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The North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority wants you to throw a cocktail party — and they’ll foot the bill!

According to David Behrend, department director of communications and government affairs for the Authority, the Set the Table initiative is one part of a broad public outreach effort to update their long-range transportation plan for 13 counties in Central and North Jersey.

“The idea is to look at how we can better involve younger people who maybe haven’t traditionally been involved in some of these public meetings and this process in the past,” he said.

Behrend said participant hosts who should be between the ages of 18 to 29 will be asked to get together a group of six to eight friends. They’ll get a small stipend, around $100, “to get some pizzas or other foods, however they want to organize their particular event.”

He said each group will be given cards with questions about different subjects like transportation safety, technology and the environment.

“These are the folks who are going to be experiencing and using the transportation network 30 years down the road, so we want to hear their input, we want to see what they have to say.”

Behrend says the Set the Table meetings will help to shape what happens in the future.

He noted North and Central Jersey are very densely populated areas with heavily used infrastructure and there is simply no room or money for some kind of a big new transportation system.


Interested young adults should apply at this website. Rutgers and the NJTPA will then select 20-25 participants to receive a stipend.

“So one of the things that we really want to focus on is how travel behavior may change, how technology is going to impact the transportation system.”

Behrend said a lot of younger people are choosing to live in cities or smaller communities that are more walkable and transit oriented.

“So we want to ask these folks questions like, do they see themselves continuing that lifestyle? Are the younger people going to be more interested in and willing to travel in driverless cars?”

They also want to get feedback from younger adults about “how transportation interacts with the environment. Are they more interested in taking transit than past generations?"

He noted a lot of changes in transportation “aren’t necessarily going to be about new infrastructure, but they’re going to be about new ways we’re going to be using our existing systems, so we want input on that kind of thing.”

Behrend explained the idea of having small gatherings to collect this kind of information and opinion has been done successfully in other parts of the country.

“What we’re hoping with this initiative is to spark some of these conversations in sort of a more casual, a little more fun and lively setting than, say, the traditional public meeting or public workshop,” he said.

The Authority is partnering with Rutgers University because they “provide a good avenue for reaching out to this younger group of people," he said.

“Because we’re preparing a 30 year plan, it’s important to include what the younger generation thinks about where we should be headed, and what they want to see,” he said.

A draft form of the plan will be ready by mid-summer, then a final version will be adopted in the fall.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at

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