Regional transportation study suggests ‘micro-transit’

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MID-HUDSON – Orange, Ulster, and Dutchess’ Transportation Councils released the results of the Connect Mid-Hudson Transit Study Thursday evening, during a public virtual conference and presentation.

The findings and recommendations from the study, which began in 2018, suggest improving the technological infrastructure of regional transit, based on results of 1,295 surveys representing 75 percent ridership and 25 percent non-riders.

In the vein of technological improvement, one of the implements backed by data is creation of micro-transit services. Micro-transit acts like a public Uber, or Lyft, and allows riders to directly request vehicles. Depending on the density of the service area, different size vehicles would be utilized and evaluation of that type of service outside of the region suggests it could fill service gaps, improve routes between townships, as well as improve availability to the Metro-North and Amtrak stations in the area. This would specifically mitigate current lack of midday service from Beacon to Newburgh, the absence of service to the Rhinecliff Amtrak and provide direct routing from Bearsville to Woodstock, for example.

Senior Transportation Planning and Project Manager at Foursquare ITP, Boris Palchik, who was enlisted to guide the study, was optimistic that the three counties would adopt micro-transit services.

“Dutchess County, for example, has already started studying micro-transit,” he said. “As we complete our study and hand over the recommendations to the three counties that we’re working with, it’s likely that the other two will look into this as well. The only barriers, really, to implementation is money.”

The study recommends a 10-zone micro-transit service area across the three counties. Those areas would be the 17M/US-6 corridor, a west of Newburgh area, an east of Newburgh area, Beacon to Newburgh on both sides of the Hudson, south Poughkeepsie, northern Dutchess, southern Ulster County, Bearsville/Woodstock and West Hurley. However, Palchik said launching a pilot in a few of those areas, which is in line with what other municipalities have done, could provide valuable feedback as to whether micro-transit is feasible in the region.

The study also points towards the tech of transit signal priority (TSP). This system will allow transit vehicles to have priority in signaled intersections. It could be implemented as either a passive system, where signaling is programmed to be more conducive to transit vehicles based on time of day, or it could be active where the system will recognize transit vehicles and the signals will give them priority in real-time. Active systems will require more technological infrastructure and transit vehicles would have to be equipped with transponders to communicate with the traffic signals.

The full presentation will become available Friday through the various counties’ websites and the findings submitted to each county for evaluation.