A New Transportation Concept for Central New York
Executive summary: (revised 6.3.2014)
‘Cuse Train would create a new contemporary suburban rapid transit system for up to 20,000 Central New York commuters based on establishing “Train Stations” including parking lots and NYSDOT Highway Vehicle Reduction Structures, HVRSs, commonly called garages, in Onondaga County suburbs, villages and towns serviced by express Rapid Transit Vehicles, RTVs, with Wi-Fi for commuters with no transferring to four designations where 30,000 people work: Syracuse University, the Hospitals, Downtown Syracuse and Destiny USA. It’s called ‘Cuse Train because it operates like a big city light rail suburban train, but without the huge initial cost.
Our present transportation system is a relic of the 1950s era automobile driven highway surface level parking lot era when 80,000 people and businesses moved from the city to the suburbs, and we tore down thousands of buildings, residences and businesses, and built highways and parking lots for suburbanites. This decimated the tax base for the city of Syracuse, our financial and sentimental core. And we then were left with a public transportation system servicing only about 7% of our population, mostly poor, our present Centro bus system.
The reasoning is simple: The cost of structures, Highway Vehicle Reduction Structures, HVRSs, to support a new suburban transportations system is justified because it will reduce the vehicle traffic numbers that determine the cost and construction phase logistical problems that would otherwise have to be spent on the main I-81 NYSDOT Project to handle the same displaced vehicle traffic at peak traffic loads. It is essentially similar to the fine Syracuse Transit System Analysis that was presented in the I-81 Challenge White Papers.
The goals/benefits for the new ‘Cuse Train suburban rapid transit system are as follows:
- Create a viable suburban CNY rapid transit system- Try to reverse the damage done by the 1950s auto driven system mentioned above.
- A beneficial portion of the potentially billion-dollar I-81 Project needs to be directed to suburbanites and suburban businesses in exchange for a little inconvenience for some if the grade level Boulevard scheme is chosen, for example, and so they feel the city isn’t getting all the benefits. This would also relieve much of the extremely heavy morning commuter traffic on many suburban roads and highways.
- Four Express Syracuse Direct (no transfers) Destinations- There would be, say, four routes: Eastern, Southern, Western and Northern. The RTVs would provide express service to four destinations where 30,000 people work: 1. DestinyUSA, 2. Downtown Syracuse, 3. The hospital complex, and 4. Syracuse University; no transferring needed.
- The ‘Cuse Train system would provide glass enclosed waiting stations at large scale pickup points. ‘Cuse Train Stations in suburban locations and towns and villages located at dense pickup points, including the HVRS garages, serviced by Rapid Transit Vehicles with WiFi, RTVs (don’t call them buses). Commuters could do their e-mail and office prep with coffee and a newspaper on the RTVs in conditioned comfort on the way directly to work. What could be more convenient? The larger ‘Cuse Train Stations might have newspaper, coffee and snack vending machines and electronic schedule readouts.
- NYSDOT Highway Vehicle Reduction Structures- The success of the ‘Cuse Train system is dependent on having a limited number of delivery points, four as mentioned, and high-volume pickup points with very frequent service connecting the pickup and delivery points. The dilemma is that although the four delivery points are concentrated, there are very few concentrated pickup points in the towns and villages and they may not have park-and-ride parking available. Therefore the HVRS garages could provide concentrated pickup points where each individual HVRS might hold say 1,000 vehicles and say ten would have a capacity of 10,000 vehicles. Even more could be added later.
- Trade Off Costs- A prototype for the HVRS garages might be the two 1,000 car 6 story NY State garages at Upstate Hospital. If there were 10 of them at $15 million each, that would be $150 million construction cost; but it would reduce the CNY interstate highway volume by say to 16,000 peak volume vehicles daily (figuring 80 % of capacity) when both going and coming trips are counted. NYSDOT might not have to add an extra lane to 481 if the Grade Level Boulevard option were done and say 10 HVRSs constructed. Without NYSDOT constructed HVRS garages, the ‘Cuse Train system may not be feasible. Presumably New York State DOT cannot fund a transit system directly, so these structures need to be considered integral to the highway system and vehicle related as they are.
- Cooperative Agreements with Employers – Presently the University and the hospitals have parking problems and capacity issues with remote lots and operating shuttle services. It’s quite probable that they and other large employers would be willing to work with the ‘Cuse Train system cooperatively to assign employees to suburban HVRS garages in their neighborhood. This could also free up parking lots on their campuses for expansion needs.
- Locations for HVRS ‘Cuse Train pick up stations- A few locations to consider: On the West route, the first pickup station could be off of Route 690 at the New York State Fair parking lot near where the new amphitheater is being planned. There could be two 1,000-car garages there with space for more in the future. Another could be in Camillus. On the North route, one could be at Northern Lights and another at Wegmans North on Rt. 81. On the East, there could be one behind Wegmans East, another behind the Stickley factory in Manlius and maybe one in the outer Fayetteville Mall area.
- ‘Cuse Train would be a major benefit to Central New York and especially downtown Syracuse- If ultimately there were 20,000 parking spaces in the city center and near the institutions freed up for developing new buildings and business, it would be a long overdue economic boom for our beleaguered city. Additionally, if the viaduct is removed and a Grade Level Boulevard is constructed, the adjacent land becomes extremely valuable for developing major buildings. But the land is presently occupied by ugly surface level parking lots and without improvements in our transit system like ‘Cuse Train the land might remain just parking lots.
10. Reduce construction phase nightmare – ‘Cuse Train might be a valuable addition to the dreaded construction phase of replacing the elevated Route 81 bridge structures and viaducts especially in the major intersection area where Routes 81 and 690 intersect that might be closed to traffic for at least a couple of years during the rebuilding process. NYSDOT could establish bus/car pool lanes on 690 and 81 not only to speed ‘Cuse Trains, but to entice new suburban riders.
11. Future suburban growth- Instead of more deadly future suburban sprawl, the HVRS ‘Cuse Train pick up stations could be surrounded by dense condos and apartments where the community chose to allow this.
12. Reduce our carbon foot print- In retrospect, one of the key criteria for the I 81 Project should have been to reduce our carbon foot print. The ‘Cuse Train is the only current proposal that addresses this important issue head on.
David C. Ashley firstname.lastname@example.org 4.20.2014, rev.6.3.2014
The American Institute of Architects Central New York Chapter I-81 Task Force is reviewing this proposal, but it has not been endorsed yet.