Using Transit Oriented Development to Plan Sustainable Futures

Rockland PLUS

Creatively thinking about future solutions/NNYB Outreach

How to build economically and socially vibrant communities that ensure a healthy environment today…and for years to come? How can transit-oriented development help create these sustainable communities? How will today’s youth help shape an exciting future?

Working with mentors including New NY Bridge project officials, students answered these questions at the 2015 Rockland P.L.U.S. (Planning Land Use with Students) symposium, its 10th anniversary at Rockland Community College. Despite the first-day-of-spring snowstorm — resulting in fewer student presenters — Pearl River remained enthusiastic as did the close to 30 professionals who mentored their projects.

They undertake a land-use planning seminar with experts talking about sustainability, alternate methods of transportation, etc. and study Interchange 14 (where it intersects with Route 59 and the long-term parking area). Then they study the downtown area where they live: how to improve it, add trains, buses, mixed-use development, etc., and present their ideas for improvement.

Rockland PLUS1

Team confers/NNYB Outreach

“Rockland P.L.U.S. introduces high school students to concepts in sustainable planning, asking, ‘What kind of community would you want to build if you could start from the beginning?’ ‘What would be the needs and wants of people in your community at all ages and stages of life?’” Keep Rockland Beautiful Executive Director Sonia Cairo said.

The weather prevented students from participating in the second half of their planning sessions for Spring Valley, which keyed into corridor recommendations made by the mass transit task force.

Each mentor critiques the presentation, a learning experience as students learn about land use, planning and sustainability. — New NY Bridge Educational Outreach Administrator Andy O’Rourke

Talking with mentors after presentations/NNYB Outreach

Talking with mentors after presentations/NNYB Outreach

Students benefitted from immediate feedback after sharing their ideas. “The mentors listened carefully, giving their unique expertise to help students shape a sustainable plan for the community and balances social, economic, and environmental needs,” she said.

This year and last year students did an environmental redesign of the Pascack Valley Line and the Bergen County Line (NJ Transit).

“We started talking about healthy transit hubs to get people out of their cars and using mass transit more, and then we talked about the new bridge,” Cairo said. “We introduced ‘green’ concepts and had students think about some of the things they’d want to add to the stations. They were asked to visit their local train station and take four pictures of the station:

(1) What does it feel like to be at this station?
(2) What do you think needs to be removed from the station?
(3) What needs to stay or needs to be enhanced?
(4) What can you do here if you had 30 minutes before your train arrived?

Their two-month project culminated with an array of photos as students guessed which pictures fit into which category.

Rockland P.L.U.S. is a partnership of Columbia University Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Keep Rockland Beautiful, Rockland Conservation and Service Corps and SUNY Rockland Community College, and is made possible by support from event sponsors Orange & Rockland, Frank and Joanne Gumper and First Niagara Bank, as well as Airport Executive Park, Behan Planning and Design, Ira M Emanuel, P.C., and Inserra Supermarkets.

I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2015

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