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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 5, 2010 at 12:37pm
renee: they already have a shuttle bus. its called the blt

as for small town feel: the whole area is growing. meaning we can stop growth in beacon if you want, but that's not stopping them from building in fishkill and beyond. so more and more people are going to use the train station, and 9D will turn into a 4 lane highway

so do you want a small town feel and not a suburb?

then you want a beacon line. so people can get in and out of the fishkill suburbs without turning 9D into i84 and having a multilevel parking garage at the train station

you want the train to PRESERVE the small town feel

so you guys have it backwards
Comment by Renee Q. on October 5, 2010 at 12:24pm
I am sorry to say this but I agree. The reason many people have come or have stayed here is the samll town feeling.

And although in theory the rail extension sounds really cool, I doubt it would be cost effective.

We could however work on making a permanent transportation in the town for people from the train station along Main Street and then back again. It would take a lot of work from all aspects of the community and would really need to be thought out and executed well. How tiring it is to start something only to have it fail because of poor planning, haste or disingenuous persons.
Comment by James Watkins on October 4, 2010 at 7:35pm
I've read your views on this many times now. I think you are missing the point. The reason why I and many others I know in Beacon opposed the TOD development and would also oppose a rail extension is that we don't want our town to become any more of a suburb than it already has become. More commuters into NYC will only lead to Beacon becoming the kind of bedroom community we don't want and less of the small town that many of us moved here for.

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