Transit-oriented development will encourage economic development and create opportunities during difficult financial times, said NYSDOT Commissioner Astrid Glynn and ConnDOT Commissioner Joseph Marie at a panel on Thursday in New Haven.
The event was part of the Connecticut and Westchester Mayors’ Institute for Community Design sponsored by the One Region Funders Group and the Regional Plan Association.
Marie Talks the Talk
Marie, who has only been on the job since June of this year, started his speech by explaining his family’s Bostonian background and its relevance to his current position. “My wife didn’t get a driver’s license until she was 30 and my mother in law still doesn’t know how to drive,” he said. “I grew up in transit-oriented development.”
Prior to joining ConnDOT, Marie was a “transit guy” for 24 years, running the Phoenix transit system, where he provided the leadership necessary to implement the new METRO light rail line connecting Mesa, Tempe, and Phoenix. The system will open in 60 days. Along with Boston, he cited international TOD examples including Stockholm, Colon, and Vienna.
The Commissioner promised to create a more open 21st-century transportation department that expands transportation in an intelligent way with a more balanced approach.
“92% of Connecticutters’ trips are made in a private auto. We need more balance in our society,” he said.
He said the DOT would encourage responsible growth through corridor planning efforts, the promotion of sound land use decisions, and the improvement of streetscapes. He talked about burgeoning TOD projects in New Haven, West Haven, and Georgetown.
Marie’s groundbreaking comments come less than a year after Governor Rell’s Commission to Reform ConnDOT offered an ambitious plan for an agency long reviled for its black box planning, slow timelines, and highway orientation. The remarks were welcome news to the many transit, environmental, and community advocates in the room.
The challenge will be for the Commissioner to secure the funding, staff, and resources necessary to implement his vision within his own agency, and throughout the state. Earlier this week, for example, Governor Rell proposed a $5 million cut in bus transit funding as part of her budget balancing package. If Rell’s step is overturned by the legislature on Nov. 24, it will enable improved bus service in urban areas like Hartford.
Glynn’s Goal: One Car Households
Commissioner Astrid Glynn also spoke about the need to promote transit-oriented development, and said investment in New York’s transit system was the key.
“We need a robust transit network, and this costs money, because transit systems lose money,” she said.
Orienting her remarks around the future Tappan Zee Bridge project, Glynn saying that building transit across the I-287 corridor would serve as a focal point for future Hudson Valley development.
The Commissioner said she hoped the day would come when households only need one car but to get there we need to be proactive. She concluded with a famous quote from Wendy Wasserstein, the American playwright: “Don’t live down to expectations, go out there and do something remarkable.”