Schleicher, the first President, began with one employee in office space donated by AT&T in Basking Ridge.
MCRIDES was initially established to arrange carpools and vanpools to ease some of Morris County's growing transportation problems. Additional staff was hired, programs were expanded, and the team moved in August 1990 to a larger office in Parsippany. Over time the effort began to reach beyond Morris County and beyond just rides.
MCRIDES moved one last time in September of 1994, to the current location in Cedar Knolls. Shortly after the move, MCRIDES' service area was expanded to include Warren and Sussex Counties, as well as suburban Essex, Passaic, and Union Counties.
In October of 1995, MCRIDES introduced TRAF-FAX, an area construction and incident alert service. Ten years later, to satisfy changes in technology, this service was renamed TrafAlerts and became fully electronic. TrafAlerts are now sent out through email and through Twitter @TrafAlerts.
In November of 1999, Judith P. Schleicher retired after thirteen years of service, and John F. Ciaffone became MCRIDES' second president.
With a change at the helm, more changes soon followed. In February of 2000, after much careful thought and planning, Morris County Rides, Inc. (MCRIDES) officially changed its name to TransOptions, Inc. The goal was to more accurately reflect TransOptions' expanded service area and the services the company provided, well beyond just rides.
TransOptions soon started a new student event, the Junior Solar Sprint (JSS), to replace the outdated poster/calendar contest. The first races, which feature solar-powered model cars, were held in May 2002 and four of TransOptions' finalists went on to receive awards at the northeast regional event hosted by the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (NESEA). In its first year, JSS featured just 8 participating schools. By 2006, more than 1,500 students participated in the annual race.
In 2002, TransOptions assisted D&B in attaining inclusion the Commuter Choice Leadership Initiative (CCLI), a partnership with the US Environmental Protection Agency and other businesses across the United States that recognized employer efforts to provide commuter choice benefits to their employees. On May 14, 2002, D&B, as well as TransOptions, was among the 280 Commuter Choice Employers acknowledged at the USEPA's national press and recognition event in Washington, D.C.
The following year, TransOptions unveiled its highly successful Environmental Education Program, in which a trained TransOptions Environmental Educator teaches students about alternative energy sources and the effects of fossil fuels on the environment to students throughout the service area. Recognizing TransOptions aggressive outreach efforts and quality programming, the Association for Commuter Transportation (ACT) named TransOptions the Transportation Management Association of the Year for Innovative Service. By 2006, more than 4000 "students" from kindergarten to college and including adults at corporate "environmental days", were participating.
In 2004, TransOptions' efforts to promote clean air were again the subject of awards and recognition. The Alliance for New Jersey Environmental Education named TransOptions' Environmental Educator, Joseph Caravella, the Outstanding Environmental Educator of the Year. At the national level, Time magazine featured TransOptions' expanding the Junior Solar Sprint program as an example of quality community based initiatives supported by a local sponsor, Condit's Toyota World of Newton NJ.
As part of its expanding services to its partner companies, TransOptions provided guidance and services to Wyeth, D&B and Intel Corporation that helped them be named in 2005 to the US Department of Environmental Protection's and US Department of Transportation's list of "Best Workplaces for Commuters", the successor recognition program to CCLI. A recognition event, hosted by NJTransit was held in November of 2005.
Hoping to expand on the success of the Junior Solar Sprint program and address emerging technologies, TransOptions' staff participated in Hydrogen Fuel Cell Workshops hosted by NESEA. In spring of 2007, TransOptions hosted its first Hydrogen Fuel Cell Model Car Challenge, a competition similar to the Junior Solar Sprint but geared toward high school students.
From 2006 to 2009, TransOptions and New Jersey's other TMAs administered the Carpooling Makes $ense program, which led to record carpool formations in the state. The program offered drivers the incentive of a $100 gas-card if they shared a ride at least 24 times in a 60-day period. At the height of the program in 2008, the TMAs added 6,486 carpools to their databases.
The New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety awarded a grant to the eight TMAs, managed by TransOptions. The new grant funded and allowed TransOptions to provide programs focused on bicycle safety for children and commuters, pedestrian safety, distracted driving and the use of backseat seat belts.
Celebrating its 25th anniversary, TransOptions in 2011 expanded the Bike to Work Challenge from one week to a full month in May, and the cyclists who participated rode over 13,000 miles, keeping over 12,000 pounds of pollutants out of the air. Additionally, the Junior Solar Sprint grew to 2,500 students from over 40 schools to mark the 10th year of the program.
TransOptions has also participated on many panels and committees focused on mobility issues: I-80 Mobility Task Force, I-78 Corridor Transit Study Steering Committee, Infrastructure Advisory Group (Morris County), Health & Human Services Transportation Study Project, 24/124 Corridor Study Group, Route 94 Access Management Plan Steering Committee (Vernon), Northerly Crossings Congestion Management Study, Southeast Morris League for Sustainable Solutions (SEAMLESS); Morris County Economic Development Corporation, and the Morris, Sussex and Warren County Regional Chambers of Commerce, just to name a few.