Monday, August 15, 2016


Sorry, Governor Cuomo, leader of the Empire State: your planners and policy-makers lack vision. A new century is upon us, and it does not help to dwell in 20th century thinking.

The Hudson Valley is a centrally located, hilly, treed region with abundant fresh water that runs south with a mighty flow. Further north is Montreal, but the Hudson River is only large there. In the one hundred miles from Albany to NYC, the Hudson in most places seems more like a linear lake than a wide river.

In theory, this region could be developed into a 21st century urban corridor. It could absorb millions of new residents with plenty of land left over for green space. The current population of the seven counties (excluding suburban Westchester and metro Albany) is about 1.5 million. Albany County has 0.3m -- all dwarfed by the 15-25 million (depending on who draws the border) who make up Greater NYC.

Hudson Valley Vision:  Modern transit using existing cross-river bridges
(black lines) linking APM networks (blue) on both sides.
No one in a position of power is proposing that several million residents could be added to the Hudson Valley with vibrant new jobs serving the entire Northeast of the US and the corridor west to the Great Lakes. Quite the opposite, strong opposition from citizens who love green hills and large yards might quickly arise. Never mind the frequent complaints that jobs are few here. Never mind the ugly scars of abandoned factories and parking lots and semi-abandoned centers of small cities and towns.

Most official thinking and citizen reactions are mired in 20th century thinking. They interpret plans for large-scale growth to mean more deforested hills and vales with more highways and parking lots to accommodate auto-dependent living.

There are currently only six major bridges that cross the Hudson between Albany and NYC. Each one was expensive. The largest is the southernmost Tappan Zee, which is being replaced for several billion dollars. Fixed on heavy rail, planners and engineers concluded that adding transit would be too expensive and attract modest ridership. Given their 20th century thinking, they were right.

But it is the 21st  century! Modern automated transit systems with off-line stations have much smaller dimensions and could be appended to highway bridges. Flexibly and sensitively laid out networks -- not lines -- could connect existing (and future) activities centers, creating a cross-river backbone for non-auto circulation. Dual-mode operation could extend this service into an pervasive, dominant mode of future travel

Transit in today’s Hudson Valley plays a minor role in everyday mobility. With visionary planning, modern could dominate and accommodate sustainable, tree-preserving development. Recent trends away from auto-dependent suburban living to shared mobility could flourish.

It is time to envision dramatically superior and sustainable urban mobility options.

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