Access to basic goods and services, whether health care, groceries, or community facilities, should be available to all people, regardless of whether they have a personal vehicle. Incomplete sidewalks, a lack of dedicated bicycle facilities, and limited transit service present barriers. High-crash locations (for walking, bicycling, and driving) and congestion can also present barriers.
For this analysis, we considered access to hospitals, clinics, and pharmacies; grocery stores and food banks; and community centers, municipal halls, post offices and libraries. We identified barriers to access related to bus service, walking and bicycling infrastructure, safety, and congestion. Our walkability analysis is based solely on sidewalk coverage. See our Methodology document for more information, and our Barriers to Basic Needs Map for details.
Health Care (hospitals, clinics, & pharmacies)
There are three hospitals in Dutchess County that serve the public: Northern Dutchess Hospital, Mid-Hudson Regional Hospital, and Vassar Brothers Medical Center. For clinics, we focused on urgent care facilities and other clinics that serve outpatients without an appointment. There are 16 of these clinics in Dutchess County. We also evaluated 54 pharmacies, including those at hospitals and in large grocery stores.
How walkable are the areas around health care facilities?
While people needing medical attention may not walk to a hospital, staff, visitors, and some patients may, if it were a feasible option. Similarly, sidewalk access to clinics and pharmacies allows shorter trips to be made by foot.
Both Vassar Brothers and Mid-Hudson Regional hospital have good sidewalk coverage within a half mile. The area around Northern Dutchess has more limited sidewalk connections but is still moderately walkable.
About half of the clinics and pharmacies are generally walkable (with at least 20 percent sidewalk coverage, which in our analysis reflects decent walkability). This includes locations in our cities, town centers, and villages. But 30 percent of pharmacies and clinics have either no sidewalks at all or less than 10 percent sidewalk coverage, which in most cases makes walking infeasible. The remaining locations (with between 10 and 20 percent coverage) are somewhat walkable but could benefit from improvements.
How frequent is bus service to health care facilities?
Bus access can provide transportation options for health care clients and staff as well as hospital visitors. However, medical trips often occur during off-peak times, and some health care workers have non-traditional schedules, so bus schedules may need to be adjusted to accommodate these trips.
Overall, about half of the health care facilities have frequent weekday service. This includes Vassar Brothers and Mid-Hudson Regional hospitals, about half of the clinics, and half of the pharmacies. Another 15 percent have somewhat frequent service, while 25 percent have infrequent service (including Northern Dutchess Hospital) and about 10 percent have no weekday service.
On Saturdays, service is slightly less, and Northern Dutchess hospital has no service. On Sundays, no facilities have frequent service, and only a quarter of facilities have somewhat frequent service. More than half the facilities have no Sunday service.
How many health care facilities have access to a rail trail?
Rail trail access to hospitals, clinics, and pharmacies can provide a safe and healthy transportation option for staff to get to work, clients to access a doctor, and people to pick up a prescription.
However, rail trail access is very limited—about 15 percent of the health care facilities (12 total) are within a half mile of a rail trail. This includes several facilities near the Dutchess Rail Trail in the City of Poughkeepsie (including Mid-Hudson Regional Hospital), Town of Poughkeepsie, and Hopewell Junction, as well as a pharmacy in North East and clinic in Amenia near the Harlem Valley Rail Trail. And aside from the Stop & Shop pharmacy in the Town of Poughkeepsie, none of these facilities have a designated on- or off-street connection to the trail. The planned urban trail in Poughkeepsie will increase bicycle access to the Mid-Hudson Regional Hospital campus, which also includes a pharmacy and various medical offices.
How many health care facilities are near high-crash or high-congestion locations?
People often avoid streets or intersections with known safety or congestion issues, which can limit access to nearby destinations. In addition, delays due to crashes or congestion can be particularly problematic for access to critical health care services, both for personal vehicles and emergency response vehicles.
Overall, almost 60 percent of the health care facilities are near a high-crash location. This includes all three hospitals, about 70 percent of the clinics, and more than half of the pharmacies. These include locations in southwestern Dutchess as well as Hyde Park, Pleasant Valley, and Rhinebeck.
About 20 percent of the health care facilities are near a high-congestion location. This includes facilities near the 44/55 approach to the Mid-Hudson Bridge in the City of Poughkeepsie (including Vassar Brothers Hospital), near Route 52 and Route 9 in Fishkill, and near Route 55 in LaGrange.
OTHER HOSPITALS SERVING DUTCHESS RESIDENTS
The Castle Point VA Medical Center, located in northwest Fishkill, serves veterans. It has bus access via Dutchess County Public Transit Route B, with up to 11 stops per day between 6am and 9pm on weekdays and Saturdays, and 4 stops per day on Sundays.
Sharon Hospital, just east of the Amenia/North East border in Sharon, Connecticut, serves many northeast Dutchess residents. The Northeast Community Center’s Northeast Dutchess Transit program provides trips to the hospital for residents of several eastern Dutchess towns.
"I mostly drive everywhere, but it would be nice to know I could use the bus if necessary, because sometimes I'm stuck at home without a car. In the back of my mind, I worry that I might need to get to the doctor's office or a hospital for me or my daughter, but it might not be a situation that warrants the cost of an ambulance."
- Moving Dutchess Forward survey
Grocery Stores & Food Banks
There are 30 grocery stores and five permanent food banks (open every day) in Dutchess County. Sidewalk, bus, and bicycle access to these resources is particularly important for people without a car, including many food bank patrons and others who cannot or choose not to drive. Congested and high-crash locations affect access by car but can also make buses late and people on bicycle or on foot feel unsafe.
How walkable are the areas around food resources?
About one-third of grocery stores are in walkable locations (with at least 20 percent sidewalk coverage). This includes markets in the cities of Poughkeepsie and Beacon, town centers and villages, and parts of Route 9 with relatively complete sidewalks. But 40 percent of grocery stores have either no sidewalks at all or less than 10 percent sidewalk coverage, which in most cases makes walking infeasible. The remaining stores (with between 10 and 20 percent coverage) are somewhat walkable but could benefit from improvements. In addition, many stores do not have good walking connections between the main access road and their entrance.
The walkability of the food banks varies. Locations in the cities of Poughkeepsie and Beacon are very walkable and the Red Hook location is mostly walkable, but the Amenia location has no sidewalks at all.
How frequent is bus service to food resources?
Two-thirds of all grocery stores have either frequent or somewhat frequent transit service on weekdays. However, seven stores have infrequent service, and three stores (in LaGrange, Pine Plains, and Amenia) have no weekday service. Saturday service is similar, but Sunday service is more limited—no stores have frequent service, one-third have somewhat frequent service (these are all in the City and Town of Poughkeepsie), five stores have infrequent service, and half of the stores have no service.
In addition, Dutchess County Public Transit riders are limited to four bags, which can make it harder to use the bus for grocery shopping. Shoppers without access to a vehicle often rely on friends or ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft.
The Poughkeepsie and Beacon food banks have frequent weekday bus service and the Red Hook location has somewhat frequent service. However, the Amenia location has infrequent service. Saturday service is the same. On Sundays, only the food banks in Poughkeepsie and Beacon have service; it is somewhat frequent in Poughkeepsie and infrequent in Beacon.
How many food resources have access to a rail trail?
None of the food banks and only three of the grocery stores (Adams and Stop & Shop in Poughkeepsie and Acme in East Fishkill) are within a half mile of a rail trail. But proximity does not ensure access. In the case of Stop & Stop, there is a trail access at Love Road that connects to the grocery store parking lot. To access Adams, riders could cut through residential areas but would then have to use a busy State road. And to access Acme, riders would also need to use busy State roads, though the Town is working on improved connections. In the Harlem Valley, Freshtown of Amenia is just over a mile from the Harlem Valley Rail Trail, but again, much of the connection is along a State road.
How many food resources are near high-crash or high-congestion locations?
Two-thirds of the grocery stores are near a high-crash location. These mainly include stores in southwestern Dutchess, including many along Route 9. The food banks in the cities of Poughkeepsie and Beacon are also near a high-crash location.
Four of the grocery stores and two of the food banks are near a high-congestion location. These include stores in the Village and Town of Fishkill near Route 9 and Route 52, in LaGrange near Route 55, and in the City of Poughkeepsie near the Route 44/55 access to the Mid-Hudson Bridge, as well as the food banks in Poughkeepsie.
FOOD ACCESS DURING COVID
Access to food was a critical issue during the COVID pandemic, and the often-hidden problem of food insecurity became much more visible. Many people were afraid to go to grocery stores since they tend to be crowded, and people diagnosed or exposed to COVID were homebound. In addition, people who rely on food banks were in many cases not able to go to them due to lack of transportation and/or concerns for their health.
As part of its Dutchess Responds effort, the County organized food deliveries to anyone in need, coordinating with Dutchess Outreach and the Community Action Partnership (CAP) of Dutchess County. In total, almost 14,000 meals were delivered to more than 580 households over a 70-day period. This experience highlighted the need for more comprehensive and coordinated solutions to food access and food insecurity.
There are 16 community centers, 24 public libraries, 30 town, village, and city halls, and 38 post offices in Dutchess County. These facilities are often central to the community, both geographically and functionally. They provide programs and services that fulfill basic needs for people of all ages. But many patrons may be too young or too old to drive, making safe and convenient access via foot, bus, and bicycle more important. For those who do drive, safety concerns and congestion can limit access.
How walkable are the areas around community facilities?
Most of the community centers are moderately walkable, particularly those in cities or village centers. Those in more suburban locations, such as the towns of Beekman, East Fishkill, Fishkill, and Poughkeepsie, are less walkable, as is the senior center in Amenia. The Red Hook community center also has few sidewalks, despite its location within the village.
Sidewalk access to municipal halls varies widely and generally reflects the walkability of the overall community. About half are walkable; these include the two city halls, eight village halls, and a few town halls located within villages or hamlets. Four halls—the towns of Hyde Park, Pleasant Valley, Red Hook, and Wappinger—are moderately walkable but could be improved. Our remaining municipal halls either have no sidewalks at all or are in suburban locations with minimal sidewalks (East Fishkill, Fishkill, and LaGrange).
Similar to municipal halls, about half of our libraries are quite walkable. These include those in our cities and villages, as well as two libraries in rural hamlets (Amenia and Pine Plains). The Hyde Park and Pleasant Valley libraries are moderately walkable, but connections to surrounding areas could be improved. Seven of the libraries have no sidewalks at all and three have minimal sidewalks.
Sidewalk access to post offices varies. About 40 percent are walkable, including those in our cities and villages, on Route 9 in Poughkeepsie and in the Pleasant Valley hamlet. One-third of post offices have no sidewalks or very minimal sidewalks—these are in rural areas and small hamlets (e.g. Billings, Chelsea, Holmes, Salt Point). The remaining quarter are somewhat walkable and could benefit from additional sidewalk connections. These include libraries in rural hamlets (such as Dover Plains and Wassaic) and suburban town centers (such as Hopewell Junction and Lagrangeville).
How frequent is bus service to community facilities?
Transit access to community facilities tends to follow a consistent pattern: on weekdays, locations in southwestern Dutchess have frequent service; locations in village and town centers in western Dutchess have somewhat frequent service; villages and more suburban locations in southern Dutchess have infrequent service; and rural areas have no service. Saturday service is slightly less, while Sunday service is mostly infrequent or not present.
How many community facilities have access to a rail trail?
Only a few of our community facilities (about 15 percent) are near a rail trail. These include facilities near the Dutchess Rail Trail in the City and Town of Poughkeepsie and in Hopewell Junction, along the Harlem Valley Rail Trail in Millerton, Amenia, and Wassaic, and along the new Empire State Trail in Stormville and Pawling.
However, in most of these locations, a connection to the trail (via an on-street facility or an off-street path) has not been designated. Improving trail connections to these nearby facilities would improve walking and bicycling access.
How many community facilities are near high-crash or high-congestion locations?
One-third of our community facilities are near a high-crash location. These mainly include locations in southwestern Dutchess, as well as one location in Pawling, a few in Pleasant Valley, and a few in Rhinebeck.
Only a handful of our community facilities (8 percent) are near a high-congestion location. These include locations in Fishkill near Route 52/I-84 and near Route 9/Route 52; in Poughkeepsie near Route 44/55; and in the LaGrange town center near Route 55.
Based on this analysis, our role could include the following:
- Improve sidewalk access to health care, grocery stores, and community facilities, particularly in somewhat walkable areas such as rural hamlets and suburban town centers where additional connections could make walking a feasible option. Prioritize sidewalk improvements that provide access to these and other basic needs when reviewing projects for federal, state, and county funding.
- Work with County Public Transit to improve transit service to health care, grocery stores, and community facilities. Use access to basic needs as a key criterion when choosing where to provide or extend service. Consider alternate transit models for access to these destinations when fixed-route service is not feasible.
- Improve bicycle access to health care, grocery stores, and community facilities. Work with municipalities, road and property owners, and other partners to provide designated on- or off-street connections to key destinations.
- Consider access to health care, grocery stores, and community facilities, as well as other basic needs, when evaluating potential safety and congestion-related improvements. Provide additional weight for projects that improve access to basic needs in our project selection criteria.