On October 30, SMPS New York and Arup hosted a panel of infrastructure experts and community change agents to help us understand the current and future states of some of the New York City (NYC)-metro area’s key infrastructure initiatives. This was a conversation worth watching unfold in-real time, with big take-aways and a deeper understanding of how community advocacy can positively impact the future outcomes of these plans. We also discussed the duty we have, as consumers of public infrastructure, to keep the momentum moving forward.

First, I’d like to extend a special thank you to our program sponsor, ARUP; and to our Moderator, Gia Mainiero, AIA, LEED AP BD+C of Dattner Architects, for leading the conversation with our guest speakers Brian Fritsch, Campaign Manager, Public for Penn & Build Gateway Now,  The Regional Plan Association; Nick Sifuentes, Executive Director, Tri-State Transformation Campaign, and Stephen Sigmund, Chief of Public Outreach, The Gateway Program.   

What I am sharing is not a play by play of the conversation, but it’s my goal to inspire anyone reading this to get involved and be engaged with your infrastructure. It is important to remember that transportation agencies are a Board of Directors and ultimately, we, the public, are their shareholders.

Infrastructure – The importance of self-care (prevention & expertise)

When I think of NYC infrastructure, I picture an intricate and complex network of movement – like blood pumping through a body’s circulatory system.

This network of roads, trains, buses, subways, and bridges are all designed to connect people, businesses and communities. According to Regional Plan Association, the New York commuter rail system has 375 existing stations and connects 967 route miles. (Fun Fact: The Regional Plan Association projects an increase in daily NYC-bound commuters, between 2015-2040 to be about 315,000 people – that’s about the size of St. Paul, MN. Can you imagine if ALL of St. Paul commuted in and out of NYC daily)?  

The key to any healthy “system” is movement without obstruction. Maintaining a constant fluidity is vital to the success of the city’s economy and operations. We, as consumers of transit, are dependent on the health of our network for survival. Our relationship with NYC’s infrastructure is a symbiotic. When the ecosystem is in balance, we are happy. When this ecosystem starts to break down, we have a breakdown.

Investment in a sound wellness plan for our infrastructure is equally important to the investments we make in our own self-care. If we ignore the symptoms of strain or just “power through” when something breaks it may be convenient for the moment, but it doesn’t solve the need for long term relief. 

Example: I was stargazing off my deck one lovely evening and took a step too far to the left of the side of the platform, when I felt a snap. Instead of going to the minute clinic, I attempted to hobble about – for a month. I mean, why bother getting help? Wrapping the wound in an ACE bandage, a little ice, and a slight limp will keep me moving – right? Well, when the pain and grotesque swelling became obvious to everyone, and finally to me — I consulted a professional orthopedic. My ankle sprain grade was a 3 OF 3 – not safe for walking. What was the lesson – prevention and expertise. Prevention: If my deck had the proper infrastructure to begin with (i.e. a railing) I could have avoided the injury. Expertise: consulting a medical professional at the onset may have accelerated healing time (the right way).     

Infrastructure – Wellness Plans

Believe it or not there is a focus on a similar premise of prevention and expertise underway, right now, right under our feet (and our butts) in New York City. If you are not aware of these plans, you should make yourself aware. Start following them on social media, attend a live community outreach event. I like to think of them as infrastructure wellness plans. These initiatives are providing the framework and strategy for tomorrow’s infrastructure solutions and are worth our support:

The Regional Plan Association – The Fourth Regional Plan

  • Fast Forward Plan – Will deliver CBTC on 5 lines in 5 years, benefiting 3 million daily riders. Within 10 years, 5 million daily riders will be on resignaled lines
  • Port Authority Bus Terminal – Three options under review to affect 350K trips/day
  • East Side Access – Provides one-seat ride from Long Island to East Midtown
  • Penn Access – Provides one-seat ride from Westchester and Fairfield to Penn Station
  • Triboro Line – Connecting the Bronx, Queens & Brooklyn
  • Gateway East – Direct service to East Side of Manhattan and Sunnyside Yards in Queens
  • Social

The MTA’s Tri-Sate Transformation Campaigns as part of the MTA’s 2020 Capital Plan 

  • Build Trust – the 2020-2024 Capital Program proposes administrative restructuring and consolidation of MTA agencies and would affect the Authority’s procurement, hiring and collective bargaining procedures.
  • Congestion Pricing – MTA Bridges & Tunnels will develop a plan for a cordon-based tolling system for the Central Business District; The CBD Tolling Program will generate an estimated $15 billion to support this Capital Program, after providing for implementation costs.
  • Bus Turnaround – To deliver the improvements that New Yorkers want with a modern network, the MTA is redesigning it to provide better connectivity and more direct service.
  • Electrify NY – 500 electric buses are part of a commitment by the MTA to transition to a fully clean fleet by 2040.
  • Social:

The Gateway Project – Two initial projects have fully funded local commitments and are co-dependent on each other for success

  • Hudson Tunnel Project – Construction of a new two-track Hudson River Tunnel creates reliability, resiliency and redundancy;
  • Portal North Bridge Project – rehab of existing North River Tunnel without interrupting Amtrak & NJ TRANSIT Northeast Corridor service.
  • Social:

Infrastructure – Community, Commitment and Collaboration

In closing, my call to action is simple. Engage. Engage. Engage. Get involved. We as marketers for the firms we support and the clients we serve can make an impact if we commit to awareness and action.  And if you do not like what you see or hear — speaking up is highly encouraged.  It is a universal cliché but weighted in truth: if we want to see change, we need to proactively engage and be the change we want to see. You are a stakeholder.