Testimony of Nadine Lemmon, Tri-State Transportation Campaign
America's Great Outdoors Initiative Listening Session, Poughkeepsie, NY
August 6, 2010

My name is Nadine Lemmon, and I am speaking on behalf of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a non-profit organization working on sustainable and equitable transportation issues in the Tri-State Region.

We would like to commend the Obama Administration for taking on the initiative of reconnecting Americans to the great outdoors. What I would like to focus on today is transportation—how Americans are going to actually get there.

I invite you to stay the weekend here in the Hudson Valley, and experience I-87 anytime after 3:00 on a Sunday afternoon. Traffic crawls to a snail’s pace and, clearly, too many people are accessing the Great Outdoors using their car. If you want to drive to Minnewaska State Park on a weekend—and you’re going to have to drive, because I don’t think there are any public transit options—you better get there before 10 am, because the parking lots will be full.

The answer is not to build a bigger parking lot, as Minnewaska will soon be doing. With 80% of our population now living in urban or suburban areas, and less than 50% of the residents in New York City owning cars, Tri-State Transportation Campaign asks that the Administration consider public and sustainable transportation options as key to this initiative.

Are there ways that Americans can use public transportation to access our natural resources? Yes, one example in the Hudson Valley is the Metro North railroad, and I believe one of the reasons Walkway over the Hudson has been such a stunning success is because it is accessible by this train. There is a lot of discussion of late about Transit-Oriented Development. Perhaps we should coin the term Transit-Oriented Preservation. There is ample evidence that cars and roads are contributing to climate change, water pollution, and landscape fragmentation—issues that are serious challenges to our natural resources. It is therefore incumbent upon our leaders to assure that our attempts to connect don’t destroy the very thing we are trying to connect to.

Transportation is an equity issue. Many people can’t afford cars, and there is evidence that younger Americans are choosing not to own a car. The challenge that the Administration must consider is how to do we get all people connected, literally, to the Great Outdoors.

Thank you.