The Regional Plan Association (RPA) published their Fourth Regional Plan on November 30th, 21 years after the previous one was released in 1996. Starting with its first plan in 1929, RPA has sought to provide a guide to towering figures such as Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Robert Moses and Austin Tobin on how to comprehensively craft a modern city. Critically, all four plans have placed New York City in its larger regional economy and natural ecosystem, emphasizing that when its many sprawling institutions work well and work together, they can make positive change happen.
The plan includes 61 recommendations that look to expand and modernize current transit systems, better plan for future growth, achieve critical sustainability goals to mitigate climate change and prepare for its effects.
Over the years, population and job growth, along with lack of investment in maintenance and construction, have overwhelmed transportation systems, causing overcrowding and disruptions. The plan calls for investments in large projects that will modernize, upgrade and extend subway rails. It first looks to reduce the cost it takes to complete a rail transit project. These high costs extend the amount of time it takes to complete a project, furthering inconveniencing riders and taxpayers who are waiting for upgrades. The plan also looks to reform the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, so that new authorities that understand New York and know what needs to be done to the region can fix the issues present. A few of the key transportation recommendations include:
- Creating a fully-integrated regional transit system by combining the Long Island Railroad, Metro-North and New Jersey Transit commuter rails.
- Rebuild the subway system with the latest technology, including upgrading the signal systems on all lines in fifteen years.
- Create the long-proposed Triboro-Rx line, which would use existing freight rail track and run from the Bronx, though Queens and through Central Brooklyn
- Adapt streets to prioritize people over cars by with street designs that prepare for autonomous vehicles and include dedicated lanes for bikes and buses.
Climate change poses a great risk on New York. Sea levels are expected to rise six feet within the beginning of the next century, and we expect more severe and frequent storms, as well as rising temperatures. To increase resilience, the RPA calls for to developing new parks and trails for people to enjoy. A national park in the New Jersey Meadowlands would grow as properties are bought and added to the park as sea levels rise, creating a new model.. The plan also calls for expanding waterfront parks across New York City and designing them with resiliency features that protect against storm surges. The plan also calls for a more modern electrical grid to allow for an electrified and renewable region. This will become increasingly important as more buildings and vehicles transition from fossil fuels to electricity from the grid.
While some of the bold ideas in RPA’s plan will never come to pass, their previous regional plans have had a knack for coming out in favor of big infrastructure projects long before they were ever thought possible including: completing the Second Avenue Subway, decking and developing over Hudson Yards, and creating a rail link to John F. Kennedy International Airport. This plan takes a long-view, so just because a proposed project cannot be set in motion in the next four years does not mean it should be immediately dismissed.
Many of these recommendations overlap with ideas and priorities that NYLCV shares with RPA. After five years of developing this plan, we look forward to partnering closely with RPA as they shift gears to advocate for the ideas they put forward.