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The TOD and the Beacon Line, rant number 3,426

I'd like to revive this conversation, but frame it in a different way.

The MTA should be involved. We need to use the track as a branch line to bring commuters to the Beacon station from Glenham, Fishkill and Brinckerhoff. This needs to be rolled into the planning for the TOD.

If commuters could take a train on the branch line to get to the Beacon station, we would have fewer cars on the road heading to the station in the mornings -- and fewer cars leaving Beacon in the evening.

Housing in those areas would be more attractive to potential buyers because they could take a train all the way to the Beacon station. More families could rely on one car, instead of having two.

This could also reduce the need for more parking spaces at the Beacon station. And perhaps even have a role in preventing the need to widen 9D.

As I said, this needs to be part of the conversation about the TOD with the MTA. As I see it, the MTA would run the commuter train/shuttle/trolley.

You have a great idea, but you just need to shift your thinking to include the MTA.


Jill Corson Lake

Yes, yes, yes!

Thank you, thank you, Jill, absolutely correct. As the TOD ramps up again, everyone involved in the process should read her words. The whole Southern Dutchess area is growing. So even if they don't build the TOD, traffic on 9D is going to increase, inevitably. More 9D congestion means pressure to turn 9D it into a four lane artery to i84. Such an artery would stand as a psychological barrier against accessing Main Street business, and it would deteriorate the whole area around 9D up to i84. There is only one way to decrease such traffic: revive the Beacon Line. People living in Fishkill can catch the train there, and not drive to Beacon. The TOD is the leverage to get the MTA to take the issue seriously.

So I think the agenda on the TOD is clear:

  1. Residential space: decide upon the right density/ tower height.
  2. Commercial space: MINIMIZE IT. Now whoever lives at the TOD is a captive audience to Main Street business. Therefore, the TOD becomes a BONUS for Main Street, rather than a detraction.
  3. Parking space: MINIMIZE IT by getting a COMMITMENT from the MTA on reviving the Beacon Line to Fishkill (maybe Brinckerhoff, getting past Route 9 might be a problem, at first, but the reopened part could reasonably go to Hopewell Junction or even Beekman eventually). This puts a real dent in the number of people driving on Route 9D and parking at Beacon. Same concept as the ferry from Newburgh. The Beacon Line is a "land ferry": same reduction in congestion by repurposing a piece of Beacon's transport history.
Its a TRANSIT oriented development, right? The MTA owns the Beacon Line, right? This is such a no brainer.

Mayor Gold was mentioned in PoJo wanting to emphasize satellite parking, like at Dutchess Stadium. But the problem is, this increases the number of hops on somebody's commute and the time involved. Plenty would rather furtively park at Dia or on a sidestreet, and they will. I've seen people park at the River Terrace restaurant and walk to the train. And yes, the big curve on the Beacon Line will make the train slow, but if you reduce the number of hops and the time driving and the stress of parking, people will take the train from Fishkill. And in fact, considering the hassle of getting into and out of Beacon to park and walk to the train, it might even be faster than driving.

And they can catch a train in Fishkill right to the city, no transfer needed. With a reverse maneuver (the conductor just walks from one end of the train to another), the train can pull into Beacon, then continue onto Manhattan.

Other points:
  • There is a lot of federal grant money out there for more rail transportation. Of course, Beacon can't tap that, but the MTA can.
  • The MTA has an image problem in Dutchess with its onerous payroll tax. What are Dutchess residents getting for that money? Here is the answer.
  • The New Canaan Branch in Connecticut is roughly the same length and the same population density/ potential ridership. So if the New Canaan Branch is viable, why not the Beacon Line?
  • East Main, with its own rail stop to New York City. Imagine the economic growth!
  • Finally, consider the MTA's own words when they purchased the line in 1995:

The purchase of the new line, called the Maybrook, is Metro-North's first acquisition since the railroad was established in 1983. While there are no immediate plans to develop the property, Donald N. Nelson, president of Metro-North, said that it would eventually become an important part of Metro-North's service.

"This is a rare opportunity to preserve for the public the possibility of east-west train travel in New York's outer suburbs," Mr. Nelson said. "This right of way was established more than a century ago and, if lost, would be impossible to re-create."

Mr. Nelson said it was not certain how soon the railroad could develop the new passenger service, though it might be within 10 years. But he said that had Metro-North not bought the Maybrook Line now, it would have almost certainly been sold off in small parts, a pattern seen with aging freight lines nationwide. "We are hedging against the future, knowing that if we had not secured this line, it would have ended up totally gone as a rail corridor for this region," Mr. Nelson said.

I hear all the naysayers now. "It's too expensive right now, it's not viable, blah blah blah." Look, the MTA purchased the dang line. For what? Either they should use it, or get out of the way. I don't care if the MTA turns the Beacon Line into Apple Orchards or a Pet Cemetery or a Skateboarding Park, whatever! Just USE the bleeping property for something already. The MTA cannot sit on the Beacon Line, prevent anyone else from using the thing, and do nothing with it themselves. No, completely unacceptable.

Ostensibly the MTA is a Public Service Corporation. A transit agency. They exist to serve us. This is not the NSA and a top secret government facility in Area 51, this is a train line running right through the middle of our city. The MTA cannot dismissively tell Beacon "we purchased it, and no one can use it, go away." Beacon in conjunction with Fishkill (they're short on cash, they need some positive, cash-infusing news) can get the MTA to commit to the Beacon Line. So 9D does not turn into a four line highway, which is what is going to happen if the Beacon Line is not revived.

The Beacon Line issue has to be bundled with the TOD. Mayor, city council: approach Fishkill, ask them if they are receptive to the idea. Please, as TOD talks are revived, from the ground floor on up, badger them mercilessly, don't let them poopoo or avoid the topic: have the MTA commit to a timeline, feasibility studies, anything to get the Beacon Line used again.

To revive the Beacon Line will be bigger than Dia in terms of infusing economic growth into our gem of a city. But we can't do anything without the MTA. So it must be part of the TOD as leverage. And if it doesn't happen, 9D will become a nightmare.

Views: 158

Tags: 9D, Beacon Line, Commuting, Fishkill, MTA, TOD


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Comment by Ben Royce on October 6, 2010 at 12:35pm
renee: you're looking at the costs but not the profits. it is not all contained in the railroad. the profits extend to the communities in terms of how the train affects them. i mean, philosophically: why build any road? you build a road, and maintain a road: it costs money, and you get $0 from the road. right? no money is received in return

ah but money is received because the road enables commerce to your community, business thrives. people can live there, real estate values increase. build a BETTER road and more commerce thrives. the same argument applies to any transportation improvement: the profits outweigh the costs

the backbone of any civilization is transportation. the first things romans did when the invaded new territory is build roads. this is extremely expensive, but the benefits outweighed the effort: without transportation, there is no commerce. without commerce, there is no income. additionally, with better transportation, there is more commerce, and there is more income. so if you invest in the beacon line, the benefits you will receive, tangible and intangible, far outweigh the costs. business income, livability, real estate values, etc: it all increases, more than the cost of the railroad. i mean if there were no beacon line, my argument would be silly: the costs would be so high and the benefits so long term, it wouldn't make sense. but what if the railroad were already perfectly good to use, just sitting there?

currently they are building billion dollar bullet trains in china, japan, europe: why? what is the benefit? or consider the recent interchange they built between i87 and i84 in newburgh: it cost millions. why? you could get to i87 on route 17K, so why build the interchange? if you can answer that question, then you can begin to see why reviving the beacon line also makes sense in terms of money invested into transportation infrastructure, profit received in return

additionally, you are looking at the costs/ benefits in a vacuum of other choices. as you say, fishkill and wappingers are growing, and will continue to grow, regardless of what we do in beacon. and they will all want to get to our train station. how much does a parking garage and a four lane 9D cost? so this is your choice: spend on the minor upgrades to the beacon line (which is already built and perfectly good to use), or spend on a parking garage and ruin 9D and our waterfront (not all costs are tangible). we can't stop southern dutchess from growing, but we can influence how that growth affects us: detrimentally or positively

look: if the train line didn't exist, what i would be saying would be insane and your concerns about costs would be 100% correct. but as it is, to add service on an existing perfectly good line does not have the major costs you imagine associated with it (the MTA already spends on the costs you list, the beacon line would be a minor rise in those same already existing costs), and the benefits are explosively good for our livability and commerce. its a no brainer, really ;-)

read this:
Comment by Renee Q. on October 6, 2010 at 11:48am
I really am at a lost of what to think. I can not imagine that this could at this time or within the next 5 years be viable. The amount of money from any source would be so short of the cost, in my opinion. And subsidies are what we are paying to the govt in higher taxes of all kinds. The riders could not cover the employee costs alone.

If the MTA does not think it is cost effective to run the train to Danbury where so many more people commute to and from then from the Beacon train station or visiting Beacon each day, how could we expect them to want to get involved in a little local train? What is the draw and what is in it for them?

There is a bigger picture called insurance, employment costs, equipt costs, upgrading costs and so on. Not to mention the daily management of the line through some buy parts of towns and crossings. If we can not get a van to run down main street three days a week, 8 times a day...

Just my opinion but I have never ran a train before. I think we are just looking at the worng thing. for now. We can not raise all the money needed for the Incline that will definately bring people to the area. Maybe we should go sow and tae bites of the elephant and make this area desirable for the MTA to be involved in. All the doom and gloom talk does not really help. How about we try to ge a shuttle to do what the train would do, show that there is both intreset and need and THEN approach the MTA. Prove to them that it is in the best interest of all involved.

Of course like always, that is just my opinion. As someone who has seem Beacon change over the past decade plus I have seen us change but we will never grow like Fishkill or Wappingers and we do not want to. I A train may change that.
Comment by Ben Royce on October 5, 2010 at 8:55pm
Alan: " The line would be a quality of life issue."

I agree. Without the line, route 9D will become an extension of i84, cut Beacon in half, and our waterfront will become a giant parking garage for Southern Dutchess. So I am glad we have your support on the use of the Beacon Line.
Comment by Alan Flynn on October 5, 2010 at 8:26pm
Not one road, ferry route or train line will ever operate in the black. They are all subsidized. The line would be a quality of life issue. Maybe have CHGE Put in some over head electric lines and run some kind of one or two car trolley. At least until the line is fully reactivated. Or It could just be something simple and old timey. Maybe some small track worker car (John F. probably knows what they are called) pulling a covered trailer. Or some kind of people powered one of a kind contraption. Something that will have almost no impact on the structural integrity of the line because of its low weight.
Comment by Ben Royce on October 5, 2010 at 8:01pm
Renee: i don't understand why you think it would cost millions, nor why it would stay in the red. right at this very minute, if the MTA wanted to, the MTA can run a train to Fishkill, with zero dollars spent. they do in fact use the track a couple of times a year. upgrade the track signals, put in a parking lot off route 9 in Fishkill... how much does that cost? ticket holders will pay for this train, and not drive to beacon and turn 9D into a four lane highway to a parking garage monstrosity on our waterfront

Southern Dutchess is growing. Beacon is not going to be able to hold that back. the question is, do we want our waterfront to become the parking garage for Southern Dutchess?

if i were asking the MTA to build a train line THAT DID NOT ALREADY EXIST: yes, it would be millions. but Renee, the track is just sitting there, perfectly good, ready to have a train running on it at this very moment

what we are asking the MTA to do is use a perfectly good existing train line and run existing train stock that would otherwise sit in Croton Yard, and relieve car congestion in Beacon. it's not complicated. it's not expensive

the REAL cost would be degradation of the quality of life in our city if the MTA does NOT use the Beacon Line to let Fishkill residents pick up the train to the city, in Fishkill

read the NYT article form 1995 above. they purchased the track with the intent of putting service on it in the first place. all i'm asking the MTA is to do what they intend to do, for the sake of Beacon's waterfront and for the sake of not turning our route 9D into an i84 extension
Comment by Renee Q. on October 5, 2010 at 7:32pm
Why should a company like the MTA want to spend millions of dollars with or without govert help to put in a little train that will NEVER even come out of the red?

What we need is a permanent shuttle that is economical and green.
Comment by Ben Royce on October 5, 2010 at 3:41pm
steve: i used to think along your lines. i even said at a city coucil meeting maybe we should just rip up the tracks and put in a shuttle bus if we can't use the rail lines

but the problem is the MTA. the MTA will not relinquish control. they will not allow a bike path alongside. they will not even allow a bike path to intersect the line, they will invoke federal rules about rail lines. so we are stuck with the MTA unless they sell the line, and the MTA is content to do nothing

such that cajoling the MTA to actually use the line is our only option. and the TOD issue is the only leverage we have to essentially say to the MTA: "look, you purchased the line for potential rail service someday, so we want you to do that, commit to a study, commit to a timeline, anything, please". it is a TRANSIT oriented development after all

what i am not happy with, nor anyone else i surmise, is with is the thing just sitting there, rusting, when it could be put to some actual use for the city

furthermore, fishkill is growing. east fishkill is growing. wappingers is growing. unless we invoke the old rail line, more people are going to be driving on 9D, whether or not we build a TOD

we are going to get some monstrous multilevel parking garage and a 4 lane 9D unless we get a way to relieve congestion at the beacon station. we currently do relieve congestion at the station from people in newburgh and orange county: they take the ferry across the river. well, the beacon line is the "land ferry" that will relieve 9D congestion. and mitigate the demand for a monstrous parking garage for those east of us in the growing areas of southern dutchess

as for john hall: yes, this is the sort of issue where a 1 minute phone call from the right person will get movement on the issue. if you have any leverage or know anyone who can put the beacon line issue on their plate, please do so, as otherwise our emails wind up in the slush pile

the craziest thing is that there is federal grant money for train systems now. so all we just need is the right person or two people in the right places to listen for 5 minutes, and this issue will be resolved
Comment by Steve Partlow on October 5, 2010 at 3:27pm
Trains would be neat but aren't shuttles cheaper, more flexible, and nearly as environmentally friendly (depending on its power source)? Today we have BLT and the LOOP. Should we just expand/advertise those more?

I do agree that TOD is the perfect opportunity to push these issues. John Hall played at the theater benefit; would he have the sway/interest to advocate for Beacon on this?

I'm new to Beacon (since 2008) but what I like best about living here is when I can get around without my car. I'd be a huge supporter of a walk/bike path along side of the Beacon Line and in general I'd like more shuttles and trains, I just don't see a train being required at this point.
Comment by Renee Q. on October 5, 2010 at 1:33pm
The BLT is not a PERMANENT thing.
Comment by Renee Q. on October 5, 2010 at 1:32pm
Sorry Ben, I did not realiz how backwatds I was in my thinking.

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