Regional Planning Association proposes changes to public transit in New York

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As New York commuters suffer through the complications, repairs and shutdowns at Penn Station this summer, the Regional Planning Association (RPA), a think tank dedicated to improving various aspects of life in the tri-state area, has proposed two projects to revitalize the region’s public transportation system, TheRealDeal reports. The plans would cost a combined $10 billion.

The RPA’s first plan suggests a new bus station in the basement of the Jacob K. Javits center. The blueprint includes pedestrian walkways from the new station to the No. 7 subway station in Hudson Yards. The organization estimates the cost at $3 billion.

According to the RPA, per TheRealDeal, the new station would increase capacity and alleviate the strain on the Port Authority bus terminal on West 42nd Street, so that it could be refurbished rather than replaced or rebuilt.

New York-based architecture firm Perkins Eastman first raised the notion of a basement terminal at the Javits Center last year. Port Authority nixed the plan but has since installed a new executive director, Rick Cotton.

“With the change of regime at the Port and the pushback over a bigger [42nd Street] bus terminal, there is also a sense that there has been a reset on the bus terminal that could welcome new ideas like this,” Scott Rechler, chairman of the RPA and the former vice-chairman of the Port Authority, told Crain’s. 

The second proposal calls for the construction of two new tunnels that would run under the East River from Penn Station to Sunnyside Yards in Queens. Two tunnels are already in the works under the Hudson River as part of the $25 billion Gateway project.The RPA has dubbed its proposed tunnels “Gateway East.”

Were Gateway East implemented, Penn Station would become a “through station rather than a terminus for trains,” per Crain’s, thereby increasing train traffic by 138%, the RPA predicts. The organization estimates a cost in the neighborhood of $7 billion. The plan would require the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and New Jersey Transit to expand their areas of service, even as the transport organizations struggle to fulfill their current obligations, Crain’s points out.

The public transportation proposals come as part of the RPA’s Fourth Regional Plan, a broad effort to improve economic productivity, environmental sustainability, and overall quality of life across the tri-state area. Part of the effort involves increasing low-income residents’ access to opportunities for education and employment. The improvements to the public transit system would catalyze that endeavor.

The organization holds that partisan politics stunt large-scale progress. “With more than 3,000 governmental entities in our region,” the RPA says in an overview of the plan, “policy making is fragmented.”

“…while other cities around the world are embracing innovation,” the report adds, “the New York metropolitan region has struggled to deliver major infrastructure projects in a timely and efficient manner. Public authorities have been hobbled by political disputes, eroding the public’s trust.”

So, the Fourth Plan strives to streamline long-term policy making by advocating cooperation. Advancement in areas like public transport, the RPA contends, would be more efficient if entities collaborated across political, geographic, and commercial divides.

The larger aim of the report on public transportation, then, is to “get public agencies to start planning together, rather than in fragmented efforts—buses here, trains over there,” RPA president Tom Wright says, per Crain’s.

Over the course of its almost century-long history, the RPA has issued three reports similar to the Fourth Regional Plan: one in 1929, one in 1960, and one in 1997. The plans have laid the groundwork for such things as the creation of the MTA, the creation of the Governor’s Island Park, and the preservation of wilderness areas.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons

I'm Will Black. Pleased to meet you. In case you haven't noticed, there’s a lot happening on this 8,000-mile-wide sphere we’re all stuck on together. There’s plenty going on in each 22.5 inch wide sphere that rests upon a human being’s shoulders, too. I’ve heard every broken record that plays in my own personal 22.5’’ sphere. Writing, for me, is an opportunity to smooth over the ticks and pops on those records, and an effort to understand and lend expression to the myriad phenomena going on in everybody else’s little sphere. If I do that work properly, our ride through space on this big blue sphere should be a little more worthwhile, or at least a little more tolerable.

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