Monday, December 04, 2017

RPA offers plan to promote growth in NY-NJ-CT region

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RPA offers plan to promote growth in NY-NJ-CT region Metropolitan Transportation Authority / Patrick Cashin

Regional Plan Association (RPA) has released a long-range plan for the New York-New Jersey-Connecticut metropolitan region that it says ensures growth and equitable prosperity opportunities.

The RPA describes itself as a nearly 100-year-old research, planning and advocacy organization focused on improving the tri-state area's prosperity, infrastructure, sustainability and quality of life. It developed its Fourth Regional Plan to help elected officials, policymakers and advocates plan for the region's future and help shape the area's growth.

RPA says that despite a booming economy within the tri-state area, lack of adequate affordable housing, a crumbling transit system and communities not fully recovered from Superstorm Sandy is prohibiting economic growth.

"Commutes are longer than ever, housing more expensive, and climate change is exposing real long-term vulnerabilities," said Tom Wright, president of the RPA. "The good news is that it doesn't have to be this way. The Fourth Plan shows how we can create a new kind of inclusive growth that fosters equity, sustainability and health and makes a region that works for everyone."

Concerning transportation, RPA says it's the backbone of the region's economy and is vital to the quality of life of everyone living in the region.

"Years of population and job growth and underinvestment in both maintenance and new construction have led to congestion, lack of reliability and major disruptions on a regular basis. Some transportation improvements are relatively quick and inexpensive, such as redesigning our streets to accommodate walking, biking and buses. But the region also needs to invest in new large-scale projects to modernize and extend the subways and regional rail networks, as well as upgrade airports and seaports. These investments will have far-reaching and positive effects on land use, settlement patterns, public health, goods movement, the economy, and the environment," said the RPA.

RPA included 61 recommendations in its Fourth Regional Plan including major reforms at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) aimed at reducing the costs of building new transit projects.

"RPA recommends that the governor of New York establish a new Subway Reconstruction Public Benefit Corporation to overhaul and modernize the subway system within 15 years, thereby creating a transportation system suitable to meeting the needs of the largest, most dynamic metropolitan area in the nation. RPA recommends a series of measures to reduce the costs of building new projects, which is essential to be able to expand the system.

"RPA also recommends that [PANYNJ] take immediate steps to depoliticize decision-making. Longer term, [PANYNJ] should generate more revenue from the investments it makes with value capture strategies, and create independent entities to manage the daily operations of its different assets (airports, ports, bus terminal, PATH, bridges and tunnels). The central [PANYNJ] body could focus on its function as an infrastructure bank to finance large-scale projects across the region," said RPA.

RPA also includes suggestions to modernize and expand the subway system and integrate and expand the regional rail network.

"RPA recommends the creation of a special entity to modernize the subway within 15 years. Specific modernization steps RPA proposes include accelerating the installation of modern train control, redesigning and renovating stations to reduce congestion and ensuring that all stations are accessible to people with disabilities.

"In order to expedite needed large-scale capital improvements, the RPA recommends the MTA adopt new policies to create a greater tolerance for longer-term outages as it is already doing for the L train repairs. But instead of closing and bringing line segments back to state of good repair, these closures should be used to thoroughly overhaul and modernize the system.

"To keep the subway in good working order, it also recommends that the MTA evaluate ending weeknight late night service, which carries a fraction of the passengers of weekend nights-- and replacing it with buses that would flow freely overnight to allow for longer periods for maintenance," said RPA.

Eight expansion projects are recommended in the plan to bring the subway into neighborhoods with the densities to support fixed rail transit, particularly low-income areas where residents depend on public transportation.

RPA wants to see expanded Trans-Hudson capacity and regional connectivity with a unified, integrated, expanded regional rail network, beginning with building the Gateway project and extending it through to Queens.
"With RPA's regional rail proposal, the transit system will comfortably serve a million more commuters in 2040," said the association.