Greetings everyone! My name is Jason M. Jones and this is my first blog entry for Our Energy Independence Community. I was introduced to OEIC during the Skidmore Energy Summit and had subsequent discussions with Dan Gibson regarding a blog for the world of parking and transportation. My primary business role is Operations Supervisor for Parking and Transportation at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY overseeing a fleet of 12 vehicles including 2 propane buses, 45 parking lots containing nearly 3,100 parking spaces, 1 five-level parking garage with 500 parking spaces, and 20 staff members both ticket enforcement and shuttle drivers. Although we do not have the largest school in the area the location in a dense urban area creates numerous parking and transportation challenges which I surprisingly enjoy. My goal is to write both informative and common sense blogs in an attempt to view parking and transportation from both the business world and personal journeys.
During a recent trip to Orlando, Florida I had the opportunity to focus on the extensive and well-organized parking and transportation systems in place. While most visitors are fascinated with the land of imagination I was equally captivated by the intermodal connectivity of the parking and transportation systems from the airport, hotel, and main attractions. Upon exiting the plane and entering the airport passenger area you are directed to board a monorail to the car rental/bus transportation area. There is simply a sign that states “monorails arrive every 5-7 minutes”. Good enough for my wife and I, that’s a very manageable wait even as excited as one can be for vacation. Once we obtained the rental car we simply found the highway due to the extensive way finding system present. Now, at the hotel we have the option of using the scheduled bus service to Disneyworld or we can use the rental car. In this instance the scheduled bus departures did not fit our schedule so we drove adding to the Spring Break traffic congestion.
While traveling to the theme park we had no issues locating the parking area. Once again, a very extensive way finding system is in place. The intermodal capabilities of Disneyworld are quite easy to understand and relate to. They handle millions of visitors each year and succeed with minimal challenges. They have tram cars and boats as well as rail and bus systems to get visitors and guests from the plentiful parking areas or resorts to their main attractions. I remember going there as a kid being told that the monorail was the transportation system of the future. Well, here we are 25 years later and I have already used the monorail twice in less than 3 hours but yet no signs of this system in the Capital District.
So, why is it that when we go on vacation we have minimal issues utilizing multiple transportation options that include transfers and wait times? When we commute to work or school on a daily basis intermodal connectivity most times is not even a consideration. Even when the schedule did not fit our needs on that one day, it did the next. Certainly there are some areas of the country that have a similar climate as ours, especially in the Northwest, that have taken on the intermodal challenge and have succeeded. This brings us to the question of - what is the real intermodal challenge in the Capital District? We could list the wide array of challenges but will stay focused on only a couple.
One of those challenges is the single vehicle commute is really not that bad. Most of us that travel Interstate 87 (Northway) or the Thruway can get from door to door very quickly. Conversely, there have been numerous occasions where I follow the same vehicle from exit to exit realizing this doesn’t make much sense. Another challenge is that the traffic flows in the area are quite predictable and can be properly planned for. Most travelers go east and south in the morning and west and north in the afternoon. Personally commuting from Saratoga County to Albany or Rensselaer counties for the last 6 years has even further justified that the traffic flows are not that bad. Ok, there is some congestion between 7:30a-8:45a and 4:30p-6p but other than that the traffic flows are very light. How many drivers in large cities would sign-up for the commute we have?
The use of multiple and diverse transportation systems may not work today or be abundantly available in the Capital Region but what about tomorrow? Knowing carpooling, vanpooling, and transit bus services are currently available shows there is a strong movement to utilize multiple forms of transportation other than the single occupancy vehicle. However, as the area continues to grow, fuel prices escalate, and the commute eventually worsens there will be a need for high speed rail, boat or trolleys, and other modes of transport regardless of what in-depth, expensive studies otherwise have shown. Sometimes basic rational should be the guide. Believe me, I have conducted several transportation management and statistical studies as well as presentations to large audiences knowing they can be formatted to fit a group needs or vision. New transportation systems today cost millions and millions of dollars but what will the cost be in 15-25 years from now when we really need them? Billions and billions is the answer!
Jason M. Jones can be reached through Member email or by commenting about this blog. Jason has served in the world of parking, transportation, and special event management for over 13 years now. Prior to RPI Jason was a consultant for traffic management operations statewide, in particular the Capital District. Earlier in his career he provided supporting roles for large scale events which included the Kentucky Derby, Major League Baseball All Star Game, New York University exercises, and concert/sporting gatherings at Pepsi Arena (now Times Union Center).