Archive for the ‘Mass Transit Task Force’ Category

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

Recapping 2014: Condensed Year in Review

This year continued the celebration from December 2013, when Thruway Authority Executive Director Thomas J. Madison closed the deal on a generous TIFIA loan, and the Left Coast Lifter waved — if it can limbo under our bridge, then it can wave — goodbye to California, ready for its 6,000-mile trip to New York Harbor.

Massive crane leaving CA for New York/Jacob Tanenbaum

Massive crane leaving CA for New York/Jacob Tanenbaum

Rumor has it the state renamed the crane I Lift NY due to this blog post.

While super crane was shimmying through the Panama Canal, Tappan Zee Constructors, LLC (TZC) began its second year on the clock, our toes froze, and the Mass Transit Task force was one meeting away from our travel futures. A monorail would have been fun.

Yikes! It was cold. Frozen river? No problem, tweeted project officials (pic.twitter.com/M6vFOHYdBQ), and before January ended, the super crane arrived.

by justin sullivan

February opened with name-calling: the crane had a new moniker, and folks debated about a legendary folk singer. New safety warnings were issued, the state police and Thruway Authority relocated, and then came the final Mass Transit Task Force meeting. C’mon, you knew it’d be bus rapid transit.

The morning before it, my dear, sweet father passed away in his sleep. I love you and miss you very much, dad. You may have been there, too, because more cake than I ate was missing from my plate. Dad loved cake. Thank you to friends who were there for mom and me that night, throughout the weekend to his funeral, and this past year.

new RNA safety zone

March told us Ramp E in Tarrytown would close for the second time. Mid-month brought annual meetings in both counties and new boater safety regulations. Days later, when another barge escaped, the bridge builder addressed the issue and paid stiff fines.

In April we got money for those transit plans. The Tarrytown Outreach Center relocated, and President Barack Obama and Governor Andrew Cuomo came to town in May. Some construction vessels were now tracked via GPS, and the Outreach Team visited marinas as boating season opened.

Steel piles are ready to be capped/© Janie Rosman 2014

Steel piles are ready to be capped/© Janie Rosman 2014

June announced the 2014 Bridge Art Show. It’s bye-bye to the Rockland landing, and the start of main span pile cap construction. Need funding? How about a $500M loan from CWSRF? The project team sent emergency supplies to Delaware, and EFC approved the money.

A quiet July 4th weekend was followed by stricter safety measures. The Thruway Authority got half of the $511 million, and concrete technology arrived on the Hudson. Piermont boaters now have a safe passage to the main channel, pile cap installation began, and then came a detour.

Opening night: admiring Westchester and Rockland artists’ depictions of the current and future bridge/NNYB Outreach

Opening night: admiring Westchester and Rockland artists’ depictions of the current and future bridge/NNYB Outreach

Another project first: the 2014 Bridge Art Show opened at Nyack First Friday and debuted in Tarrytown the next week, thanks to collaborating groups. Rebar alert per NNYB, and you know the loan that came through? No, no, the EPA said. Educational outreach began its second year, there were lane shifts for construction, and the viewing areas started to take shape.

October brought Cuomo’s Build NY Initiative, and the governor was in Piermont to welcome the crane. Team Outreach celebrated Halloween bridge-style, and a new electronic highway sign was tested.

Two of the new bridge's 86 vertical steel towers seen near the Westchester approach span/NNYB Outreach

Two of the new bridge’s 86 vertical steel towers seen near the Westchester approach span/NNYB Outreach

Several lane closures in November, when the state told the EPA, See you in court. The first two pier towers were completed, and more criticism about the bridge finances from an oversight office. TZC’s president received the “Good Scout” award, and South Nyack asked the governor for help.

Detours, lane closures, and more lane closures kicked off December, and the bridge had a birthday! A mid-month accident — thankfully, no one was hurt — temporarily halted cement production and not the project, which soon begins its third year.

Did I miss something? I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2014

Top Secret: The Five Ws — And How!

Can it be? Two years ago I wrote, “Westchester and Rockland County residents won’t be held hostage to inflated fares on the new Tappan Zee Hudson River Crossing.”

Tappan-Zee-Bridge-toll-plaza

Double entendre, the header.

I learned the five W questions — who, when, where, what and why — plus “How?” The phrase “and how” means very much so, a strong confirmation. “And how” in header confirms the five Ws and asks “How?”

Back to the questions. Who knows the bottom line about fare hikes? When‘s it going to take effect? Where will it be applied? What is the reason for it? Why are we told different answers each time we ask?

Lots of unknowns about the toll hike. It’s a reality. When is anybody’s guess. We can figure out where and the reason, too.

Miracles happen. I believe in them. Days before we got the $1.6 billion Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loan, Standard & Poor’s downgraded the Thruway Authority’s long-term bond rating from A+ to A due to concern about potential toll increases.

TIFIA funds are usually limited to 33 percent of total project costs. Who said the New NY Bridge is a usual project?

Our asked-for amount was approved plus another $500 million to boot. Miracle right there. Fast-forward to the EPA’s recent decision. Now comes the appeal.

* * * * *

The first span will open 18 months from now in March/April 2016, and both spans will be raring to go in March/April 2018. I heard Tappan Zee Constructors, LLC (TZC) will shell out plenty if the Thruway Authority doesn’t have keys in hand by the 2018 opening date.

Eighteen months until we drive across one new span.

I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2014

Thought-Provoking Dialogues re Future of Rail

Your intrepid reporter participated in not one live Q&A with ARUP (@ArupGroup) yesterday on Twitter (#FOR2050) — she participated in BOTH.

Arup chat

They were lively, informative, and international, and I’m pleased my questions were retweeted. Participants asked about constrained resources, cost of growing and maintaining rail, urban logistics and environmental constraints, how rail can accept cycling, WiFi on rail, challenges to the industry, where and how young engineering students can learn more, destination stations/multifunctional hubs, skills needed in the field, and funding.

I asked:

Question: What will the rail replace, and how to ensure uninterrupted service during the transition from former system to rail?
ARUP reply: We’d anticipate existing systems to be refurbished and new systems to be installed from day 1 with the latest tech (CS).

Question: How to add rail to a bridge, i.e., the NNYB in NYS (rail to be added later) without closing it or disrupting traffic?
ARUP reply: Depends on the site specifics. Innovative solutions and new materials could help solve this problem (CS).

Question: How will future rail protect infrastructure, while improving transit for commuters and commerce?
ARUP reply: The design (& retrofit in some cases) of infrastructure will take into account future risk and protection needs (CS).

To view both Q&As, held at 12 noon BST, and at 5 p.m. BST, see hashtag #FOR2050.

A technical advisory team of ARUP professionals worked with the Mass Transit Task Force from December 2013 to January 2014, researching past corridor planning efforts, evaluating regional travel needs, providing comparative reviews of other transit system around the United States and world, assessing potential transit modes, and conducting various transit and traffic analyses to test the group’s proposals for the New NY Bridge.

While the task force recommendations do not preclude future light rail or commuter rail, neither is included in short-term and mid-term plans due to costs and time needed to implement them.

Additional posts about ARUP, the task force meetings, and transit on the new bridge can be found via this website.

I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2014

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