What Would You Change About the New York Region?

Your voice, your region...and a free ticket.

Last week, Regional Plan Association launched an online town hall in advance of our Regional Assembly. The conference, "Big Ideas • Bold Innovations • Bright Future," will be held on April 27 at the Waldorf-Astoria. It's a great day of thinking about the larger region, but in the past we have found it frustrating that we couldn't continue the conversation beyond one spring day. To remedy this, we have set up a forum for discussion about some of the big public-policy questions facing our region. Ideas and questions that are contributed before the Assembly will be used to inform the agenda there. After April 27, we intend to keep the dialogue going online.

As an extra incentive, the participant with the most contributor points by April 23 will win a free, transferrable ticket to the event – and a shout-out from RPA's executive director on stage. Points are awarded for submitting ideas and commenting on the ideas of others.

Since we launched the online forum, we have been thrilled to see the wide range of creative solutions put forth in response to questions about problems in transportation, housing, real estate and economic development. While some of the questions and suggestions are tied to panel discussions planned for the Assembly, others deal with general concerns of residents, workers and policy makers. Some highlights:

The most popular suggestion: Adopt a unified payment system for all regional transit systems.

From the comments, this concept seems to have a lot of traction. It's an idea that efficiently expresses the difficulties of traveling through the region. One user commented that the region should "form an umbrella-style organization" governing transit. One system would mean "fewer things in my pocket," said another participant. What do you think?

The quick poll: What are the best strategies to fund transportation infrastructure?

Of the four choices we offered in the poll – mileage-based user fees, congestion pricing, a push for higher gas taxes and higher tolls and high-tech boothless tolling - congestion pricing is carrying the day so far. But why stop there: Another participant suggests creating a honking market for taxis that would allot each medallion 100 honks a month. After that, they would need to buy honking rights on an online exchange, generating revenue for transit projects.

The big question: If you could change one thing about the New York-New Jersey-Connecticut region, what would it be?

Three initial ideas - "regional funding," "integration of suburban areas," and "rooftop food gardens" – speak to a broad range of needs. We know tri-state area residents want smoother commutes: participants pleaded for "faster, cleaner rail links" and a better road network. Another contributor makes the point that sums up a big challenge for making policy changes: "More public outreach and education is needed in concert with incentives."

What would you do if you were crafting a better region? We want you to be part of the conversation, online and at the Regional Assembly. It's easy and free to participate using your existing Facebook login or a simple sign-in to the system. Join us at ideas.regionalassembly.org. We hope to see you on April 27.