Metro North Railroad, Poughkeepsie, New York
Dutchess County is fortunate to have two train lines – the Harlem Line in eastern Dutchess carrying Metro-North trains south to New York City, and the Hudson Line, running parallel to the River, carrying Metro-North trains south to New York City and Amtrak trains south and north to Albany and beyond. Train stations are shown on our Barriers to Reliable Access Map.
How walkable are our train stations?
As of the 2010 Census, over 7,000 residents lived within a half mile of a train station – about 60 percent of whom lived near the City of Poughkeepsie station. With a good sidewalk network, many of these residents could safely walk to the station if they chose. Of our nine full-service train stations, four (Poughkeepsie, Beacon, Pawling, and Dover Plains) have at least 20 percent sidewalk coverage within a half-mile, which we find reflects decent walkability. While a few of the remaining Harlem Valley stations are in rural areas with little population nearby, the Rhinecliff and New Hamburg stations are notable for having substantial populations nearby but almost no sidewalks.
How bikeable are our train stations?
Only one of our stations is close to a rail trail: the Wassaic station at the end of the Harlem Line. For many years, the station was the southern terminus of the Harlem Valley Rail Trail, allowing residents in Amenia and other destinations north to bike or walk to the train if they wished. The Town of Amenia recently completed their Trail to the Train project, extending the trail south to the nearby hamlet of Wassaic. This connection expands the number of residents who can access the station without a car, and also enables tourists and other trail users to access the hamlet and its local businesses.
Along with a safe, bikeable route to the station, train riders need a safe place to store their bikes. We evaluated bicycle parking at train stations for our Congestion Management Process’s Multi-Modal Accessibility Analysis. We found that only four stations, all along the lesser-used Harlem Line, have long-term bicycle storage lockers. Adding secure long-term bike parking, especially at stations that see more bicyclists – namely, Beacon and Poughkeepsie – could remove a major barrier for people who would like to use a bike for their trips to and from the train. For more on bike parking, see the Bicycle Parking section of our Walking and Bicycling Resources webpage.
How many of our train stations have bus connections?
Bus connections can greatly expand access to train stations, providing a first- and last-mile option for residents without a car and reducing the demand for limited parking at stations. Of course, this only works if the bus arrives when train passengers need it, but coordination of bus service is difficult given the frequency of changes to train schedules (especially during COVID-related service cuts) and the impact a shift in bus timing can have on the rest of the route. Even if bus schedules coordinate with train schedules, when a train runs late, buses must either wait (causing delays on the route) or miss the connection entirely.
In Dutchess, six of our nine stations have bus service Monday to Saturday, but only three routes are designed to coordinate with the train schedule – Route G in Beacon and the New Hamburg and Poughkeepsie RailLinks. The RailLinks only provide weekday peak hour service. According to County Public Transit, outside of Beacon, few people currently use the bus to access the train.
State and County agencies would like to provide bus service to the Rhinecliff station, but a full-size bus cannot navigate the station’s access roads, and there are no sidewalks between potential bus drop-off points and the station. An alternative model, such as microtransit, could be one option for such a challenging location. Our 2020 Connect Mid-Hudson Regional Transit Plan proposes a microtransit zone that would include the station.
Which stations have parking and congestion issues?
For those who drive to train stations, congestion and parking can be major concerns. Several of our stations are in city or village areas with natural parking constraints, and the rush of people getting off a train and leaving in their cars can create periodic backups that snarl traffic in the area.
Before COVID, these issues were most profound in Beacon – our busiest train station. 2018 data from Metro-North found that the parking lot was 91 percent full on average and 97 percent full during the busiest times. While many commuters would like to see parking capacity increased, the ability to do so is limited by land availability (new parking would need to be in a garage) and, more importantly, by road capacity. The station is accessed by a two-lane local street (Beekman Street) and a two-lane State road (Route 9D). The evening rush hour is already characterized by heavy congestion from commuters leaving the station, a situation that would be exacerbated by increased parking at the station. The Route 9D/I-84 interchange is one of our identified priority congestion locations, in part because of the waves of train commuters driving up 9D from the station. The City’s 2017 Comprehensive Plan, recognizing these challenges, states that no additional commuter parking should be added at the station.
We also know of parking concerns at the Rhinecliff station. While we do not have parking occupancy data for this station, train riders report that parking is at or near capacity during peak times. Similar to Beacon, the site is constrained, and any new parking would likely need to be in a structure – but increasing parking capacity could also increase traffic around the station. As noted, a bus connection would be challenging, but could help address this issue.
COVID has significantly reduced train ridership, and with it, the parking capacity issues described above. For example, the Beacon station parking lot fell to around 10 percent full in May 2020, and by December 2020 had only increased to about 30 percent. We will continue to monitor usage to see if parking capacity issues return.
Which stations are near a high-crash location?
Only the Poughkeepsie station is within a half mile of a high-crash location – most notably a segment along Main Street past the entrance to the station’s parking lot. Traffic from train commuters also contributes to safety issues at the interchange of Routes 9 and 44/55 at the Mid-Hudson Bridge. Drivers leaving the station who wish to get on the bridge must quickly cross two lanes of high-speed traffic to get to the bridge’s entrance ramp. We are studying redesign alternatives for this interchange as part of our Poughkeepsie 9.44.55 study.
Based on this barriers analysis, our role could include the following:
- Improve sidewalk access to train stations, and consider station access when evaluating priorities for federal, State, and County funding programs.
- Advocate for secure long-term bicycle parking, especially at the Beacon and Poughkeepsie stations.
- Work with County Public Transit to improve access to train stations, either with fixed-route service or alternative transit models such as microtransit.
- Advocate for access improvements for the Beacon station, including improved bus connections, better walking and bicycling infrastructure (as identified in our Beekman Street Complete Streets Analysis), and a study of the congested Route 9D/I-84 interchange.
- Work with the Town of Rhinebeck, NYSDOT, and Amtrak to improve access to the Rhinecliff station, considering walking, bicycling, parking, and potential options for bus service (such as microtransit).
- Pursue safety improvements along Main Street near the Poughkeepsie train station.
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TRANSIT ORIENTED DEVELOPMENT IN BEACON
Beacon has grown in the last decade, and much of that growth has happened near its train station. Over 150 units (apartments, condominiums and townhomes) have been built along Beekman Street and Route 9D near the station, and the City has expressed interest in adding more. With all these new residents near the station, walkability and bikeability are even more important. In 2018, working with City staff, we released our Beekman Street Complete Streets Analysis, which highlights walking and bicycling improvements that could be made to the station’s primary access road. Recommendations include adding a bike lane on the uphill side of the street (with sharrows on the downhill side), completing the sidewalk network, shortening street crossings, and installing consistent signage.
TRAIN STOPS AT TRAILS
In addition to our nine full-service stations, Dutchess County has two seasonal stops: one on the Hudson Line at the Breakneck Ridge trailhead, and the other on the Harlem Line at the Appalachian Trail. Because these are seasonal flag stops with no facilities, we did not include them in this analysis.