Elected officials, nonprofit and business leaders, transit officials and members of the general public gathered for a discussion on bus rapid transit (BRT) and transit oriented development (TOD) in Rockland County this past Friday. | Photo: Steven Higashide/TSTC
As the Tappan Zee Bridge Mass Transit Task Force moves towards its final report on mass transit recommendations for the I-287 Corridor, state and local elected officials, nonprofit and business leaders, as well as transit officials and members of the general public gathered for a discussion in Rockland County on the potential benefits and financing opportunities related to bus rapid transit (BRT) and transit oriented development (TOD) this past Friday. The event, organized by Tri-State and co-sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Westchester and Groundwork Hudson Valley, included speakers from five different states, each of whom had particular and extensive experience with planning or financing transit projects or related development. By the end of the program, it was clear that BRT is not only possible in the I-287 Corridor, but when combined with smart TOD planning, could be utilized as a tool to revolutionize mobility in the Hudson Valley and revitalize local communities.
The event opened with a welcome from Chairwoman of the Rockland County Legislature Harriet Cornell, a strong supporter of improved transportation options for Rockland commuters. Joseph Calabrese, CEO, Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, followed with a presentation that detailed the implementation of the HealthLine BRT system and the critical role this new transit option had in revitalizing Cleveland’s Euclid Avenue. Calabrese noted that although BRT was not the region’s first choice, it has been a greater success than people expected (and at a fraction of the cost of a rail alternative) because it was well planned and implemented. ”If we had done rail, it would have cost more than $1 billion, and it never would have gotten done,” said Calabrese. “So we did the best we could with what we had, and it’s been wildly successful.”
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With CTfastrak and the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield Rail projects set to open in 2015 and 2016, respectively, discussion about future development in the area is ramping up. Recently, the Capitol Region Council of Governments, the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission and the Sustainable Knowledge Corridor Consortium commissioned a report detailing Transit Oriented Development (TOD) opportunities around these bus and train transit stations.
The report, titled Making it Happen: Opportunities and Strategies for Transit-Oriented Development in the Knowledge Corridor, analyzes which station areas on those future lines are most ready for development and what needs to be done to further encourage development at others.
The need for responsible strategies to deal with future development couldn’t be clearer. The area to be served by these future systems, also known as the “Knowledge Corridor”, is a large and long-interconnected area with a population of 1.8 million, more than 45,000 companies, a labor force of 1.1 million people, 32 colleges and universities and more than 120,000 students.
[Source: New England’s Sustainable Knowledge Corridor]
This density of people and employers, especially schools and students, provides a great opportunity to utilize transit as rapid and reliable means of transportation to enhance the economy.
[Source: Making it Happen: Opportunities and Strategies for Transit-Oriented Development in the Knowledge Corridor, Executive Summary, September 2013.]
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Source: National Conference of State Legislatures
These days, if you listen to almost any politician or talk to almost anyone who works in the public sector, you will invariably hear the term “public private partnership” (P3). Strictly speaking, a P3 is any contractual agreement between a public agency (federal, state or local) and a private sector entity. P3s can be found in a broad range of industries, from schools to hospitals to surface transportation and ports. Despite the apparent ubiquity of P3 types and industries, there are some basic relationship structures that are commonly seen in surface transportation.
While technically speaking the traditional Design-Bid-Build approach (in which public agencies design a project and then enter into an agreement with a private enterprise to build the project) constitutes a “public-private partnership,” more recently, the current usage of P3 implies the transfer of more responsibility to the private partner than Design-Bid-Build.
The oft-stated basis for P3s is that they allow private companies to take on traditionally public roles in infrastructure projects, and they can both 1) keep the public sector ultimately accountable for a project and the overall service to the public and 2) cut costs through the private sector’s efficiencies and abilities to better manage risk.
Despite the strong push for P3s, some have suggested they’re not all they’re cracked up to be.
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