Home PANYNJ Tardy buses and an overtaxed Port Authority

Tardy buses and an overtaxed Port Authority

by Benjamin Kabak

In today’s Wall Street Journal, Heather Haddon welcomes the unofficial end of summer with an article on everyone’s most infuriating transit topic: late buses. She delives into the New Jersey Transit data and finds that one out of nine buses departed Port Authority at least five minutes later than scheduled. It is an ongoing problem that has vexed transit planners but leads to one conclusion: New York City needs more space for buses.

Overall, NJ Transit buses are getting tardier. More than one in 10 NJ Transit buses—12%—left the Port Authority Bus Terminal more than five minutes late in the first six months of 2012, according to NJ Transit records viewed by The Wall Street Journal.

The numbers illustrate a continuing frustration for NJ Transit as bus ridership has grown: A system that brings nearly 100,000 commuters into New York City each day is running out of space in the world’s busiest bus terminal. “We’re bursting at the seams,” said Joyce Gallagher, NJ Transit’s vice president and general manager of bus operations. “We’re using every conceivable ounce of space that we can.”

NJ Transit defines a late departure as leaving five minutes late or more, but commuters say they often have to wait up to an hour for a bus with a seat, as the vehicles fill to capacity quickly. They then must fight through Lincoln Tunnel traffic, which averages about 120,000 vehicles a day, including 10,000 buses.

“The bus will come, but you are wrapped around in so many lines that you have to catch the third or fourth bus,” said Douglas Panchal, a 33-year-old Little Ferry, N.J., resident who works in the banking industry. He said he has waited nearly two hours for a bus.

The problem doesn’t look to improve any time soon. New Jersey Transit competes with long-haul buses, airport shuttles and a variety of other vehicles or space at the Port Authority Bus Terminal, and PA officials anticipate a spike in demand by nearly one third over the next 25 years. New Jersey Transit is searching for solutions, but the obvious one requires some amount of political planning.

Essentially, New York City and New Jersey need to rethink their trans-Hudson plans. Another rail tunnel would be ideal, but in the absence of that dream, the city needs to start pondering a new, larger bus terminal and lanes through the Lincoln Tunnel that are truly dedicated to buses. It isn’t sexy, and it doesn’t completely help wean us off fossil fuels. But as part of the transportation infrastructure, these improvements deserve a serious conversation before bus congestion and delays get much worse.

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Michael September 4, 2012 - 2:10 pm

Does the lincoln tunnel have capacity for more buses in its express bus lane? Wouldn’t more buses result in more bus traffic and increased delays?

Why not build commuter bus terminals at Seacacus and Journal Square get the bus riders onto higher capacity NJTransit and PATH trains into the city?

SEAN September 4, 2012 - 2:32 pm

Why not build commuter bus terminals at Secaucus and Journal Square get the bus riders onto higher capacity NJTransit and PATH trains into the city?

1. Commuters don’t want to transfer if there’s a direct route.
2. Journal Square already has a bus terminal located above the PATH station.

3. Both PATH & NJT trains are overloaded as it is at rush hour. I cant imagine taking 100,000 daily bus riders & squeezing them on to trains.

FYI Journal Square handles around 60,000 passengers alone on a given weekday.

Bolwerk September 4, 2012 - 4:30 pm

1. How many of those commuters are going to Times Square and how many are transferring to NYC transit? Most probably already trasfer.

3. This I agree with, though we shouldn’t be clogging New York with more buses because New Jersey couldn’t get its act together to build a proper transit line.

Bruce M September 4, 2012 - 5:21 pm

Maybe the plan to extend the 7-train to Secaucus makes the idea of a transfer in N.J. more palatable, particularly if a majority of commuters do indeed change to the subway once they reach the PABT. This would also provide direct access to the East Side.

SEAN September 4, 2012 - 7:25 pm

That makes sence.

@ Bolwerk,

What I ment was, currently the rail systems cant absorb 100,000 aditional passengers who would transfer at Journal Square or Secaucus. ARC or a similar project could releave some bus volume to the PABT, but not all of it.

Most NJT rail stations also have companion bus service opperated by NJ Transit or a private company such as Decamp, Academy, Lakeland or Coach USA. Even PATH has companion bus service on NJT’s 108, 119, 125 & 126 routes. infact the 126 runs so frequently, that at times it may be better to ride the bus especially if you are going to Hoboken’s Washington Street. Jersey City on the other hand is such that the bus isn’t a practical option.

Woody September 4, 2012 - 2:39 pm

How about sending buses up the West Side (on a highway where currently only cars and SUVs are allowed), then across the George Washington Bridge into Jersey?

I understand that this would be useless for people living south of the Lincoln Tunnel, but I suspect that many buses go thru the tunnel and turn north.

Eric F September 4, 2012 - 3:59 pm

Sounds slow, the west side highway was “boulevard-ized” years ago and is now a slow traffic signal-to traffic signal slog below the 50s. Then the west side highway has narrow lanes, no shoulders and no dedicated bus lane, and neither does the GWB or I-80.

Bolwerk September 4, 2012 - 4:31 pm

Because there is a perfectly good A Train to an underutilized bus terminal at the GWB?

Eric F September 4, 2012 - 4:33 pm

Yup. The PA is putting some money into it, but apparently it’s not the most useful terminal for NJ people heading to work.

Bolwerk September 4, 2012 - 4:52 pm

The major problem with any west side terminal is, I would guess, most NJ residents work on the east side. But the A probably is especially poor in that regard. SAS to the terminal would be nice, I guess. 😐

AG September 5, 2012 - 8:36 pm

The Westside Highway aka Henry Hudson Parkway… does not allow trucks/buses… it’s not an Expressway.

marvin September 6, 2012 - 9:36 am

Most parkways do not allow buses/truck for one of two or more reasons:
*physical height restrictions of bridges
*a desire to seperate less compatable vehicles

Despite this there are many parkways that allow buses for all or part of their length (often with permits) including the Belt Pkwy, the Grand Central, the Sprain etc.

The Grand Central now even allows smaller trucks on between the TriBoro (RFK) Bridge and 278/the BQE.

There are few if any low bridges on the Henry Hudson Parkway south of the GW that would pose a problem. The parkway is surrounded by park so the added noice would not be a factor.

Letting buses on is more of traffic management issue than legal or physical.

AG September 6, 2012 - 10:37 pm

Have you not seen how much traffic is on the Henry Hudson? Not to mention… you hardly ever see a bus on the Sprain (which is a much wider roadway)… or the Belt. I use both of those often (and the Grand Central less so). It’s still not “normal” to see a bus on there. That’s nothing like letting Port Authority buses use the Henry Hudson to get to the GW. N

Woody September 8, 2012 - 1:35 pm

Making the Henry Hudson more crowded (Oh, how much traffic!) for private, single-occupant cars, while making life easier for people taking public transit — this is not a bug in this suggestion, it is the MAIN feature.

Robert Moses had most of the parkways designed so that buses would not fit beneath the overpasses. The intention was to keep the riffraff from the City (not to use the N word here) from spoiliing the pristine burbs.

But if you think of transit users from New Jersey (or Long Island or Westchester), coming into the City, they aren’t riffraff for the most part. (And nowadays the riffraff often have cars).

It’s time to use the parkways to improve bus service for outer boro and suburban commuters, and help keep cars OUT of Manhattan.

On the Upper West Side, I’m sick of seeing, hearing, smelling, dodging the commuter and intercity buses heading along Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues. Put them over on the Henry Hudson instead.

If these buses can handle the signals on avenues in residential neighborhoods, they can handle the signalized boulevard along the Hudson south of 59th St. Most commuter buses would be starting along 34th, 42nd, 49th, and 57th Sts anyway. That’s where the office towers are located, not in Soho or Tribeca.

The Henry Hudson itself is clear to the GW Bridge and into the Bronx, but rebuilding a couple of overpasses should not stop the show.

As for a bus lane on the GW Bridge, why the hell not? It has 14 lanes, 7 each way. A bus lane could speed up the buses and attract many more riders who could use the underused bus stationl and underused A train. (Change at 125th or 59th for Sixth Avenue trains to get closer to East Midtown.)

Maybe buses coming from Jersey could run down the Harlem River to the East Side. The Harlem River Drive seems clear of low overpasses down to 125th, at least. Tho I doubt that the FDR could handle buses, it would be great to use it too.

Other buses coming from Midtown could continue into the Bronx until the low overpasses on the Parkway forced them onto the streets and boulevards. Or they could exit at 207th St and head east, sharing the SBS route over Fordham Rd and Pelham Parkway.

AG September 8, 2012 - 6:24 pm

huh? “The intention was to keep the riffraff from the City (not to use the N word here) from spoiliing the pristine burbs.” 1) In 1937 most of the ppl considered “riff-raff” in the city were whites (Irish/Italian/Eastern European Jews)…. 2) most of what is known as suburbs didn’t really exist yet…. they were still considered country estates (and you could take railroads to all of them anyway)… and many places in NJ were still rural.
The real reason “par-kways” were designed the way they were… was to be scenic. Meaning – seeing a lot of trees and no trucks.

The GWB is already the most used bridge in the entire world (and the Cross Bronx is already one of the most traffic locked roads in the country). Sending more buses there is not the answer either. Point Blank – another rail tunnel needs to be built (hopefully Amtrak’s Gateway proposal will happen) – and the Port Authority Bus Terminal needs expanded capacity…

One improvement that will improve the westside of Manhattan is when Metro North starts running some of the Hudson line traffic and a spur of the New Haven line into Penn Station. That said – ppl will ALWAYS drive to Manhattan. I personally can’t stand driving in Manhattan unless it’s at night.. but ppl will still do it… even if there is congestion pricing (which I think is a good idea to generate transit revenue).
An opportunity to improve traffic on that side even more is bc there is no rail going over the replacement for the new Tappan Zee. That would have allowed ppl in Ulster/Orange/Rockland counties to connect to the Met North Hudson line. Governor Cuomo is as bad as Gov. Christie in that regard.

marvin September 8, 2012 - 9:37 pm

“The intention was to keep the riffraff from the City ”

You captured the concept but got the direction wrong – The intention of Robert Mozes was to keep the inner city minorities in the city and away from Jones Beach and other Long Island Parks that he had helped build. Prior to the construction of the LIE (495) and the Seaford Oysterbay Expressway (135) the only real routes to Jones Beach were the Northern State or Southern State parkways to either Meadowbrook or Wanthagh parkways. Low bridges on both were/are a barriers to buses that would be the vehicle for the minorities to get to the beach.

Back on the real topic – either new facilities (bus and rail tunnels) need to be built or general traffic lanes need to be turned over to mass transit use (bus or rail) sacrificing the benefits of the few for the needs of the many.

AG September 10, 2012 - 4:08 pm

There weren’t need for buses… I’m not sure where some of these ideas come from… the LIRR existed already back then… you can use them now to get to LI beaches. Plus – Jacob Riis Park in Queens was also a Robert Moses project… It was for ppl in the city who couldn’t afford to get to Long Island…. It was named after Jacob Riis because he was an advocate for the poor. And again – most of the poor weren’t even minorities back then. I’m not sure where some ideas come from. For instance the South Bronx was mostly Jewish back when Robert Moses carved it up with the Major Deegan and the Cross Bronx. Robert Moses was himself Jewish. That has nothing to do with race (it was harder to find a non-racist in those days). His was cutting off his “own” ppl. The fact is he unfortunately preferred cars to mass-transit…

Bushwicked September 4, 2012 - 2:40 pm

For six weeks I commuted from Weehawken to the Port Authority. Usually I took the private little buses that ply Blvd East. It only ever took about 15 minutes total since the buses get ahead of the expressway clogged mess and into the Tunnel fairly quickly using the city street ramp.
Traffic backs up BEFORE the Tunnel and rarely were Manhattan streets clogged leaving the tunnel. The problem is too few tunnel lanes.
And yes, there should be bus-only lanes both ways and to hell with the single-occupant entitled elitists. They are the cause of this mess.
And for not enough buses – you can thank Big Daddy Christie. At least NJ has cheap gas and millionaire welfare…

Josh September 4, 2012 - 3:02 pm

I hate Christie as much as the next sustainable transport enthusiast, but I don’t know if “not enough buses” is really his fault; that’s a problem that’s been brewing for a while now, no?

Benjamin Kabak September 4, 2012 - 3:03 pm

This is a problem that stretches back well before Christie and has its origins on both sides of the Hudson River.

lawhawk September 4, 2012 - 4:41 pm

Part of the problem is that the PANYNJ killed a plan to build a new bus garage, which would eliminate the need to cycle buses back to NJ during the rush hours. They would drop off passengers in the AM and then have to drive back to NJ to await the PM rush, drive back through the tunnel, pick up passengers to then recross the Hudson.

The plan was killed because of a lack of funds and other higher priorities.

It was part of a larger plan to renovate the PABT and build a new office tower. All that stalled.

Only options for more bus capacity is to add a second bus-only lane during rush hour. That’s the only option in the current fiscal climate because we wont see any new cross-Hudson tunnel built anytime soon (Gateway rail being the only option on the table at the moment).

Eric F September 4, 2012 - 4:45 pm

Yup. Toll diversion to Ground Zero? If you look carefully, the PA also scrapped a plan to replace the Lincoln Tunnel helix with a stop gap repair program. At some point the helix must be replaced, which is when they can get the XBL lane to start past the palisades, and maybe even get rid of the stupid helix entirely.

lawhawk September 5, 2012 - 9:47 am

If you look at the PANY toll hike plans and the amount hoped to be recouped, it would cover the shortfall to build the PATH hub at WTC, which is now scheduled to cost nearly $3.8 billion – after the original estimate was $2.2 billion and later increased to more than $3 billion.

al September 5, 2012 - 10:03 am

That “stupid helix” is the solution to bridge the steep drop from the Palisades to the toll plaza and tunnel portals.

Eric F September 5, 2012 - 1:16 pm

Right, but they can tunnel under the palisades. In fact that was an option on the table when the Lincoln Tunnel was in its original design phase. The helix is inefficient as a traffic mover and ties up valuable land on the waterfront.

al September 6, 2012 - 12:38 am

There are 3 tubes and 2 directions. You need a small toll plaza, merge caverns and ramps to and from the surface. There will need to be tunneling under people’s homes to link up to existing tunnels. It starts to look like New Jersey’s version of the Big Dig.

Woody September 8, 2012 - 2:13 pm

Tunnel under the Palisades? That would be cheap n easy? Or approaching the cost of digging a new rail runnel under the Hudson? Which tunnel would give more bang for the buck, more passengers per billion?

Adirondacker12800 September 4, 2012 - 3:36 pm

If Midtown Direct service is any indication of what would have happened if ARC had been built, yes it would have alleviated the bus problems. More people would be getting on the train to get into Manhattan…. very often, in New Jersey, the bus stop for the New York City buses is at the train station. Since the bus is faster people take the bus. If the train was faster, and with ARC it would be, at least during rush hour, they’d take the train.

Eric F September 4, 2012 - 4:24 pm

I don’t see how ARC would have alleviated the bus issue, at least in any substantial way. Very often bus passengers originate in towns with lousy train access, and most train towns have lousy bus access. The two aren’t perfect substitutes for each other. The fact is that NJ has a concurrent bus capacity issue and train capacity issue and needs to address both. And having the Lincoln Tunnel clogged 24/7 is not helping Manhattan either.

Bolwerk September 4, 2012 - 4:33 pm

Since you love doing things on the cheap: diverting at least some of those buses to transfer to ARC might have done a great deal of good, though I don’t suppose that was being considered.

Eric F September 4, 2012 - 4:37 pm

The only thing I love doing on the cheap is dining: week old sushi tastes great and is a great value for the money!

Nobody wants multiple transfers! You’d be asking people to get on the bus at Totowa, get off at Secaucus and the train it to Penn or whatever and then take a train the rest of the way. People hate this!

That said, buses will naturally divert to Secaucus (which is getting beefed up bus gates) because of Lincoln Tunnel reliability issues, and even now NJT diverts buses to Secaucus when the tunnel has an emergency.

Bolwerk September 4, 2012 - 4:58 pm

People already have multiple transfers. Anyone who has to commute to the PA Terminal and works near Penn has a multiple transfer (or a long walk). And, for a significant number of people, perhaps not having to fight with the Lincoln saves enough time to make one more transfer worth it.

Like I said, it would probably divert some riders. It doesn’t need to divert all of them to have a positive impact.

Adirondacker12800 September 7, 2012 - 7:36 pm

For many of the bus routes in New Jersey the stop is at the train station. Midtown Direct service reached it’s ten year passenger projections in months. People abandoned the bus and got on the train instead. It was faster.

Eric F September 4, 2012 - 3:11 pm

It’s tough, because I know you really want to say nice things about Christie. But he keeps doing horrible things to working families, children and the poor, all to enrich evil corporations, such as Halliburton. But wait!!! It looks like you can now put a post praising Christie and giving him credit!

I undertook the Herculean task of looking at NJ Transit’s website. Here’s what it says:


Project Scope:

The project involves the purchase of an additional 1145 buses. The acquisition is divided into 250 suburban buses and 895 transit buses, both manufactured by North American Bus Industries. Vehicle procurement and delivery has already begun and will take several years to complete.

Project Cost:

Approximately $460,000,000.


Delivery date of first suburban bus – Winter 2009

Delivery date of 250th suburban – Winter 2010

Delivery date of first transit bus – Winter 2010

Anticipated delivery date of 895th transit bus – Winter 2014


Both the suburban and transit buses are 40-feet long and seat up to 42 passengers. Suburban buses, designed for longer commutes, feature overhead parcel racks. Vehicle use state-of-the-art, clean diesel engines and will replace older vehicles nearing the end of their service life.



Bolwerk September 4, 2012 - 3:23 pm

Don’t be obtuse. This is how you know Christie is a taxspend-‘n-spend liberal, with some fascist-y social mores. Buses are popular with such people because they’re slow, inefficient, reward connected labor unions, and inflict misery on the poor who depend on them.

BoerumBum September 4, 2012 - 3:43 pm

“Buses are popular with such people because they’re slow, inefficient, reward connected labor unions, and inflict misery on the poor who depend on them.”

This paints with a pretty broad brush… Palisades Park, NJ & Tremont, Bronx, NY are both about the same distance from Times Square by foot, but the NJ Transit 166 Bus is about half the commute of the 2 Train.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll take a train commute over a bus commute any day of the week, but it might be best not to make generalizations about a particular mode of mass transit just because you can walk faster than the M50.

Bolwerk September 4, 2012 - 4:04 pm

I was being (somewhat) facetious, poking fun at how buses are (mis)used in mass transit when other modes would be more appropriate. People who endorse buses as money-savers almost invariably come up with examples where buses would blow more money than the trains they replace or out-compete in EISes. And I was being serious that the underlying motive is perhaps just that: unions and patronage pimps probably absolutely love the extra costs. It’s like how Obamacare opponents, the smarter ones anyway, bend backwards to show how Obamacare “wastes” money, when in fact it mostly saves it on the aggregate.

Also, I’m not sure I buy your comparison; the 2 makes dozens of stops, while the 166 is an express-ish commuter bus. They don’t even serve remotely similar functions. The role of the 166 is more analogous to the role of MNRR than to the role of the 2 Train.

BoerumBum September 4, 2012 - 4:13 pm

Fair enough. I saw that the first half of your post was tongue-in-cheek, but didn’t catch it in the second half. My comparison was made just to say that rail and busses should both be thought of as part of a larger mass transit network. They both have their roles and are both preferable to cars.

Bolwerk September 4, 2012 - 4:39 pm

Well, yeah. It’s all about how they are used. It goes for cars too: they make great sense for moving medium-sized personal cargo around, but they’re dumb and wasteful when they’re used to replace transit trips.

But I really don’t see buses as something to be intelligently used outside periphery services. More or less, NYC SBS is the stuff that should be LRT, and all buses should employ POP. But the current regime probably really is about maximizing labor usage, not maximizing customer convenience.

Eric F September 4, 2012 - 4:04 pm

Christie is a fascist? What does that even mean? Is he sending troops to annex the Poconos?

Bolwerk September 4, 2012 - 4:10 pm

No doubt he would love to thrust his way into that woody interior. However, it’s guarded by a defensive santorum barrier that would be difficult for even the most able Zeppelin-shaped object to penetrate.

BoerumBum September 4, 2012 - 4:34 pm

Why go for the Poconos? He could probably just march into Oyster Bay (your hometown, right Eric?), and be greeted by the Long Islanders as a conquering hero. Granted, until the locals started seeing the effects of his policies.

Eric F September 4, 2012 - 4:40 pm

Yes, NJ has become a land of toothless, trailer-park living illiterates since he swept into office in 2009. Whereas Corzine, who he beat, has shown, once again, his Midas touch, doing for MF Global what he did for the NJ treasury when he was the Garden State’s supreme leader.

BoerumBum September 4, 2012 - 4:48 pm

Christie is doing a bang-up job. http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/.....aspx#page1

Eric F September 4, 2012 - 4:59 pm

That is way lower than the unemployment rate at MF Global. Christie does not deserve all the blame for tracking a national economy or all the credit should that economy turn around. The world is not so simple unfortunately.

BoerumBum September 4, 2012 - 5:05 pm

Tracking the national trend is one thing. Trying to compete with Detroit to be the best of the worst is another.

Eric F September 4, 2012 - 5:13 pm

Well, he’ll be out in 2013. At that point, you’ll have a Democrat to go along with the current Democrat majorities (super majorities, really) in the legislature, and then you can jack up taxes, enhance government pensions and get the economy moving again.

Bolwerk September 4, 2012 - 5:51 pm

He probably deserves no blame or credit in either direction. Though it’s a little incredulous that he tries to take credit for a good job that’s not even being done.

Alex C September 4, 2012 - 10:38 pm

He’s abandoning two of his cities (Camden and Newark) to rot all in the name of union-busting and giving more tax breaks to his donors. Can’t have police departments if you have no revenue. And then let’s just screw the poor cities, nobody will notice and they don’t have any political power. That’s pretty awful regardless of which party you are in.

Eric F September 5, 2012 - 8:27 am

He actually funneled state tax credits to allow Panasonic to move its HQ from Secaucus to downtown Newark. The building is under construction now. You silly goose you.

AG September 5, 2012 - 8:45 pm

Panasonic chose Newark (not Christie)… mainly because of Newark Penn Station and ppl being able to get into Midtown Manhattan (remember the other main contender was Downtown Brooklyn). I recall when they made the deal that was Panasonic’s own words. Christie will throw money at any company to get them to stay in or go to NJ (especially if it’s competing with NY). He didn’t care anything about it going to Newark.

LLQBTT September 5, 2012 - 3:59 pm

Does Mr. GOP it’s all about me keynote speaker know about this? He can’t honestly, otherwise he’d cancel it and put the $ immediately into the NJ highway repair fund. Or maybe most/all of the $460,000,000 is federal $ the Tea Party/GOP can’t wait to cut?

Eric F September 4, 2012 - 2:42 pm

There should be built a new cross Hudson tunnel for buses with at least 3 lanes. One lane in each direction with a reversible lane used to augment capacity for the dominant flow. The tunnel should start west of the Palisades and go directly into the P.A. bus terminal. A side exit/entrance can be let out to West street and capacity provided to paying cars at off-peak bus travel times. The XBL lane in the tunnel can be given back to regular traffic.

Along with the above, a new bus terminal should be constructed on the east side, ideally above a 6 train stop, and a one lane in each direction above ground route should be extended from the PA bus terminal to the new terminal, allowing NJ and interstate buses access to the east side and giving Long Island buses a Manhattan terminal as well.

Bolwerk September 4, 2012 - 3:38 pm

You think canceling ARC was a good idea and want to spend several times as much on a bus triple lane tunnel to carry a fraction as many people? At several times the operating cost?

And I bet you wonder why I chide Republikans for being so quantitatively and financially illiterate. 😐

Jerrold September 4, 2012 - 3:53 pm

West Street?
You mean 12th Ave., right?
West St. is much further downtown.

Eric F September 4, 2012 - 4:11 pm

Sure, whatever that wide boulevard west of midtown is called.

Bolwerk: I don’t think cancelling ARC was a good idea. I think it was a defensible idea. ARC was not financed and was not financeable. I think we need ARC or Son of Arc and Gateway. We also need higher bus capacity. As for cost: bus tunnels are cheaper than train tunnels. Buses can handle grades and curves that trains simply cannot handle. I biked through the Lincoln Tunnel once and it was tough to get the bike up the west portal. When you are heading into Manhattan through a train tunnel, the grade is virtually imperceptible. The engineering is simply much easier, no mass eminent domain, no deep cavern. Plus, you can actually get revenue out of a bus tunnel by selling space in the tunnel to cars and to private buses. At present, bus trips into Manhattan are unreliable due to congestion, but with my tunnel idea, you can get from Secaucus to your gate in midtown in ten minutes with 100% reliability. That is worth quite a bit.

Nathanael September 4, 2012 - 4:25 pm

Bus tunnels are consistently more expensive than train tunnels. The reason: bus tunnels need more ventilation.

Honestly, you might get the best result by simply having a bus terminal in New Jersey and shuttling trains from there to Manhattan. But you get most of the results of that by just building a new tunnel from Secaucus to Penn Station, which is what Amtrak is pushing.

Eric F September 4, 2012 - 4:49 pm

A bus terminal can be shorter and steeper, which would have huge savings implications.

Why would a bus terminal need to be ventilated more? I get that buses generate exhaust, but don’t train tunnels have to be ventilated to account for a train fire? Please tell me they do…

Bolwerk September 4, 2012 - 5:04 pm

IIRC, train tunnel ventilation can be pretty simple as long as there is no diesel. The PATH tubes just rely on the trains themselves to ventilate.

And I really doubt the “shorter and steeper” landing brings savings here. You’re talking about going from below ground to above ground in Manhattan, which invariably means condemning a lot of tax-generating private property. The only reason the train option might be a little more expensive on the landing side is the train is longer – and that’s unlikely to wash away all the savings you get before you land by having a narrow tunnel with a higher capacity.

Eric F September 4, 2012 - 5:19 pm

Diesels do in fact operate in the North River tunnels.

I can’t believe that there is any serious doubt that a vehicle tunnel is cheaper than a train tunnel by a lot.

Shorter and steeper means you can engineer around stuff easier, including infrastructure and expensive real estate. Ideally, you can build a new tunnel very close to the current one and stack an approach into the PA bus terminal on top of or merging into the current ramps.

Plus, you don’t have to install track and overhead high voltage wires in a bus tunnel. It’s just easy to patch dumb asphalt and replacement light bulbs every so often.

Bolwerk September 4, 2012 - 6:22 pm

IIRC, dual mode trains operate in the tunnels, but they’re in electric mode in the tunnels.

I can’t believe that there is any serious doubt that a vehicle tunnel is cheaper than a train tunnel by a lot.

Throw a ball against a wall. Does it bounce? Repeat. Does it still bounce? Do it again? Still bounce? Keep repeating until you’re satisfied.

Height, width, ventilation all drive up the costs vs. a rail tunnel even before you see a single passenger.

Shorter and steeper means you can engineer around stuff easier, including infrastructure and expensive real estate.

Why this zigzag fantasy anyway? Maybe heavy FRA freight trains are far from ideal, but trains can handle fairly significant grades. If there is a problem on the landing side with space constrainst, split the difference and use LRVs. It would take some really anecdotal circumstances for a bus to have an advantage even here.

Ideally, you can build a new tunnel very close to the current one and stack an approach into the PA bus terminal on top of or merging into the current ramps.

Yeah, ideal. Except for those who have to look at such a structure. Or ride a bus. :-O

Plus, you don’t have to install track and overhead high voltage wires in a bus tunnel.

And you think needing to bore significantly more volume of tunnel somehow is cheaper than the rather trivial expenses of catenary?

It’s just easy to patch dumb asphalt and replacement light bulbs every so often.

Um, not so simple. First of all, what makes you think acres and acres of concrete or asphalt for miles – no doubt reinforced somehow, perhaps with steel – is cheaper than the material costs of some ballast, ties, and (most expensive by unit of weight) two parallel steel rails a few inches thick?

Second, ventilation costs of a vehicular tunnel call for pretty extensive energy use as well. You don’t just drop a grid of light bulbs and call it a day.

And again, all these costs are higher before you see a single passenger. Then the bus has per-passenger higher operating costs too.

Alon Levy September 4, 2012 - 7:13 pm

Track and overhead wires cost a rounding error compared to civil infrastructure. The best way to minimize cost is to reduce the amount of tunneling required. The steeper grades of road vehicles help, but the higher capacity of trains helps even more. The only way a bus tunnel can have close to equivalent capacity is if there’s a large bus terminal at the city end, and then you’re running into the same cavern issue of ARC and ESA. A train needs no such thing.

For what it’s worth, the Big Dig cost more per km than most subway tunneling projects in the US, and likewise, Paris’s Big Dig equivalent (of course vastly cheaper than the American version) was more expensive per km than Line 14 of the Metro and the proposed RER tunnels.

Eric F September 5, 2012 - 8:29 am

So it’s settled then, the consensus seems to be that the bus congestion problem can be solved with (surprise!) trains, getting rid of Christie and moving NJ people to Long Island. I had an idea about expanding bus capacity to solve the bus capacity problem, which is really just daft. I don’t know where I come up with this stuff.

Nathanael September 7, 2012 - 3:44 am

Well, you COULD build a bus tunnel. Obviously it’s POSSIBLE. It would just be cheaper and more effective to build a train tunnel.

A bus terminal in Secaucus + a train tunnel would be cheaper and move a lot more people than a “second Lincoln Tunnel”.

Nathanael September 7, 2012 - 3:45 am

Basically, the thing is, if you have high volume, you want trains, because trains are really great for high volume.

If you have low volume — for instance, if there’s only one busload of people per hour, maximum, from any given direction — then trains don’t work so well.

Bolwerk September 4, 2012 - 5:19 pm

There really might not be a single substantive claim in that paragraph that is true. I agree ARC was rife with waste, but ARC not only was financeable, but it was basically financed – past tense.

And besides Nathanael’s point, what’s this about “no deep cavern”? The tunnel is under a river. ARC certainly had no need for that deep level station. That a bus tunnel would have to break above ground, requiring the condemnation of more real estate might actually make it more expensive than a train even to land – never you mind the lower costs of engineering something that needs to only be a fraction as wide for a much greater throughput.

And I don’t think I like the idea of trying to profit off vehicle tunnel users. It’s a bait ‘n switch. As much as you like to dismiss the fact that drivers don’t pay most of the costs of driving, what you’re in effect doing is hitting people up at the tunnel and then moving the costs of getting them to the tunnel onto others. That’s not a good idea.

Eric F September 4, 2012 - 5:21 pm

No deep cavern station, necessitated by the grade limitations on the trains.

NJ had no money for ARC. It’s tapped out, credit card is maxed out, house is mortgaged, yard sale is over.

Getting private dollars out of a public project is actually a good thing.

Bolwerk September 4, 2012 - 6:46 pm

There was no need for a deep cavern with ARC. That was the only ridiculous part of the project. It could have been canceled, with the rest of the project left intact. The cost of an NJT tunnel to Grand Central, a wet dream of every NJ rail advocate, was priced at somewhere around 1/3 and ½ as much.

NJ most certainly had money to finance ARC, since it in fact did. Now NJ will lose the benefits of increased economic activity, fewer wasted man-hours, and decreased traffic congestion. That’s more expensive than ARC ever was.

Getting private dollars out of a public project is actually a good thing.

Perhaps, though I don’t know what that has to do with anything you’re saying. You aren’t netting private dollars by robbing Peter to pay Paul. Since road transportation accounting is so byzantine, you’re only hiding the obvious.

Eric September 6, 2012 - 4:40 am

A new Hudson tunnel would cost somewhere between $3-15 billion.

Taking the XBL and one car lane in the Hudson Tunnel and routing the 7 subway through them and then to Hoboken would cost about $500 million and have higher capacity.

BoerumBum September 4, 2012 - 3:14 pm

I commuted from Bergen County (a part with no access to rail) to NYC for about 10 years by bus (2000 – 2010). I found that the commute in was generally dependable, and took me from my apartment to subway with only a 10 minute margin of error on most days (yes, there was the occasional catastrophie, like when there was an accident in the tunnel, but these were few and far between).

However, the PM commute back home was generally more painful. I would attribute this to the fact that although there are inbound bus express lanes from 495 through the Lincoln Tunnel in the morning, there are no outbound bus express lanes through the Lincoln Tunnel & 495 in the evening. Simply replicating what exists in the AM for the PM would go a long way to solve the issues with busses leaving the Port Authority.

That being said, modifying the under-used freight lines that run through Bergen County to reestablish the Northern Branch (http://northernbranchcorridor.com/) would be even better.

Nathanael September 4, 2012 - 4:26 pm

In the short term, dedicating two lanes of the Lincoln Tunnel to buses only — one in each direction — all day long — would probably be the most successful thing to do.

But NOOO, we CANNOT take space AWAY from the ALMIGHTY CAR!….

Eric F September 4, 2012 - 5:02 pm

Right because the Lincoln Tunnel is a natural figure of the landscape, like the Grand Canyon. It would be impossible to conceive of actually building a new tunnel tube with a modern design, with shoulders, a high ceiling LED lighting. Nope, all we can do is ration the space that prior generations gave us. The tunnel is basically our version of the Egyptian pyramids.

Bolwerk September 4, 2012 - 6:37 pm

The incremental cost of even a new rail tunnel is kinda insane. It would make sense to ration what we have better, and a clear way to do that is to give more of it over to buses or light rail.

Nathanael September 7, 2012 - 3:48 am

Here’s the thing: if you’re gonna build a new tunnel, why waste your money building a car or bus tunnel? You get far better bang for your buck with a rail tunnel.

In general, automotive tunnels are a mistake.

Bolwerk September 4, 2012 - 3:47 pm

Screw this. They should be scaling back that grody bus terminal, not wasting taxpayer money expanding it. I survived perfectly well using the B61 without a fancy multi-story terminal, indeed I only had an unsheltered curb to stand on, and I think most people who take a bus under a river probably can too. In fact, I think I preferred to curb; no climbing escalators to get to my bus. Insofar as suburban buses need to come in at all, they should come and immediately leave to make room for the next bus, rather than idle in a terminal for hours. They should preferably make a few stops in midtown so passengers don’t need to crowd the already busy area around Times Square, and maybe most of them can get somewhat close to where they actually need to go – so they won’t contribute to crowding our subway either.

(I’m not against the terminal entirely, but it really should be reserved for longer-distance trips. No reason a suburban or transit bus can’t stop next to it so people can make connections.)

Eric F September 4, 2012 - 4:12 pm

There is no curb space for thousands upon thousands of commuter buses. This is why they built the terminal in the first place.

Benjamin Kabak September 4, 2012 - 4:13 pm

This is a point that bears repeating. There is literally no way to load up buses for 100,000 commuters per day without a terminal.

Bolwerk September 4, 2012 - 5:43 pm

I don’t see why they should all load at that point. I have been looking for breakdowns on where the riders are all going, but I can’t imagine even a bare majority are staying within a four block radius of 42nd and 8th.

Again, I think the terminal makes sense, but it should be at a scale for LD passengers only.

Alon Levy September 4, 2012 - 7:16 pm

The problem with using the streets is that they don’t have the capacity for this.

Bolwerk September 4, 2012 - 7:57 pm

For what? Most of the capacity needed is, perhaps, some appropriated parking spaces. Ideally there would be some dedicated bus lanes.

A few thousand buses spread out geographically over a number of Manhattan crosstown streets, and temporarily over the course of the day, is probably a drop in the bucket.

BoerumBum September 5, 2012 - 9:19 am

So the consensus is that this would be easy to achieve if street parking were cancelled between 57th and 23rd, right?

VLM September 5, 2012 - 9:22 am

Street parking, street access, pedestrian access, anything relating to the street really. It’s truly one of the more ludicrous ideas I’ve read lately.

Bolwerk September 5, 2012 - 9:59 am

What is it about this idea that makes people need to irrationally pull numbers of their asses? A 40′ bus doesn’t need that much more than 40′ to stop, and one stop can probably conservatively handle 20 buses/hour (heavy loads at some stops is a fair assumption). You’re talking about ~50’/stop on as many 500-to-900-something-foot-long blocks as would be necessary.

Maybe it would impact street parking a little, but as usual, it’s hardly the anti-car persecution imagined by the likes of Steve Cuozzo or VLM.

VLM September 5, 2012 - 10:03 am

Hah. Laughable. If you’ve read my other comments around here, you’d know I’m as anti-car as anyone. But filling up Midtown with exhaust-spewing idling buses that block any sort of traffic flow and prevent pedestrians from being able to navigate is just an insane idea. You don’t seem to grasp just how many buses go into and out of Port Authority during the day in addition to all of the buses that already park and load on the streets around Midtown West and Chelsea.

Bolwerk September 5, 2012 - 11:24 am

And that’s just the point: no matter how many buses there are, no transit/commuter bus should park in Midtown. Buses should load/unload and move on to the next stop, whether it’s elsewhere in Midtown or on the other side of the river. The bus terminal prevents that.

Anyway, reasonable people can disagree with my point. But comments to the effect that “street parking, street access, pedestrian access, anything relating to the street really” would all be impossible under a more efficient bus regime are either ignorant, delusional, or plain dishonest.

Nathanael September 7, 2012 - 3:49 am

PABT is still necessary for the intercity buses, though.

And there will be intercity buses for a long time, given the decimation of our intercity rail network. There are probably even cities which can justify intercity buses but not intercity rail.

Bolwerk September 10, 2012 - 11:57 am

PABT is still necessary for the intercity buses, though.

I agree, Nathanael. And well it should. All I’m talking about really is bringing it down to a sane scale.

And there will be intercity buses for a long time, given the decimation of our intercity rail network. There are probably even cities which can justify intercity buses but not intercity rail.

I think there is a place for intercity buses even in NYC. Of course, they’re over-utilized, just as transit buses are.

BoerumBum September 5, 2012 - 11:16 am

It’s such a rational idea too… I mean, taxis pose absolutely no risk to pedestrians, bikers, drivers or their own passengers. They don’t snarl traffic or block trucks, and they’re generally just picking up or disgorging one passenger at a time. If they were doing so with 40 – 60 passengers each… that would be even less of an impact.

I wonder why bus terminals were originally invented… Was there some sort of problem that required a solution?

Henry September 5, 2012 - 11:28 am

Taxis do snarl traffic – because they never get off the streets during the day. I imagine buses doing this would be quite similar, except they occupy more room (albeit while holing more people.) More info: http://www.npr.org/blogs/money.....more-taxis

I imagine bus terminals were built to increase the availability of curbside parking.

Bolwerk September 5, 2012 - 11:43 am

Bus terminals make perfect sense. You need a central place for long-distance passengers to load. LD buses might make only a few runs per day, so obviously they’ll need to dwell even in places like Midtown sometimes.

There are just really obvious advantages to not clogging them (and an already packed neighborhood) with transit/commuter buses.

Woody September 8, 2012 - 3:29 pm

Already hundreds of commuter buses stop curbside on city streets, all thru Midtown where i see them, and with more than 20 route to Staten Island, 9 to Brooklyn, 22 to Queens, 11 to the Bronx. They are operated by the New York City Transit Authority or under contract by Atlantic Express.

We’d all die and go to Hades if their destination signage read Livingston, Caldwell, Montclair, or how do they say, Exit 9?

Surely there’s room at the thousands of Manhattan bus stops for a few more commuter buses to load up and move on. But if we have to declare a national emergency to do it, we could remove three or four parking spaces here and there to make room for more bus stops.

Commuter buses do not need a single terminal. Nobody is transferring from one out-of-city bus to another. And they can use city streets to get their passengers close to where they need to go.

Woody September 8, 2012 - 4:01 pm

And remember that one mega-terminal is not without external costs. Thousands of people fill the nearby sidewalks and spill into the streets — along 42nd St and 8th Ave especially — as they hurry toward the Port Authority. Others pack the Crosstown buses. Some even take taxis to get there. Many squeeze onto the Shuttle too.

So the mega-terminal creates terrible congestion.

Let me repeat, the crowds FILL the sidewalks, sometimes pushing, bumping, using their elbows, making these sidewalks almost useless for strolling along, window-shopping, people watching, cruising, doing the New York City thing we do on sidewalks.
And pity the poor tourist landing in this mega-commotion.

I prefer to see 20 people lined up on Fifth Ave in front of Rockefeller Center to catch that Express Bus to Bensonhurst, and lined up at 200 or 2,000 other bus stops to get a bus to Jersey, if that will help to fix the problem.

Bolwerk September 4, 2012 - 5:36 pm

Sure there is. A Manhattan block has about ~2,328 feet (I’m possibly low-balling) of curb space. At 40 feet/bus, that’s room to park about probably north of 40 buses at once, which would never need to be done. To put that in perspective, the Empire State Building is about 1,250 feet tall. You could easily disperse the buses throughout Manhattan, have each stop within proximity to the existing terminal, and provide significantly more convenient service to tens of thousands of people.

Henry September 4, 2012 - 7:28 pm

Keep in mind that unleashing that many buses onto Midtown Manhattan would probably be the direct equivalent of handing out taxi medallions like candy – not even talking about the curb space, but it would basically cause gridlock.

Also, there are residents and businesses Manhattan, and they would be absolutely furious at the loss of parking, car lanes, drop-off zones and loading zones that this would entail.

Bolwerk September 5, 2012 - 3:53 am

How many buses do you think we’re talking about here? It’s not like 100,000 riders’ worth of buses would come in at precisely 8:30am.

Also, there are residents and businesses Manhattan, and they would be absolutely furious at the loss of parking, car lanes, drop-off zones and loading zones that this would entail.

That’s probably the bigger problem: entitlement politics. However, to what extent NJT buses would be able to simply use NYCTA bus stops might even mean only a minimal amount of appropriated parking too – again, spread out over 24 hours and several Manhattan cross streets.

There may be traffic problems, but I think people here are over-playing them, especially considering I’m not talking about 100% abandonment of the terminal.

marvin September 4, 2012 - 3:52 pm

An old (and still good) idea was to covert one tube of the Lincoln Tunnel to light rail. 4 car light rail vehicles would use the lower basement level of the PA Bus terminal as a terminal with 2 car trains continuing accross 42nd Street to the east side and beyond. In NJ the light rail could tie into existing lines or run on new lines.

Another ideas is to have the #7 take over the northern Path Tube providing longer and more frequent trains to Hoboken and beyond. Such a move would give one transfer access to the East Side and trains out of Grand Central. The loss of the 33rd street terminal for Path is not major as Jersey commuters can still come into penn station – just a block away.

Finally the real solution is a new rail tunnel to NJ.

Eric F September 4, 2012 - 4:20 pm

What would the light rail line connect to?

People here seem to have a bias against the lowly bus. The very positive thing about buses is that they can provide every little town, including towns that will never get train stations, with one stop service to midtown, all at the cost in footprint of affixing a “Bus Stop” sign to a corner in the town. In a dispersed suburban grid, there will always be many more towns than there will be towns with rail stations.

Nathanael September 4, 2012 - 4:29 pm

Buses suck. But you’re right, Short Line and Martz service will probably need to continue to go to the Port Authority bus terminal for a long time.

Even though *every single town with bus service used to have train service*, as far as I can tell, it is true that it now seems very hard to get train service back to places like Binghamton and Ithaca.

However, for the high-volume commuter services, as much as possible should be shifted to rail, because rail is just plain better with high volumes.

Eric F September 4, 2012 - 4:42 pm

If your town has, say, 200 people who go to midtown on an average day, it is very hard to justify capital spend for rail, but very easy to hang up a bus stop sign in front of a deli somewhere. You cannot compare the comfort of a train to a bumpy bus, but people use them and it beats having nothing at all, which is the realistic alternative where resources are finite.

Bolwerk September 4, 2012 - 5:48 pm

By that logic, you can’t really justify the capital for a road either. But then Americans are obsessed with paying people to live outside cities, damn the costs.

Really, though, either mode damn well better have more in mind than one dinky town. If a freight line passes through a town, there is no sensible reason why a streetcar-esque service can’t use it to pick up and discharge passengers. Well, except it’s functionally illegal. And a bus using a local road maybe isn’t. (Maybe.)

Alon Levy September 4, 2012 - 7:18 pm

In a rail-centric region, that town would get a bus to the nearest train station, timed to just meet the train, with the walk from the bus stop to the platform made as short as practically possible.

Bolwerk September 4, 2012 - 6:34 pm

My fantasy-line would be HBLR doing Vision42 or some similar route. Some buses could terminate on the NJT side, and NYC and NJ could both save by splitting the operating costs of HBLR street running in Manhattan. Bus users, most of whom probably cureently need to transfer to the subway, would have a faster/easier one-seat ride to the east side. Many of the remaining buses could be dispersed elsewhere in Manhattan, and the terminal can more purposelessly blight the area.

Larry Littlefield September 4, 2012 - 3:58 pm

There’s plenty of room at the George Washington Bridge bus terminal. And if the LIRR could be made more efficient, there is plenty of scope for more Manhattan commuters to live on Long Island, particularly after East Side Access.

Too many people with ties to New York are moving to a state where too many people are unwilling to pay to improve ties to New York.

BoerumBum September 4, 2012 - 4:06 pm

Can someone with a longer memory than me explain how/why the Commuter Tax (not the Metropolitan Commuter Transportation Mobility Tax) was repealed/struck down?

BoerumBum September 4, 2012 - 4:24 pm Reply
Nathanael September 4, 2012 - 4:32 pm

Suburban NY counties had enough votes in the legislature to repeal it. I didn’t follow the political horse-trading so I don’t know exactly how they got their vote bloc together or to what extent Joe Bruno and Sheldon Silver personally weighed in (as was usual).

BoerumBum September 4, 2012 - 4:59 pm

Could there be a city income tax on wages earned in NYC, but have the NYC income tax count towards it? Then you don’t need anyone outside of NYC to approve, and could use the funds towards transit. #probablynaivety

Eric F September 4, 2012 - 5:24 pm

Why does anyone think that NYC would use commuter tax money to alleviate NJ Transit bus crowding conditions?

Henry September 4, 2012 - 7:31 pm

City priorities would (or should) probably entail the completion of the SAS and expansions of BRT/LRT/subway service in the outer boroughs.

BoerumBum September 5, 2012 - 11:08 am

Who said anything about earmarking the money for non-residents? I figured it could be used to defer the MTA rider subsidy for non-NYC residents.

Eric F September 4, 2012 - 4:15 pm

Right, NJ is a tax haven on par with the Cayman Islands. All those plutocrats, swaggering into Manhattan on their luxury buses…

Jerrold September 4, 2012 - 4:03 pm

Maybe (just a little bit) off-topic, but has everybody seen THIS article today: http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes......f=nyregion

BoerumBum September 4, 2012 - 4:09 pm

Ah Penn, the only structure more beautiful than the PABT…

Bolwerk September 5, 2012 - 3:57 am

Seems on-topic to me. Both Penn and PABT were designed by modernists who felt genuine contempt for transit users. It’s no accident that they’re crowded, confusing, depressing, difficult to access, and look like shit.

Henry September 4, 2012 - 8:16 pm

Would it be possible to use the Javits Center Roadway or any surrounding parking lots as a makeshift secondary, open-air bus terminal? The area should have a 7 line extension opening soon, and it could serve as a temporary bus terminal location while a more permanent solution is found.

Larry Littlefield September 4, 2012 - 9:23 pm

That might actually work.

BoerumBum September 5, 2012 - 9:23 am


al September 5, 2012 - 10:21 am

The station will open in 2014, so time to get this going. The only problem is congestion during convention days.

al September 5, 2012 - 10:47 am

Another possibility is for commuter buses to use the bus lanes on 34th, 42nd, 50th streets as drop off and pickup points. It requires better bus lane enforcement.

Henry September 5, 2012 - 11:32 am

I think the area is off a Lincoln Tunnel ramp, so it’s not like the traffic there isn’t absolutely terrible.

Coincidentally, the fact that it’s so close to a ramp makes the case more compelling (buses will spend the least amount of time snaking though Manhattan streets)

marvin September 4, 2012 - 10:29 pm

Maybe it’s time to put the A train on the GW Bridge as was intended. The loss of 2 out of 14 lanes would be more than offset by drivers switching to rail. This would absorb a lot of the northern NJ crunch leaving the more of the Lincoln Tunnel and rail tunnel capacity for central and southern Jersey commuters.

Once over the GWB the an elevated railway should be built over I-80 perhaps as far out as Patterson with key stops including at commuter rail and bus transfer points.

In Manhattan having some of the trains run down 6th Ave could further enhance the service.

Diverting the Grand Concourse Line down to the SAS could allow more the 8th subway to be used to Jersey commuters.

How do you solve the political problems of a bi-state subway? Pray for a miracle.

Tim September 13, 2012 - 1:18 pm

A bi-state subway such as the PATH?

Jim September 5, 2012 - 12:38 am

Perhaps a silly pie-in-the-sky question, but just in terms of engineering would it be feasible or even possible to convert the Lincoln Tunnel to a rail tunnel? (political hurdles aside)

Nathanael September 7, 2012 - 3:55 am

It’s actually perfectly straightforward to convert the Lincoln Tunnel per se to rail; the problem is the approaches on the east and west side. Both are spiral ramps, and they’re too tight for good trains to handle. The result is that you’d have to dig a new “approach tunnel” on the New Jersey side, and a new terminal on the New York side.

LLQBTT September 5, 2012 - 11:20 am

Instead of the current ‘silo’ mentality, a wholistic approach should be adopted.

A true ‘mega-tunnel’ project should be adopted incorporating:

Gateway with enough capacity for some ‘through-commuter rail capacity’
Bus-only new tube
Light rail extension to Penn, stop at far West Side (expecially now since the 7 is now not going to NJ and NOT stopping at 10 Ave)

Ideally, a subway can also be extended to NJ, whether the 7 or L to northern Hoboken (far away from ‘competing’ PATH), connection to light rail

BoerumBum September 5, 2012 - 11:48 am

This is definately off-topic… but if the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey absorbed the MTA, would it solve more problems than it created? Would it remove financing issues? Would it remove impediments to extending a unified subway system outside of NYC’s borders?

Henry September 5, 2012 - 12:14 pm

It wouldn’t really provide much of a benefit – there are added toll and port revenues, but the only thing one could really integrate would be PATH (and that would mostly consist of raising fares.)

I think it would make the new organization a bigger punching bag, though, because instead of blaming it on the city (something that some New Yorkers don’t take kindly to), you could blame it on interference on the other state.

Personally i feel like a city transportation authority should be created, in charge of all transportation entirely within the confines of the city (parking, roads, rails, but NOT commuter railroads) and with the power to set fares within city limits for all modes (including commuter railroads). It’d make the implementation of a citywide flat fare for railroads and congestion pricing easier, for one thing.

Nathanael September 7, 2012 - 3:59 am

You’re looking for something akin to Transport For London.

Nathanael September 7, 2012 - 3:58 am

Given that the MTA can’t seem to successfully merge Metro-North and LIRR, I foresee problems actually realizing the potential benefits of a merger.

If NJT, Port Authority of NY & NJ, all three divisions of the MTA, the Port Authority of NJ & PA, SEPTA, DelDOT, and Amtrak were actually successfully reorganized into one gigantic agency — call it American Rail for the sake of argument — there would probably be some major, genuine benefits.

But it would probably be easier politically to merge the states of NY, NJ, CT, PA, and DE. 😛

Nathanael September 7, 2012 - 3:59 am

Note that we can’t even merge counties in NY state. Heck, there are still separate Borough governments after the NYC – Brooklyn merger *over 100 years ago*.

Really getting the benefits of reorganization seems… hard.

Woody September 8, 2012 - 4:06 pm

We mostly use the Boro president’s offices as launching pads for wanna-be mayors. That’s pretty harmless, isn’t it? I’d rather that than using the office of the US D.A. 😉

marvin September 9, 2012 - 9:40 am

The problem with bridges into the central part of a city are the approach ramps to bring the bidge down to street level. Why not build a bridge from the top of the helix directly to one of the upper levels of an expanded PA Bus Terminal. The bridge could even include 2-4 light rail tracks, 4 bus lanes, 2 train tracks for a shuttle running every two minutes to Secaucus, a bike lane (yes for this a narrow but less intrussive ramp would have to be built down to the street), and a walkway (which could then connect to the High Line)

*Venitilations problems/cost solved
*Substantial capacity increase
*Infrastructure that benefits a diverse population (including drivers who would have much of the bus traffic relieved from the existing tunnel)
*environmentalists given the mass transit/electic power component
*national security as a real way to evacuate Manhattan would now exist

Henry September 9, 2012 - 11:56 am

The bridge would have to be very high – the cruise ship terminal is in the mid-50s, and the Lincoln tunnel is only at 34th street.

Bridge ramps would also take a huge chunk of real estate – that’s why the helixes on both ends of the tunnel were built, and if the length of the Williamsburg, Manhattan, and Brooklyn approaches are any indication, 34th St between Eighth Ave and the river might have to be condemned.

Elevated ramps through Midtown are a non-starter, and quite frankly, a bridge blocking the best views of the Hudson (Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks, the view of the Palisades, the view of Midtown for everything south of this bridge) is probably going to cause a small riot if it ever starts construction.

marvin September 9, 2012 - 7:48 pm

How many passengers per hour can the 33rd street Path handle?

My idea: Abandon that service in Manhattan turning over its Hudson Tunnel to the #7, which uses longer trains which would serve both the east and west side and beyond. Turn arround trains as needed at CitiField/Corona Yards to the extent that Flushing/Main Street terminal can not handle the maximum load. In NJ have the #7 go only to the Hoboken Terminal which would be served by more NJ Transit trains from both the north and south,

Under such a scenario, how many passengers per hour could be handled from NJ?

Could this increase capacity and bring passengers to where they want to be going?

Steven October 12, 2012 - 1:17 pm

I commute from Passaic, NJ 5 days a week. Passiac is blessed with NJT Trains, Buses and a small private bus company. For all the excuses NJT gives that little private bus company runs circles around NJT. It’s the perfect example of private companies succeeding where large, overblown and yes, Unionized, companies fail. In the morning my stop is only the third one from the Passiac bus terminal and by then it’s standing room only! Coming home the lines are as long as the wait. These smaller buses use the same roads and tunnels except when they approach the Lincoln and use side streets. They run every 5 minutes like clockwork. What they don’t do is use the Bus Terminal. Many evenings, when the line stretches from the platform, down the escalator, and deep, deep, deep into the bus terminal, I go across the street and pick up the private bus and I’m on my way home. Until NJT finds a way to alleviate the terminal congestion I am going to push for price parity on the smaller bus lines that do a MUCH BETTER JOB. I purchase the NJT discount bus tickets but what good does the savings do me if I can’t get home? New York City will never be a 21st century city as long as it maintains an early 20th century commuter infrastructure. Companies looking to move to NY need to consider the productivity of their workers and how an obsolete commuter infrastructure will impact their bottom line.

With Gateway Years Away, Trans-Hudson Bus Capacity Needed Now | Mobilizing the Region April 30, 2013 - 2:25 pm

[…] take commuters so far — literally. The Port Authority Bus Terminal (PABT), where more than one in 10 buses leave late, is already bursting at the seams, so adding capacity in the Lincoln Tunnel […]


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