Destiny USA and OnTrack
11/18/2007 10:36:00 AM | Author: baloghblog
The discussion about what to do with the OnTrack local rail system has been reignited over the past few weeks. Michael Bragman wrote an op-ed in today's paper, pleading for city and county officials not to give up on the beleaguered train. He believes that control of the project should be given to the New York, Susquehanna, & Western Railroad as a way to speed the completion process of the Park St. bridge, which would link OnTrack to the Regional Transportation center. This project has been funded and abandoned several times.

I posted several years ago - believing that the connection to the Regional Transportation Center would be the push that OnTrack needed to get moving again. I also called for any Destiny USA expansion to be required to include an expanded mass transit program. Bragman fails to mention any link between OnTrack and Destiny USA in his op-ed. I believe that this is an omission of a large piece of the puzzle. No self proclaimed "green" hotel or mall should be given LEED certification, in my eyes, if the primary access to the site is by automobile.

From my post:
The connection to the transportation center is a key step that must go forward to improve ridership on OnTrack. Hotels in the downtown area would benefit, as those taking Amtrak or the bus into Syracuse would have a direct, and cheap way to get to their hotel. Next, if you could get the train to extend to the airport, we would really encourage a larger ridership and a much more accessible city. As an aside, no DestinyUSA plan should be drawn up that doesn't include using public transportation using light rail, and given the proximity of the R&D park to both the Airport and Transportation Center, this seems like a great time to start talking about the expansion of OnTrack.
Congel would be crazy not to push for an expansion of OnTrack to Hancock International. What an easy way to fill rooms at the proposed hotel? For example, a sustainability or green building conference could be held at the hotel, with participants flying in to Hancock, taking OnTrack to Destiny USA and the hotel. Or regional attendees could come into town via Amtrak and catch the commuter rail to their final destination. During their free time, they could use Centro or OnTrack to venture down to have dinner and drinks in Armory and downtown, or catch an SU game up on the hill. Better yet, a regional transportation pass could allow them to jump on the Connective Corridor and attend a play at Syracuse Stage, an art exhibit at the Everson Museum, or a Crunch game at the War Memorial.

Destiny USA could sponsor the train, and power it with biodiesel, keeping the project fossil fuel free. New York, Susquehanna, & Western Railroad could get the tax breaks, to keep the trains running on time and to upgrade and maintain station integrity.

Bragman goes on to dream of a Montreal Line via the CSX rails up through the northern burbs, Oneida Lake, the Salmon River and points northward. I think that this is a wonderful idea. Though, the opinions I've heard are that CSX is stingy with its freight lines, and tends to hold up commuter and long distance trains for its freight trains. Boston appears to be grappling with this very issue now.

What I dream of is more local. What about a resurrected trolley line running north and south along Salina Street? One end could reach the Destiny USA project, then come down Solar Street past the inner harbor, before making a turn towards Salina and making it's way past Clinton Square and into the Centro Station downtown. Future expansions could extend the rail line further south along Salina St. allowing for a quicker trip into the city from the South Side as well as boost to revitalization efforts in the South Side neighborhood. The line would help connect the Little Italy section of North Salina to downtown, a transition that has been lacking, and slowing the regrowth of the North Side.
The same could be said for the lack of connection between the North Salina St. area and Hanover Square. The two are separated only by a few blocks. There happens to be a large highway interchange that presents somewhat of a physical barrier, as you must pass underneath the elevated highways to get from one neighborhood to the other. I believe that the barrier is more a mental one than a physical one. That stretch of sidewalk at first glance is a long, lonely and empty one. Just foreboding enough to compute as a distance that should be driven when in fact it is less than 1/2 a mile.
A streetcar line that runs along this route would be an attraction in itself. Who in Syracuse has ridden a streetcar, besides those who are old enough to remember the last gasps of the early 1900's lines prior to the dismantling to make room for the automobile, or those that have traveled to places like San Francisco?

I think that it is time for us to ask more of Robert Congel than a sparkly new "green" hotel and more shopping options. Congel has a great opportunity to show that Destiny USA can be a part of our county, our city, and our community. I hope that he'll consider linking the mall expansion and hotel with Hancock International, the Regional Transporation Center, downtown and the SU Hill, and sit down with the newly elected Mahoney administration and become part of the OnTrack discussion.
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On 12:04 PM , Josh said...

i've told people before and i firmly believe this: if there were a north-south line on the salina/81 corridor and an east-west line on the erie/690 corridor, ontrack would be one of the most-used small-city public transit systems in the northeast, if not the country. you get two trains on each route, going in the opposite direction, which gives you about 20-25 minutes between runs.

the problem has been it doesn't go from anywhere people are to anywhere people want to be. if i have to drive downtown, i might as well put in the extra five minutes to drive to the mall or the university.

but if i could walk the half-mile from my house to salina and hop on the train, get downtown in five minutes, wait a few minutes, and take the east-west train to work in dewitt, i'd take a round trip at least five times a week, probably more.

not to mention, of course, the times i could use it for heading to social gatherings -- many of which are a short walk from a downtown station, a tipp hill-area stop, or in the university area.

it's not brain surgery. if your system isn't getting riders, it's not because people don't want to take the train, it's because people don't want to go where and when you want to take them.

On 1:33 PM , joebass123 said...

awesome post. i agree with everything that's being said. with rising gas prices and needing a way to bring some identity to downtown (as well as connecting points of interest for residents and visitors) you would think a project like this would be a no-brainer for the city to jump on.

a salina line would be great. and it would only ease parking issues for city residents. though i think the lighting systems and street patterns (warren st specifically) would need to be re-worked, as salina in downtown is already a mess during rush hour.

if city passenger service is ever going to be utilized here, you would need to run the service everyday, mornings and nights. and a "night owl" service (similar to what boston had a few years ago) for late times on the weekends wouldn't be a bad idea either.

On 7:34 PM , NYCO said...

Steve, it is so ironic that you are proposing trolleys: as you probably know, Syracuse had trolleys decades ago. In fact, most ironically, there was a piece of old trolley track near the Dinosaur coming into the Clinton Square that kept surfacing through the pavement - a reminder of the past. The city finally got around to removing it just a couple weeks ago.

No self proclaimed "green" hotel or mall should be given LEED certification, in my eyes, if the primary access to the site is by automobile.

Is there a national criticism about LEED happening about that? Because I think that's an excellent point.

On 8:47 AM , Lea Petra said...

Trolleys would be a great idea for the downtown, Destiny, and university routes. Leaving more buses for the longer routes, Possibly adding days and more flexibility to the routes that run out of the city.
In Providence, RI. The trolleys were used primarily for those areas, and were a great way to get tourists to use them. Syracuse could take the same idea and really improve it's transportation image.
I would also like to see Destiny adding walk and bike paths to the mall as well. Whats the use of being a Green Mall, when you have to drive there?