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Transportation hearings begin in Westchester, other counties to follow
Trains, planes and automobiles, along with buses, pedestrian walkways and bike lanes...
If it's Fall 2012, then it's time for the transportation geeks to once again ask regular folks their ideas for keeping the region running smoothly over the next quarter-century. But the public hearings, which start tomorrow night in Westchester, might be of more interest than usual.
For starters, Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants to begin construction on a new $5.2 billion Tappan Zee Bridge in the next few months. Then there's a growing leave-the-car-at-home movement that is driving a trend in developing walkable downtown suburban communities, especially near train stations and other mass transit resources.
"This is basically an opportunity for people to weigh in how they want the transportation system to look like between now and 2040," said Lisa Daglian, spokeswoman for the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council, which is required by federal law to hold public hearings on its "2040 Regional Transportation Plan."
Over the next month, NYMTC will host eight presentations in the Lower Hudson Valley, New York City and Long Island. Each meeting will be a back-to-back event that starts at 4 p.m. for early birds and is repeated at 6:30 p.m. for an evening crowd.
Tomorrow's session in White Plains will be at the Westchester County Center (198 Central Ave.). Next up is the Sept. 13 Rockland meeting at the Palisades Center Mall (4th floor Community Room, West Nyack), followed by the Sept. 19 Putnam meeting (Cornerstone Park at 1 Fair St. in Carmel).
NYMTC became a hot topic this year when three of its members, the county executives for Westchester, Rockland and Putnam, cast key votes to make the new Tappan Zee Bridge a part of the region's future. The organization, created in 1982, has to greenlight all transportation projects that involve federal funding.
At stake is more than just billions of dollars from Washington, D.C. The number is more like a trillion over the next 25 years, a time when the region's population is expected to expand by 2 million people, Daglian said. The revised plan for the next quarter-century will be released in June 2013.
Planning is taking shape during a critical period of slowing population growth for the region. The 2005-2030 Regional Plan foresaw an 18 percent regional growth, compared to the current 2010-2035 plan which predicted the population would grow by 15 percent. When the new study comes out next year, it will estimate 13 percent population growth for 2014-2040, according to Daglian.
One person who plans to be there tomorrow night is mass transit advocate Veronica Vanterpool, head of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. Her topics list includes pushing for bus rapid transit on the new Tappan Zee Bridge, more "infrastructure" for bicyclists and pedestrians and support for the unpopular MTA payroll tax, which the region's county leaders have sued to repeal..
The Payroll Mobility Tax allows the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to collect 34 cents on every $100 of payroll from employers in the MTA region. While the payroll tax is unpopular with local politicians, she said tax revenue "makes sure that Metro-North is giving the public a ride that reliable, frequent and fundable," she said.
For a preview of possible topics that might come up, check out NYMTC's website at http://ideas.nymtc-rtp.org where the public is invited to chat about topics and brainstorm.
Should the Tappan Zee Bridge be built with mass transit?
Yes, I want Metro-North rails to be built on the bridge. Yes, I want bus transit to be allowed on the bridge. No, we can't afford to build it with mass transit. I don't care. I just want a new bridge.