Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Planning the next New York transportation network
As I wrote in earlier posts, Paris's Regional Express Network (RER) of commuter/rapid trains was not simply designed to make connections, but to accomplish specific development goals. The same 1965 SDAURP (Master Plan for the Urban Development of the Paris Region) that laid out the RER also planned the development of the five "new towns" around the region and the suburban campuses of the University of Paris. Anticipating a new wave of residents who would study and work in the area, regional planners under the direction of Paul Delouvrier, the General Delegate to the District of the Paris Region, designed these train lines to connect residential developments with universities and job centers. They also aimed to relieve congestion on certain metro lines that were overloaded, particularly the 1 and 4 lines, the main east-west and north-south lines in the system.
Any similar system in New York should take into account similar planning goals. One of the reasons that the New York area is so fragmented is that we don't have a single Delegate, or a single regional planning agency. Instead we have three Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs): the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council Council (NYMTC), the North Jersey Transportation Planning Association (NJTPA), and the Southwestern (Connecticut) Regional Planning Authority (SWRPA). Each of the three have come up with plans similar to the SDAURP, some better than others. We can piece them together to get an idea of the priorities that our planners have.
Of course, these plans should be viewed with some skepticism. Although the planners are supposed to act in the best interests of everyone in the region, they have been known to occasionally fail in that task. Also, different people have different priorities, and you will probably not have the same priorities as these planners. With that in mind, I will probably revisit these plans and question them - and I encourage you to do the same on your own blogs or in the comments. In the meantime, though, let's operate on the assumption that the planners share our priorities, are working in the best interests of everyone in the region, and are knowledgeable and competent.
The NYMTC has actually just released their draft plan for 2010-2035. The NJTPA has their draft Long Range Plan for 2035 available, but in some ways the New Jersey State Plan is more valuable. The SWRPA released their plan in 2006, and it can be downloaded as a PDF from the Town of Weston's website.
I'll talk more about these plans in future posts, and their implications for future transit improvements, but feel free to have at them in the comments.