High speed rail: trains & tourists

Amtrak_on_NY_Metro_North_Linev2A major overhaul of passenger rail service in New York State is underway. This process holds great promise for growing recreational tourism, but only if park and trail advocates speak up.

The public comment period has been extended to April 30, so there is still time make your voice heard.

The High Speed Rail Empire Corridor Program proposes system-wide improvements to passenger rail service between New York City and Niagara Falls that will improve reliability, travel times, service frequency, and passenger amenities. While a “balanced multi-modal system” is a program goal, bicycling and walking are not mentioned in the present draft environmental impact statement (EIS). You can submit your comments on on the importance parks, trails, and tourism to the High Speed Rail Program in New York State until April 30.

Parks & Trails New York believes the High Speed Rail Empire Corridor Program offers an extraordinary opportunity to better integrate New York’s rail corridors with the state’s expanding network of multi-use trails and hundreds of local and state parks and historic sites. We strongly support the goals of the High Speed Rail Program to attract additional passengers, increase travel choices, reduce automobile trips, and contribute to a balanced, multi-modal transportation system. These goals will assist our long-standing efforts to actively promote trail-related tourism, establish New York State as a premier tourist destination for cyclists and other outdoor enthusiasts, and ensure that persons of all ages and abilities have a broad range of travel options.

However, in our letter PTNY requested that the program goals listed in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) recognize the important role that high speed rail can play in attracting tourists not only as Amtrak passengers but also as visitors who will contribute much-needed dollars to and help stimulate additional revitalization of the many small and large communities throughout the corridor.

PTNY also noted that while one of the goals of the program was to contribute to a balanced multi-modal system there is no mention of bicycling and walking in the DEIS. PTNY believes the DEIS must describe how these modes of transport will be supported and encouraged in terms of station improvements and reconstruction to accommodate cyclists (bike racks, lockers, even showers), integration of station design and surrounding city street networks to allow for safe access to the station by bicycling and walking, and modifications of bridges or other infrastructure to additionally accommodate walking and bicycling.

Issues of particular interest to PTNY:

  • Purchase of new Amtrak passenger cars designed to accommodate bicycle racks to provide roll-on, roll-of service so cyclists can begin a journey on the Canalway Trail or other trails and take a train back to their starting point.
  • Inclusion of a bicycle and pedestrian walkway in the replacement of the Livingston Avenue Bridge spanning the Hudson River to provide better access to Albany and Rensselaer and their waterfronts, a growing network of trails in the area, and non-motorized transportation connections for residents of surrounding low-income neighborhoods.
  • Consideration of impacts to existing as well as planned trail networks and the historic and present Erie Canal alignments, including the existing as well as the planned sections of the Erie Canalway Trail route.
  • Preservation of existing, unused corridors for Erie Canalway Trail and other local and regional trail development.

Comments can be submitted until April 30.

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