July 26, 2017: RETHINKING TRANSIT

Is there a way to completely ‘rethink’ New York’s failing transit system?  We’ll hear from our guest Jim Venturi, the Founder and Principal Designer of ReThinkNYC.

TRANSCRIPT

> WITH ITS FREQUENT DELAYS AND SEEMINGLY NEVER ENDING REPAIR, PENN STATION HAS BECOME A THORN IN THE SIDE OF COMMUTERS.

IT DOESN'T HAVE TO BE THAT WAY.

THAT'S THE VIEW OF THE PEOPLE BEHIND AN URBAN TRANSPORTATION FIRM THAT SAYS IT HAS PLAN TO REVOLUTIONIZE THE WAY PEOPLE GET IN AND OUT THE CITY.

RETHINK WANTS TO OVERHAUL THE TRANSPORTATION INFRASTRUCTURE AND SAYS IT CAN TRANSFORM THE NEW YORK METRO REGION INTO A WORLD CLASS TRANSPORTATION HUB.

AT THE CENTER OF THE PLAN IS A REVAMP OF PENN STATION.

THE BUSIEST IN THE COUNTRY AND THE SOURCE OF SO MANY DAILY HEADACHES FOR THOUSANDS OF COMMUTERS.

CAN THIS RADICAL PLAN REALLY SOLVE THE AREAS TRANSIT WOES?

JOINING ME IS FOUNDER AND PRINCIPAL DESIGNER BEHIND RETHINK NYC.

US.

THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.

LET'S START OFF WITH THE PROBLEM.

WHY DO YOU THINK WHEN YOU TALK ABOUT THE SUBWAY SYSTEM AND THE RAIL SYSTEM, WHY, AND ESPECIALLY IN THE LAST FEW YEARS, HAS THIS BECOME A DIFFICULT THING AND OFTENTIMES PEOPLE REFER TO IT AS A DISASTER?

I THINK THERE'S TWO SEPARATE COMPETING INTERESTS.

ONE IS TO SPEND MONEY TO MAINTAIN THE SUBWAY SYSTEM WHICH IS SOLVING A PROBLEM THAT DOESN'T EXIST AT THE TIME YOU'RE SPENDING THE MONEY AND THERE'S A DESIRE TO PROVIDE MORE SERVICES TO THE PEOPLE USING THE SYSTEM.

I THINK PREVIOUSLY, THIS BALANCE WAS SLIGHTLY OFF AND NEW PROJECTS SUCH AS THE SECOND AVENUE SUBWAY OR PROVIDING JERSEY TRANSIT WITH MIDTOWN DIRECT SERVICE EXPANDED THE SYSTEM WITHOUT CREATING THE INFRASTRUCTURE NECESSARY TO SUPPORT IT.

WHEN YOU LOOK AT THIS FROM YOUR PERSPECTIVE, RETHINKING, ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT JUST GOING ON OUT THERE NOW FOR CHANGE AND FOR FIXES.

ARE YOU TALK ABOUT ALMOST DOING AWAY WITH THAT COMPLETELY AND LET'S TAKE A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT AND NEW APPROACH TO THINGS?

I THINK BOTH TO A CERTAIN EXTENT.

OUR PLAN IS BUILT ON EXISTING INFRASTRUCTURE AND BUILT ON THE BUDGETS TO BE PRACTICAL.

WE'RE ALSO RETHINKING ABOUT SOME OF THE UNDERLYING PREMISES IN NEW YORK.

ROBERT MOSES WHO REALLY CONTROLS CONSTRUCTION DEVELOPMENT IN THE CITY IN THE 20th CENTURY HAD CREATED A SYSTEM WHERE THE CAR WAS DOMINANT OUTSIDE MANHATTAN.

WE THINK THAT PREMISE NEEDS TO BE RETHOUGHT.

A LOT OF TRANSPORTATION PROPOSALS OUT THERE STILL KEEP THAT OLD THINKING.

THE NEW HUDSON RIVER TUNNELS, THE PORT AUTHORITY BUS TERMINAL AND SOME OF THE SECONDARY PROJECTS LIKE THE SECOND AVENUE SUBWAY EXTENSION ALL COULD USE A RETHINK TO SEE OUR TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM NOT AS A COMMUTER RAIL SYSTEM TO GET INTO MANHATTEN BUT FUNCTION AS A TRANSPORTATION REGION.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE THINKS YOU WOULD FOCUS MOST ON ESSENTIALLY INITIALLY?

I THINK THERE'S A HUGE OPPORTUNITY WITH GATEWAY LIKE IN LONDON.

IT CONNECTS TRAINS FROM THE EAST WITH TRAINS COMING IN FROM THE WEST.

WE HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO DO THE SAME.

THE PROGRAM FOR GATEWAY DOESN'T DO THAT.

IT BUILDS A NEW TERMINAL SOUTH OF THE EXISTING PENN STATION.

THERE'S AN OPPORTUNITY TO BE ABLE TO UNITE LONG ISLAND AND NEW JERSEY WITH THE TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM THAT WORKS FOR EVERYBODY.

OBVIOUSLY, THERE'S ALL SORTS OF ISSUES INCLUDING COST AND INFRASTRUCTURE.

PEOPLE HAVE SAID ONE OF THE MAYOR HURDLES IS GETTING EVERYBODY TO WORK TOGETHER.

YOU HAVE THESE VARIOUS ENTITIES AND THEY ALL HAVE THEIR OWN TO CERTAIN EXTENT, AGENDAS.

HOW DO YOU GET PAST THAT?

ALL THE MAJOR TRANSPORTATION PLANNERS OUT THERE SUPPORT THE CONCEPT OF THROUGH RUNNING.

IT JUST WORKS.

THE EFFICIENCY ON THE TRACK LEVEL AND TRAIN LEVEL AND CUSTOMER LEVEL IS FAR GREATER.

THERE'S NO QUESTION ABOUT THAT.

YOU MENTION THE COST.

WE'RE SPENDING MONEY ANY WAY ON PROJECTS LIKE AMTRAK'S GATEWAY PROJECT OR THE PORT AUTHORITY BUS TERMINAL, WE CAN DIRECT IN A WAY THAT'S IN THE CONTEXT OF A MODERN TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM.

WE CAN DEAL WITH THE COST.

ONCE YOU HAVE DEALT WITH THE COST AND THE REASON WHY, NEED TO BE ABLE TO WORK TOGETHER BECOMES MUCH MORE APPARENT BECAUSE THE OTHER ISSUES HAVE BEEN SOLVED FIRST.

LAST QUESTION.

THIS SOUNDS SO REASONABLE.

IT MAKES SO MUCH SENSE.

ARE YOU OPTIMISTIC THAT YOU COULD SEE THE POLITICAL WILL TO GET THIS DONE AND ALSO THE ABILITY TO WRITE THE CHECKS TO GET THIS DONE?

YES AND NO.

I THINK IT'S VERY DIFFICULT TO GET CHECKS WRITTEN.

THE PRESENT GATEWAY TUNNELS ARE HAVING DIFFICULTY WITH THAT.

THAT'S A PRECURSOR FOR OUR PLAN.

I DON'T WANT TO BE UNREALISTIC ABOUT THAT.

THE TRANSPORTATION PROJECTS ALREADY ALREADY THERE IN PLACE ARE DIFFICULT.

IN TERMS OF WILL, WE HAVE A GOVERNOR WHO HAS MADE HIS CAUSE SOLVING THESE TRANSPORTATION PLANS ON A LONG TERM BASIS AKIN TO ERA OF FDR AND ROBERT MOSES.

HE'S TALKED ABOUT NEED FOR HOLISTIC THINKING AND DOING THINGS.

HIS FATHER WAS WONDERFUL.

I THINK HE CAN SURPASS HIS FATHER WITH THE RIGHT AMOUNT OF THINKING BIGGER ABOUT THIS.

.

THEY MAKE A LOT OF SENSE.

ALL VERY ENCOURAGING IDEAS.

SOME PEOPLE WILL LISTEN TO YOU AND MIGHT SEE SOME PROGRESS IN THE NEAR FUTURE.

THANKS FOR SPENDING TIME WITH US AND TALKING TO US.

WE APPRECIATE IT.

THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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