Feb. 14, 2024

Electric Mobility Increases Access to Transportation in New Jersey

This project helped us drill down to demonstrate how Clean Cities coalitions can also help underserved communities with day-to-day needs.  

Chuck Feinberg, New Jersey Clean Cities Coalition director

The GoTrenton! collaborative e-mobility pilot got rolling in September 2023 in the city of Trenton, New Jersey. Conceived and led by Isles, Inc., a community developmental and environmental organization, who says the pilot is “one of the first subsidized rideshare efforts in the country to serve low-income and environmental justice communities”[1]. The partnership includes the City of Trenton, ChargEVC, Environment NJ, and New Jersey Clean Cities Coalition (NJCCC), who serve as technical advisors for the project. NJCCC says they are thrilled to see the program provide affordable and reliable all-electric transportation to underserved communities.

NJCCC director Chuck Feinberg noted that 30% of Trenton residents are car-free households so a lot of people are unable to get to jobs, medical appointments, food services, and after-school programs. The GoTrenton! project gave Feinberg and NJCCC staff the opportunity to expand their expertise about ways alternative fuels and vehicle technologies can better serve the daily needs of their surrounding communities, in addition to providing long-term benefits of air quality and energy resilience.

With a poverty rate of 27% in the city, ride accessibility has been an important consideration of this program, and securing grants was key to getting costs down to $2 a ride. Isles Inc. led a robust citizen engagement and participation initiative that included surveys, listening sessions, community partnership agreements with local businesses, local ambassadors that spread the word, and a stakeholder advisory committee to oversee the program.

Following a competitive solicitation for a third-party electric vehicle (EV) contractor and system operator, the proposal team—staff from Isles and the City of Trenton, and representatives from the planning committee—awarded Circuit Electric Mobility Solutions the GoTrenton! pilot contract for four electric shuttles and a mobile app. The project team wants to expand to add electric shuttles, carshare vehicles, and vans. The next phase is dependent on funding and ridership.

In the first few months of limited operations, the program provided more than 1,100 rides, serving more than 1,600 passengers in Trenton. The project has increased the number of publicly available EV charging ports in Trenton by 20, with four of those owned by Isles, and the others by the City of Trenton. There are now 50 charging ports to plug into at nearly 20 charging stations withing 5 miles of the city center. Isles says that anticipated revenue from the charging stations will be used to help subsidize the program operations.

When asked about the project, Feinberg said, “Being responsible for the entire state, I usually focus on the big picture, like reducing emissions through our work with large fleets. This project helped us drill down to demonstrate how Clean Cities coalitions can also help underserved communities with day-to-day needs.” Drawing on decades of experience, Feinberg and NJCCC assisted in conceptualizing the EV requirements and EV infrastructure as well as provided technical assistance to complete numerous proposal requests and grants, helping secure over $1 million in funding.

The coordination of this effort also benefited from the existing supportive relationships Feinberg had with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC), and the local utility for charging installation. NJCCC has a reputation as a trusted source of unbiased information and resources within the state.

Another key to project success was NJCCC’s relationship with the broader Clean Cities network. As part of a U.S. Department of Energy partnership to advance clean transportation nationwide, NJCCC was able to tap into technical assistance from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. This allowed the coalition to provide the time and background expertise needed to see this one-of-a-kind project through. Technical assistance also provides a unique opportunity to connect to fellow Clean Cities coalitions interested in starting similar projects.

Feinberg and NJCCC co-director, Caroline McCallum, continue providing enthusiasm and advisement on the scaling of GoTrenton! including route expansion and access to more good paying jobs for residents by connecting to nearby warehouse and fulfillment centers. They also have their sights set on clean transportation programs in the underserved communities of Newark where they hosted a session of the Environmental Justice Community Forum Series to raise awareness and foster conversations about environmental justice. At the meeting on October 23, they were joined by Antoine M. Thompson, director of the Greater Washington Region Clean Cities Coalition, former New York State Senator, and nationally recognized environmental justice leader. Newark mayor, Ras Baraka, also attended along with a Newark City Council member, the NAACP, and about 30 residents to discuss the potential of consumer-focused clean fuel projects.

The dedication of NJCCC with the GoTrenton! project, and their recent session in Newark on the topic of environmental justice in clean transportation, demonstrates the important role of the national network of Clean Cities coalitions in energy and environmental justice, clean transportation, and making a positive impact in underserved communities.

[1] Isles Climate Action & Go Trenton Webpage

Project at a Glance
Fleet Type: Ridesharing
Vehicles: Four electric shuttles
Strategies: Listening sessions, surveys, community partnership agreements, local ambassadors, stakeholder advisory committee

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