Archive for the ‘Mass Transit Task Force’ Category

Three Lanes in Each Direction, Traffic Congestion

ice cream stand

Yesterday was a beautiful day for a ride in the country, and we had a terrific time!

* * * * *

west on the ThruwayMy friend and I left later than planned for our day trip upstate. Some define “upstate” as Westchester, some as Rockland. We planned to take Exit 16 and agreed it starts (for us) somewhere around New Paltz or Kingstson (Exits 18 or 19) off the Thruway.

It took us less time to get from my friend’s house to 287 near Exit 2 (I took the Sprain) than it did to get from that point to the bridge’s approach span. Given that it was Father’s Day, we anticipated some traffic; this amount was ridiculous.

trafficRecently I followed an online discussion and traffic on the Thruway and what happens when the new bridge is completed. Those were my thoughts as I drove; she read my mind and asked what happens if the Thruway remains three lanes in each direction?

Above is what we saw past Exit 9 westbound around 1:30 p.m. yesterday.

east on the Thruway Doesn’t look so bad, right? Probably not, compared to what happened when we were past Exit 15 on the way home (around 7 p.m.), where traffic crawled from there to bridge for the next 45 minutes. As I drove we took turns commenting about the traffic. “What’s going to happen when the bridge opens?”

Stop-and-go traffic continued until Exit 10 (left) and across the bridge to exit Exit 9. We talkI told her about the corridor project that became the bridge project.

east on the Thruway 2A partial answer to the congestion west of the bridge in Rockland and east of it in Westchester is a new bus rapid transit system. While not an expansion, this solution was discussed last year, and money to implement it was infused months later.

I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2016

No TZB Fare Hike in 2016; Toll Task Force in Place

Discounts ahead for local residents, commuters?/Rani Levi

Discounts ahead for local residents, commuters?/Rani Levi

For the sixth consecutive year tolls, including the bridge, will remain unchanged, Thruway Authority Executive Director Robert Megna told its Board yesterday.

“Given our success in balancing the Thruway’s budget and the infusion of additional funding from Governor Cuomo, we have alleviated the need to implement a toll increase for the remainder of 2015 and for all of 2016,” Megna said.

Contributing are a $1.285 billion boost to the Thruway Stabilization Fund — $750 million to the bridge project — included in the 2015-16 state budget, and the $1.6 billion TIFIA loan signed in December 2013.

The agency said independent traffic engineering forecasts “include significant upward revisions from the previous forecast submitted in May 2015. The 2016 budget forecast shows a traffic growth of 3.4 million vehicles or 1.3 percent above 2015.” More vehicles (259.3 million) equal more revenue.

Signs informing drivers of toll plaza lanes/Courtesy of Steve Alpert at http://www.alpsroads.net.

Signs informing drivers of toll plaza lanes/Courtesy of Steve Alpert at http://www.alpsroads.net.

More news: the toll advisory task force is now a reality and has until mid-2016 to brainstorm toll reviews, potential commuter discount options, a resident discount program and commercial vehicle rates. Governor Cuomo spoke about a resident discount early on; I’ve always felt commercial vehicles using the bridge deserve to pay more.

Megna and state Department of Transportation Commissioner Matthew J. Driscoll will co-chair the group, which will meet monthly, ask for public input and report its findings in mid-2016.

Albany mayor Gerald D. Jennings; Matthew Rand, managing partner of Better Homes and Gardens, Rand Realty, Rand Commercial Services and Hudson United Home Services; former state Department of Transportation commissioner Joan McDonald; Lawrence C. Salley, Chairman of the White Plains Housing Authority and former Commissioner of the Westchester County Department of Transportation; and former NYC comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr.

Newly named Executive Project Engineer Jamey Barbas, P.E. has more than 30 years of experience in bridge management, design, construction and inspection with a special emphasis on complex and long span bridges. Project Manager Peter Sanderson will analyze critical issues associated with construction phases.

The website has a new look. I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2015

Bus Rapid Transit System Gets $10 Million Grant

Link-MainlineSixteen months after it recommended rapid transit when the new bridge opens in 2018, the transit task force rolled out Phase 1 — a $91 million Suffern-Tarrytown-White Plains line — in late June.

Earlier this week the plans received a $10 million federal grant.

After last year’s application for a $26.7 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant through the US DOT was not approved, the state DOT resubmitted its application for $20.4 million in TIGER funds, as Deputy Secretary for Transportation Ron Thaniel noted at the May New NY Bridge community meeting.

Here’s what happened when the transit task force reconvened this past summer:

State Office of Traffic Safety and Mobility Director Todd Westhuis is spearheading the project to revamp the Tappan ZEExpress bus service for the line and stops via new technology and transit management on Routes 59 Rockland and 119 (in lieu of dedicated bus lanes) and on I-287, signal priority and signal upgrades, ramp metering, and queue jump lanes.

Safety concerns along sections of Route 59 were identified using the US DOT’s “Safer People, Safer Streets” initiative via a pedestrian safety audit in Monsey and Spring Valley this past April.

Westhuis cited the Nanuet Park & Ride and upgrades to the Exit 14 Park & Ride facility. “All three lots there need improvement (to ensure) safe pedestrian passage to and from those lots and connect them to the corridor and improve transit access to that lot, in particular the BRT system to come,” he said.

A design is expected by fall, a lighting plan will be submitted by year’s end, and construction will begin next spring. “This lot is a key point identified in a study last year (by ARUP; see Rockland County Times story March 6, 2014), and it’s an area where we saw a high potential,” State Department of Transportation Commissioner Joan McDonald said.

Corridor will have an extensive BRT system in place by 2018./NYS Thruway Authority

Corridor will have an extensive BRT system in place by 2018./NYS Thruway Authority

There will be quicker access to the new transit system in Tarrytown, improvements to its Metro North train station and pick-up points within the village. Discussions with village officials identified the following needs; a contract will be awarded by year’s end to make sure changes are put in place.

“Our assumptions for this implementation are going to be checked against peers with similar programs nationwide,” Westhuis said. “Integrated corridor management (ICM) is a component of the BRT system.”

Total cost for upgrading the system is $159.5 million; each route/increment can be done individually or collectively.

While Tri–State Transportation Campaign Executive Director Veronica Vanterpool approved of initial plans, she’d like to see projected timelines for all routes.

“We made a very strategic decision to break these down into increments,” McDonald replied citing one route/increment — Spring Valley to Tarrytown — is approximately $12.5 million (four new stations and one new vehicle) and another — White Plains to the Bronx via Central Avenue — is $43 million (44 new stations, 15 new vehicles).

“Finding $12 million is generally easier than finding $43 million,” she said.

Capital-CostsUpgrades to transit hub White Plains train station are in two phases; the first is a traffic circulation study, improving temporary station access and pedestrian access, the second is a compete redesign and reconstruction of the station, including the 19 acres of land owned by White Plains for mixed-use development.

Rockland County Legislator Harriet Cornell asked how the new system will be managed and operated. “I’m a great believer in collaboration, but perhaps there needs to be a ‘superpower’ to manage the entire system, not each county individually,” she said.

Vanterpool wants the group to convene regularly; McDonald said the task force had a finite end. “We had policy issues as well as operational and capital issues to discuss. A lot of detail work was done in the past year, and we weren’t ready to discuss where we were at (an earlier) time.”

From the DOT standpoint, she said, “we are committed to updating this group at the right moment in time.”

After the meeting the Rockland County Times spoke with McDonald.

“We’re working with local governments in some instances for this to be successful,” she said when asked about home rule. “Are you willing to give up four or five parking spaces on a route? That’s always a heated discussion.”

How will the new plans change traffic backups on 287 in both counties?

“We’re not just looking at it as BRT in isolation,” McDonald said. “We’re looking at the whole corridor, and that’s why some of these technologies — queue jumping, signal override — will help us to make those adjustments and to make it successful for everybody.”

My article originally appeared in the Rockland County Times July 2, 2015.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2015

Coming in 2018: Thruway Corridor Improvements and a Streamlined Transit System

Link-MainlineSixteen months after it recommended rapid transit when the new bridge opens in 2018, the transit task force rolled out Phase 1 — a $91 million Suffern-Tarrytown-White Plains line — last week.

At his first such public meeting after the State Senate approved him mid-June, Thruway Authority Executive Director, Robert L. Megna joked about hoping for a lot of ‘no’ votes.

“That didn’t happen,” Megna said.

State Office of Traffic Safety and Mobility Director Todd Westhuis is spearheading the project to revamp the Tappan ZEExpress bus service for the line and stops via new technology and transit management on Routes 59 Rockland and 119 (in lieu of dedicated bus lanes) and on I-287, signal priority and signal upgrades, ramp metering, and queue jump lanes.

Safety concerns along sections of Route 59 were identified using the US DOT’s “Safer People, Safer Streets” initiative via a pedestrian safety audit in Monsey and Spring Valley this past April.

Westhuis cited the Nanuet Park & Ride and upgrades to the Exit 14 Park & Ride facility. “All three lots there need improvement (to ensure) safe pedestrian passage to and from those lots and connect them to the corridor and improve transit access to that lot, in particular the BRT system to come,” he said.

A design is expected by fall, a lighting plan will be submitted by year’s end, and construction will begin next spring. “This lot is a key point identified in a study last year (by ARUP; see Rockland County Times story March 6, 2014), and it’s an area where we saw a high potential,” State Department of Transportation Commissioner Joan McDonald said.

One of several TAPPAN ZEExpress buses waits for commuters at Tarrytown Train Station while a car exits the H-Bridge in opposite direction

An extensive BRT system replacing the current service will be in place when the new bridge opens in 2018.

An extensive BRT system replacing the current service will be in place when the new bridge opens in 2018.

There will be quicker access to the new transit system in Tarrytown, improvements to its Metro North train station and pick-up points within the village. Discussions with village officials identified the following needs; a contract will be awarded by year’s end to make sure changes are put in place.

“Our assumptions for this implementation are going to be checked against peers with similar programs nationwide,” Westhuis said. “Integrated corridor management (ICM) is a component of the BRT system.”

After last year’s application for a $26.7 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant through the US DOT was not approved, the state DOT resubmitted its application for $20.4 million in TIGER funds, as Deputy Secretary for Transportation Ron Thaniel noted at the May New NY Bridge community meeting.

Total cost for upgrading the system is $159.5 million; each route/increment can be done individually or collectively.

While TriState Transportation Campaign Executive Director Veronica Vanterpool approved of initial plans, she’d like to see projected timelines for all routes.

“We made a very strategic decision to break these down into increments,” McDonald replied citing one route/increment — Spring Valley to Tarrytown — is approximately $12.5 million (four new stations and one new vehicle) and another — White Plains to the Bronx via Central Avenue — is $43 million (44 new stations, 15 new vehicles).

“Finding $12 million is generally easier than finding $43 million,” she said.

Capital-CostsUpgrades to transit hub White Plains train station are in two phases; the first is a traffic circulation study, improving temporary station access and pedestrian access, the second is a compete redesign and reconstruction of the station, including the 19 acres of land owned by White Plains for mixed-use development.

Rockland County Legislator Harriet Cornell asked how the new system will be managed and operated. “I’m a great believer in collaboration, but perhaps there needs to be a ‘superpower’ to manage the entire system, not each county individually,” she said.

Vanterpool wants the group to convene regularly; McDonald said the task force had a finite end. “We had policy issues as well as operational and capital issues to discuss. A lot of detail work was done in the past year, and we weren’t ready to discuss where we were at (an earlier) time.”

From the DOT standpoint, she said, “we are committed to updating this group at the right moment in time.”

After the meeting the Rockland County Times spoke with McDonald.

“We’re working with local governments in some instances for this to be successful,” she said when asked about home rule. “Are you willing to give up four or five parking spaces on a route? That’s always a heated discussion.”

How will the new plans change traffic backups on 287 in both counties?

“We’re not just looking at it as BRT in isolation,” McDonald said. “We’re looking at the whole corridor, and that’s why some of these technologies — queue jumping, signal override — will help us to make those adjustments and to make it successful for everybody.”

My article originally appeared in the Rockland County Times July 2, 2015.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2015

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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