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You Can't Get There From Here - part 1

preface

   At the outset, I should point out to everyone that I am 'automotively chalenged' and am therefore reliant on mass transit, my bicycle, or walking for transportation. As such I have intimate first hand knowledge of the 2 road transit entities here in Dutchess county. The Dutchess county LOOP buses, and the Poughkeepsie city bus. I refrain from using the term 'transit system'. A system would infer a somewhat larger,fully integrated with all the other transit systems in the area,much better managed and eficiently run operation than we currently have here in Dutchess county. What we have,instead,are a bunch of buses running around in circles.If one is very lucky one just might get to one's destination at the time one desires - ne at the time one needs to be for their job.

  The Brookings Institute had done a nationwide study based on this jobs and transit relationship. In that study 100 Metropolitan areas nationwide were ranked acording to various criteria.It would come as no surprise to those of us on the 'front line', who rely on the area mass transit in Dutchess county to get around, that the Poughkeepsie-Newburgh-Middletown Metropolitan area was given a ranking of 100 out of 100 - IE: dead last.Things could be worse though, you could live in Newburgh.Orange county has no county buses. Orange county is the only county in the entire Hudson Valley region without county buses. Even tiny Putnam has county buses. There is no OCTD (Orange County Transit District) LINK bus across the river to the Hudson line station in Beacon like the wonderful UCAT (Ulster County Area Transit) LINK bus from Ulster county to the transportation center (POUGHKEEPSIE TC in TriMet Portland Oregon parlance) at the RR station.

  In 2007 Dutchess county hired the consulting firm Abrams-Cherwony & Associates to prepare a transit development plan for the Poughkeepsie-Dutches County Transportation Council  (PDCTC). A rider survey, in August of that year, was done as part of this. I submited my Sunday-newspaper-thick survey with many (many) coments and my own recomendations and transit plan. Thus began my life as a transit advocate for the area. A few months latter the first of several public meetings were held. I attended that first one in the city of Poughkeepsie and a second one for the public presentation of the proposed changes to the LOOP and the Poughkeepsie City Bus, in the town of Poughkeepsie. In July of 2008 the "Draft Interim Service Proposals" document was finalized and made public.It would be another 2 years before Dutchess county (sort of) implemented the changes and proposals set forth in that document. In 2009 I created an all new Poughkeepsie Area Transportation website.During this period I had been doing from-the-seat field reports of the LOOP and the City Bus.I archived some of those reports on my Poughkeepsie Area Transportation site. I have since created a Poughkeepsie Journal blog and now use this to post my road transit reports for the area.

  In 2010, while doing research in 'Google land'  for the trail along the Beacon-Danbury line, I was led to Ben Royce's website - Beaconline.org. I was also lead to this site. I then set about to do more research focusing on railroad, and rail transit, related subjects and put some of my ideas into my own transit development plan for southern Dutchess. I also posted on this site the blog entry entitled  "where have the trains gone?"  With the addition of rail transit, I would now be a local advocate for the 'trifecta' of transportation - road-rail-bicycle - in the area.

  I had lived in New Jersey when I traveled out west to Seattle WA for the first of my western cycling adventures. I would be attending the League convention / bicycle rally at the University of Washington. Seattle was purported to be a cycling friendly city. The north-east US, at the time, was very bicycle un-friendly, at least in New Jersey and New York.Therefore what an experience for my self to be in a bicycle friendly city with multiple trailways, bike routes, and a transit system with bike racks on the buses. What a foreign concept this latter was to myself at the time, to be able to take my bicycle with me on a city / regional transit bus.

  My overall experience while in Seattle, was like being in some sort of bicycle- pedestrian friendly future world. The year was 1983, and the Burke-Gilman rail trail had been open for 5 years already. I had no way of knowing at the time, this 'future world' of transit buses with bike racks, bicycle routes and multiple trailways, would be the mid-Hudson Valley of the early 21st century, 28 years later.

  I had been in Colorado for a bicycle tour in 1989.I had started from Denver and had been to Denver's 16th street Mall.I had not realized it,and did not know of the term at the time,but this is a 'walkable community' within the city center.With a shuttle bus providing transportation along the pedestrian mall and access to the RTD (Regional Transit  District) buses (the RTD did not have rail transit yet) nearby,16th street is a 'transit village' and is considered to be the 'granddaddy' of transit villages. 

 

 

  Over the past year in various coments,and replies to coments,I found myself divulging more and more details in regards to my grand vision for the Beacon line.I also have been focusing on the rail transit (the trains) component of this grand vision and not giving any detail as to the proposed improvements for the road transit (the buses) component in the Beacon Metro area.

  In part one of this extended post,I give some background and history as to why you can't.Part two will cover in detail how you might be able to.I will try to give a picture of how all the components - road - rail - bicycle and pedestrian - will all come together for a modern 21st century transportation system in the Beacon Metro area..

 

why you can't ...

DC LOOP

  In 2007 when Abrams-Cherwony & Associates began the transit development plan for the PDCTC, there was a shuttle bus linking Beacon's Main St. with the Metro North Hudson Line station.The mayor of Beacon,at the time,Clara Lou Gould had gotten the county to provide this necessary and vital transportation link. It was at this time it had struck me that Metro North had yet to run passenger trains on the Beacon-Danbury line after a dozen years since purchasing the line in 1995.

  I had used the Beacon shuttle bus as an example in my recomendations for the city of Poughkeepsie transit. Of course the city of Poughkeepsie already have the buses and the MAIN STREET route bus almost went down into the transportation center but did not. The transportation center had been completed a few years prior as part of a larger station upgrade and building of a new parking garage project.It would be several years latter before the (very) minor route change to the MAIN STREET bus route would be implemented.The SHOPPERS SPECIALroute bus now also stops at the TC.

 

  The above detail map is from the 2008 Draft Interim Service Proposals document.AKA the transit development plan.This is how the new LOOP route F was suposed to be.The route B was to have stoped at the RR station as well.When I had reviewed the document,I could see in lieu of the shuttle bus,which had been discontinued,the route F bus would provide the needed link between the station and Beacon's Main St. albeit not with the same frequency of service as the shuttle bus,and no LOOP buses at all on Sundays.In June of 2010, the DC LOOP would (sort of) implement the changes as per the DISP document.I had seen that all of the LOOP buses were stoping at the Poughkeepsie TC,but did not realize that the route B and the route F were not stoping at the Hudson line Beacon station.

the current LOOP bus route alignment through the city of Beacon

  As you can see from the above detail map,of the current LOOP routes alignment through the city of Beacon,the F route has been shortened.At least before this recent change the bus would meet those hiking up the hill,from the Hudson line station,half way.The LOOP RailLink bus only runs in the AM and PM Mo. to Fri.The Beacon RailLink bus starts from the Hudson Valley Renagades baseball stadium,north of the I84 Newburgh-Beacon bridge,and goes along SR 9D to Beacon's Main Street and does a short loop through downtown Beacon before going down to the Hudson line station. If you live within walking distance of Main street in Beacon this is great,but otherwise you would end up driving to the station with a whole lot of other people.

 

In the below ilustrations which of the 3 look the most like today's Dutchess county transportation-wise?
A) figure 2

B) figure 3

C) figure 1

D) none of the above

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  Sadly, the correct answer is B - figure 3. Thus the crux of the problem here in Dutchess county and in other places all across America. If you note, in figure 3 I show a transit bus stuck in the traffic jam.This is actualy based on fact.

The below is an excerpt from my Poughkeepsie Journal blog entry entitled: "Mr. Toad's wild ride ... a look into the future of transportation for the City of Poughkeepsie" dated 08/06/10

"....I would take the LOOP B back to the transportation center in Poughkeepsie - as per the schedule there should be a northbound route B bus at Meiser Park in Wappingers Falls at 15:15 hrs.

15:36 hrs. LOOP route B arrives - 21 minutes late (the same as last year - the old route 3 bus going north from this point was also 21 minutes late - some things never change) ...."

  And why was the bus late?... because it was stuck in traffic on route 9D- think about it,the buses have to be on the same roads as every one else and stuck in the same traffic jams as everyone else.

 

 

if you ever had been waiting,and waiting (and waiting) for the LOOP BEACON EXPRESS bus and wonder "where the @#**!! the bus is .. it just might be at the Arlington library in Poughkeepsie - this picture of the BEACON EXPRESS bus in the parking lot of the Arlington library was taken 08/24/09 at 4:09:56 PM K.E.N.

 


Metro North

1950's diesel locomotives,self propelled Budd rail diesel coaches,and Amtrak Turboliners. A special railfan excursion I was on? No,just Dutchess county in the 1990's.The former two were seen on the upper Harlem line when I had lived in Pawling.The latter was when I had moved to Poughkeepsie in late 1995. The Hudson line of course also had those 1950's diesel locomotives as well.

  Those 1970's Amtrak Turboliners were way cool,future trains of the 21st century.Too bad they did not make it through the first decade of this century.They are now part of American RR history.The remaining Turboliners are shrink wraped in a rail yard in upstate NY.

 

the exempt sign denotes an inactive rail line - a very sad sign to see 
the exempt means school buses are not required by law to stop 

  When  the MTA Metro North RR bought the Beacon-Danbury branch line for $4.2M,in 1995, southern Dutchess county was in an economic downturn. However,in the intervening years there has been exponential growth in this area.The opening of the Dia art galleries in Beacon, housed in the old Nabisco box factory,provided the spark for the revitalization of the downtown area.The city of Beacon's Main Street is now an upscale,artsy,'yuppie' enclave.The newly restored Beacon Theater will provide a venue for the performing arts and cinema. (maybe a future film festival??)

  The wonderful Roundhouse at Beacon Falls project is nearing completion.The condominum unit,created out of another old existing building,called "The Lofts",is now complete.A few of the condo units in this building have already been sold.There will be future rental units in another building as well. 

  The village and town of Fishkill,and East Fishkill,have both seen quite a bit of growth over the years.On US route 9 there are more business destinations that people would want to go to for goods and service or employment,than in 1995.There is the Gap distribution center,Walmart,the Westage business center and the Wingate Health Care center, the revitalized Dutchess Mall with new tennants,and a new owner of the Hudson Valley Research Park west campus facility,the Linuo solar cell company.There are also luxury condos in this area now,as well.This part of Dutchess county is fast becoming the "new Westchester". The MTA/MNCRR does have a long range plan for passenger trains on the now virtually abandoned Beacon-Danbury line in 2030 - 35 years after they purchased the line in 1995.

  Therefore,in the Beacon metro area, (Beacon,Fishkill and East Fishkill) there has been not one transit agency,but now two transit agencies that have failed to provide transit service for this economicaly important part of the county.First the MTA-Metro North RR who have yet to run revenue passenger trains on the Beacon - Danbury line,then the DC LOOP (the mis-managed county buses) stoped running the shuttle bus they were providing in the city of Beacon between the Hudson line RR station and Main Street, and when they implemented the new routes and schedules in June of 2010.As per the current schedule,the route B and F buses are still stoping at the Beacon post office as they have done for many years during the Steinhaus administration. Additionaly,the LOOP route F,in the city of Beacon,had been shortened thus reducing the service for this route in Beacon even further,and there is limited service on Saturdays.There is no service for all of the LOOP buses on Sunday. 

  The current transportation situation in southern Dutchess though,did not occur overnight.What led up to the current transportation crisis here and all across America,of overcrowded highways and lack of passenger rail transit service,took place over many (many) years...

the birth of the bedroom community and the rail commuter

   During the post WWII era, people began moving out of the big cities into tract home sub-divisions that were poping up like mushrooms in the once verdant farm land in 'the country' many miles away from the city center.These manufactured communities would be known colectively as 'suburbia' - the 'burbs.The city workers would still work in the city.To get there they would drive along a 2 lane country highway,or local roads,from their home to the train station where they would take the train to 'the city'.

  Long Island epitomized suburbia.The Long Island Rail Road,founded in 1834,never made it past Penn Station in New York city,and would be an interurban branch line RR.In the 1950's with all the people moving out to the 'burbs,but still working in the 'city',the LIRR became a 'commuter' rail road.Indeed they exploited this fact with their "Dashing Dan commuter" logo.

  With the advent of jet planes in the late 1950's to whisk people in a couple of hours to Chicago or Washington DC from New York,there was less and less demand for long distance train travel.Why spend many,many hours on the train when you could 'jet' to where you are going? As a result of this,New York Central RR in 1967 petitioned the public service commision to end long haul passenger service,and only provide 200 mile or less intercity service.The end of this once mighty railroad empire was near.

 

 

  At the outset of WWII,in 1941,IBM set up manufaturing operations in an old canning factory on High Street here in the city of Poughkeepsie.(that building is now owned by the county and is the HQ for the PDCTC and the DC planing dept. - the latter an oxymoron to be sure) In 1948 IBM opened the current facility south of the city of Poughkeepsie along US route 9.Tract home sub-divisions grew up near the site and would be,at first, the 'bedroom community' for THE COMPANY - IBM.However,these tract homes would later serve as bedroom communities for those who had left 'the city' for  suburban life in 'the country' In 1962 IBM bought 450 acres of land in East Fishkill for a microelectronics manufaturing facility.At this time.there had not been a passenger train on the Beacon line in 35 years.This would have been at the very begining of the burgeoning 'microchip' industry.

  These early 'microchips' would have been very crude and primative compared to today's supercomputer-on-a-chip.A bit like comparing a Metro North diesel locomotive pulling,or pushing,a half dozen or so push-pull coaches to a Japanese 360 MPH maglev train,or a LOOP diesel fueled prison bus to a hydrogen fuel cell transit bus in California or Europe.Quite primative indeed.Suburban tract homes  sprang up around this facility as well.

  The towns of Poughkeepsie,East Fishkill and other towns in Dutchess county would become 'bedroom communities'. In Glenham,the Beacon Hills sub-division was no doubt,at first,the bedroom community for Texaco. Glenham,like  Poughkeepsie was a 'company town'.
 

  Here and other places throughout America,like the Penguins marching across the frozen expanse of Antarctica, there would be the morning exodus from suburbia by the commuters all heading in one direction - the train station.In the evening they would return.If someone were to have sugested to these early commuters an alternative means of getting to the train station,like a commuter shuttle bus,they would have laughed."Why take a bus when I could drive my own car? In the early morning there is hardly anyone on the highway and besides gasoline is only twenty five cents a gallon" they would say.

  Over the years more and people moved into the area.More tract homes were built to meet the demand.In more recent years instead of tract homes,townhouses,condos and luxury 'yuppie McMansions' are being built.The Toll Brothers are one of the bigest developers of these modern habitats of suburbia in the US.The Toll Brothers are quite well represented here in Dutchess county.There are 3 Toll Brothers developments within the Beacon-Danbury line rail corridor.

 

In a paraphrase of a line from the John Denver song "Rocky Mountain High"...

 "more people.. more traffic jams upon the land"

 

NEXT:

part 2 - "how you might be able to.." 

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Comment by Kevin Newman on January 11, 2012 at 9:17am

thanks Anna - I did sort of shorten the post/article into 2 sections - but maybe I should have broken it up into 4 sections - in part 2 of 2 I go into much much (much) more of what you sugested inclding new routes PS: the DC LOOP got the Beacon RailLink bus all wrong - 2 acronyms to give you a clue: UCAT and TOR - check the UCAT and TOR sites for their special route buses

and in regards to advertising - yes indeed - I actualy sugested this as per my recomendations that I submited at the public mtg. in 2007 - the City of Poughkeepsie actualy for a while implemented this idea with an advertising banner on the side of the bus - they put it on the street/driver side though - they are not doing this any more - also I saw (official) advertising in one of the shelters here - inside the buses (the full sized ones) there is a place for a flyer sized poster - the city of Pok and the LOOP would need a sales-marketing person to make this work I think

Comment by Anna West on January 10, 2012 at 2:53pm

Excellent article, but you might want to shorten/cut into more pieces.  Thanks for doing all the research. The Dutchess Stadium car park might be more useful if it went directly to the train.  No one driving wants to use a bus to get to their car because it is soo much slower. It is part of the problem with the Port Jervis situation. The bus has to wait until the very last person gets on the bus, so they are the last bus out of the lot at the back of a very long line. The loop sometimes doesn't wait and so drives around empty.  They need a bus rider like you to reroute them properly AND have the stores pay for advertising or something.

Comment by Kevin Newman on January 9, 2012 at 3:43pm

well... Steve up here in Poughkeepsie quite a bit more than down there - like standing room only on certain runs of the US rt. 9 bus the route A and B - the B is the one that goes to the malls (Galeria etc.) then down there to Beacon - the route A goes to the above malls and then to Fishkill/Walmart - by the time the route B gets down there to Beacon most of the pasengers have discharged - typicaly the vehicle of choice for the route F (to Hopewell Jct.)is a mini bus or van in LOOP parlence - one of the problems is the infrequency of svc. - there are large time gaps between some runs - was'nt suposed to be that way though as per the 2008 Trans. Dev. Plan - was to be more like every hour and so the LOOP in general has become an unreliable/undesireable mode of transit - here in Pok. most everybody uses the City bus which runs every hour like clockwork - there is a City bus that goes to the malls but with limited hours - the city buses are also cheaper than the LOOP $1.50 vs. $1.75 for the LOOP and in some cases for some of the plazas in Pok. provide front door svc. the LOOP only provides hwy. stops - perhaps a local 'mini trans' that runs regurlarly like the Pok. city bus would serve the people down there better - I cover this in part 2 which I have'nt quite finished yet - stay tuned

Comment by Steve Knowles on January 9, 2012 at 10:12am

I've never ridden a Dutchess County bus, but I see them all the time in Beacon.  I've never seen more than a few riders on a bus, and it seems that vans would be more suitable.  What is the ridership of buses elsewhere in the County?  If the total ridership is below some threshold, it would seem that vouchers to ride cabs would make more economic sense than to fund an entire bus fleet.

Comment by Ben Royce on January 7, 2012 at 10:11pm

(ending cut off)

But we have one, neglected but sound, owned by the M.T.A., just sitting there.

Comment by Ben Royce on January 7, 2012 at 4:36pm

Thanks Kevin.

Keep the drumbeat alive: bring the Beacon Line back to some sort of service, force that as a concession on the M.T.A. for them to get their T.O.D. on our waterfront. They own the tracks, nobody can afford to buy them out and turn the line into a bike trail. But a Fishkill Creek Greenway is also being planned nearby and alongside, so the two efforts don't have to compete, they complement each other. 

When the Beacon Line comes back to life, Beacon will experience a new golden age. Let's try to make it in 3 years instead of 30 years. There's enough residential and business density now in Southern Dutchess to sustain the effort economically.

I know some people think the idea is too expensive to support, but to such people I say: you think it takes far much more to establish test service than it really does. The infrastructure is neglected but sound. They could have a diesel train at East Main 5 minutes from now after a reverse maneuver from Beacon Station, no preparation needed (except police cars at intersections). What I am saying is: passenger service would not require expensive upgrades, test runs can start on the cheap. Then the test service can grow or be canceled as the public response warrants. A skeptical M.T.A. and parts of the public that don't see the promise can be convinced.

At i84 exit 12, the tracks are right there. Grade a new ramp, establish some parking on the southern side of the highway. Next, look at the rebirth of the old IBM industrial sites in East Fishkill, think of the train line running alongside. Think of all of the new developments in Southern Dutchess filled with people who commute to New York City: it makes sense now, it is sustainable, it really can happen now folks. The boost to business on Main Street and Beacon and downtown Fishkill is just icing on the cake. Thomas Cunningham has a great idea about the old Texaco property, once cleaned up, how it can be used in conjunction with the line. Kevin, in a post from months ago, cues us into what the broke Boston MBTA is doing to help pay for lines: 

http://www.railroad.net/the-mbta-embarks-on-station-upgrades-new-co...

With $8 billion plus in red ink, the largest deficit among big city transit systems in the country, the transit agency’s finance wizards are nothing if not creative. The MBTA harnessed a public-private partnership to help forge ahead on the long-delayed Assembly Square Station on the Orange Line in the city of Somerville, northwest of Boston.  The project marks the first new station in the Greater Boston transit system in nearly 25 years and will be an important component of a planned mixed use commercial-retail-residential development along the Charles River.

The MBTA awarded a $29 million construction contract in early October. In addition to state and federal funds, Federal Realty Investment Trust, the principal developer, and IKEA, the Swedish home furnishings behemoth and an anchor tenant, are contributing $15 million. Highway dollars, to the tune of about $10 million, are also being flexed. The station is expected to open in three years. The authority anticipates about 5000 boardings on an average weekday.

But don't listen to me, don't listen to Kevin... listen to our new mayor if you don't believe, Randy believes (0:40-2:00)-

It would be silly to build a train line through Southern Dutchess. But we

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