Driving Backwards

Transportation Committee Shuns The Future

By Daniel Van Riper

Don't expect to take a take a train to Saratoga anytime soon. Regional traffic planners appear to have little political will to provide taxpayers and citizens of the Capital District with alternatives to driving cars, such as light rail, busses or even bicycle paths.

Kristina Younger, Senior Transportation Planner for the Capital District Transportation Committee (CDTC), spoke at the January 22nd Save the Pine Bush lasagna dinner at 1st Presbyterian Church in Albany. She faced a grilling from a well informed and critical crowd that included several SPB members who are local transportation experts.

The CDTC (not to be confused with the CDTA, the bus company) is mandated by federal law, and is charged with coming up with a regional transportation plan before local governments are allowed to spend federal money on transportation. It has a board composed of representatives of each of four counties in the region, plus the CDTA and the State Department of Transportation (DOT). All decisions must be unanimous, but so far only the DOT has used its veto.

According to Ms. Younger, the CDTC is trying "to look at an integrated travel perspective, not just a wish-list for highways." To that end they hold numerous conferences and public meetings to produce a long range plan on how to spend some $100 million per year. The good news is that there is a "commitment to managing traffic without widening highways," and as for New Karner Rd. (Rt. 155) through the Pine Bush there is "no capital commitment to widening Rt. 155 at this time." Also, there is some idea of spending more money for diesel busses.

The bad news is more of the same. About 80% of revenues are slated for road maintenance. And defying a growing national trend and crying need, the CDTC has arbitrarily decided that the Capital District "is not ready for a light rail system." Why? It seems that the population of region is not dense enough. But, as is well known, density of population is primarily determined by the means of transportation available. So then, we won't get a light rail down route 5 or up the Northway until some time after we actually get one! Does that make sense?

Politics, of course, is playing havoc with the decision process. The staff of ten, including Ms. Younger, have trouble finding a quorum of local politicians for Policy Board meetings, although they love to show up at public outreach meetings where they can show off for the voters. More disturbing is the strange attitude of Saratoga County politicos. It seems these boys are opposed to any measures that will alleviate congestion on the Northway. They believe that if traveling is difficult, then people and businesses will move to Saratoga to avoid the commute.

Clearly Ms. Younger's personal views on transportation are progressive and up-to-date. "The communities that are going to survive," she told us after her presentation, "are the ones in which people want to live, and that means places with good mass transportation."


Printed Feb/Mar 97


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