Bus Transfer in Secaucus Part of No. 7 Extension Plan?

After substantial press coverage last fall and winter, the idea of a No. 7 subway extension to New Jersey has faded from public view. But MTR has learned from numerous sources that New York City is proceeding with a study of the proposal that could include a plan for a bus transfer station at Secaucus Junction in New Jersey.

It’s unclear whether the proposal would mean certain Manhattan-bound buses would end their trips in Secaucus and force bus riders to transfer. If this is the case, the proposal should be met with resistance by the 315,000 people who commute across the Hudson by bus every weekday.

Tri-State has not taken a stance on the No. 7 proposal, but it has crafted a list of principles to guide discussions about cross-Hudson transit. They include:

  • Additional cross-Hudson transit capacity is needed now. It will take years to complete environmental reviews and line up financing and political support for a new rail tunnel across the Hudson River. But all Hudson River crossings are already at capacity and improvements are necessary now. To alleviate these problems, TSTC supports near-term improvements to cross-Hudson bus service. A population the size of Cincinnati travels by bus between New Jersey and Manhattan each weekday and these riders have seen few improvements in decades. TSTC supports the following projects that could improve the cross-Hudson commute: a bus parking garage on the West Side of Manhattan, enhancements to the Port Authority Bus Terminal, reconstruction of the Lincoln Tunnel Helix, an additional morning eastbound Express Bus/High Occupancy Toll Lane along the Lincoln Tunnel approach, and a westbound evening bus only lane on the Lincoln Tunnel approach.
  • New York City should increase its subsidy to the MTA. New York City has not increased its subsidy to the MTA in nearly two decades, according to the NYC Independent Budget Office. In fact, when inflation is taken into account, the NYC’s subsidy has declined since 1990. The MTA faces a $10 billion budget deficit in its current capital program and without additional resources, the system will fall into disrepair.
  • No expansion project should take resources away from the existing transit system. The MTA and NJTransit both implemented drastic service cuts and fare increases in 2010 due to funding shortfalls. The MTA has no capital funding after 2011, meaning that without additional resources, the agency won’t be able to repair the existing system, let alone complete expansion projects like the 2nd Ave subway. Maintaining existing transit network and levels of service should be the priority for our region. New cross-Hudson projects are vitally necessary, but should only proceed if existing maintenance, repair, and operating needs are met.

The No. 7 proposal comes at a puzzling time. The idea was raised by Mayor Bloomberg last fall after Governor Christie killed the Access to the Region’s Core passenger rail tunnel that would have doubled NJ Transit rail service between New Jersey and Manhattan. The City’s reasoning was that millions in federal money would be available to spend on another cross-Hudson transit project. But the $271 million designated for ARC has since been eliminated from the federal transit budget. And even if a tangible proposal was crafted, the end of Mayor Bloomberg’s term in 2013 doesn’t provide the City with enough time to finish environmental studies and line up funding for the proposal. The $10 billion deficit in the MTA’s capital construction program further complicates matters. The agency could be reimbursed for building the extension, but the operations and purchase of new subway cars would likely fall on its shoulders.

NYC awarded a $250,000, three-month contract for the study earlier this year. Insiders say the study timeline has since been extended.  West Side interests may be pushing for the construction of another station for the existing No. 7 project (a station at 41st Street and Tenth Avenue was eliminated in 2008 due to budget constraints) and are intrigued by the idea of a direct connection for New Jersey residents.

4 Comments on "Bus Transfer in Secaucus Part of No. 7 Extension Plan?"

  1. Larry Littlefield | July 19, 2011 at 10:33 am |

    Those are good principles.

    And may I add that after East Side Access is completed and until an ARC replacement is completed, additional workers who work in Manhattan and choose to live in the suburbs ought to consider an East of Hudson residence.

    A subway has vast capacity, and while an extension to NJ would force riders to transfer they might have had to transfer anway.

    Alternately, two more tracks could just be directed to Penn Station, and New Jersey Transit could run subway equivalent shuttle service from Secaucus to there at 30 tph, perhaps to a new two-track terminal. That could be extended northbound, say up Madison Avenue, to additional stations in the next millenium (ie. the 3,000s).

  2. I think you guys are being a little bit over-dramatic. Wait until the 7 is actually in Secaucus, which may never happen, before worrying about buses to PA42nd. At that point, it will be time to evaluate whether or not bus ridership to Manhattan drops off and whether it will make sense to reduce bus service accordingly. If 60% of riders transfer to the 7, it would make sense to reduce bus service. This could be a good thing, because it might free up buses to send them somewhere else.

    If you want more capacity in cross-Hudson tunnels, push to get light rail in them. If built sanely, we could have LRT in months, and possibly double capacity over the buses – with the bonus that operating costs for transit into NYC get reduced.

  3. Rob Durchola | July 19, 2011 at 1:59 pm |

    Concerning your first bullet: While I agree with most of your points, a PM westbound exclusive bus lane is probably less essential than a PM eastbound exclusive bus lane (in conjunction with the PABT bus terminal expansion and bus storage facility). The big problem on most days in the PM is getting buses efficiently into the PABT so they can return to west of Hudson destinations. There are many constraints in this respect, including insufficient capacity in the PABT itself and devoting only two lanes of the Lincoln Tunnel to eastbound PM traffic. There are no easy solutions to the problem as PM eastbound traffic is heavier than AM westbound traffic. So, Route 495 cannot accommodate an exclusive lane in either direction in the PM and the Lincoln Tunnel needs four westbound PM lanes to accommodate existing traffic (though it would be interesting to take the middle tube and make it one lane in each direction for buses and carpools only, if the entrance and exit ramps for buses heading onto local Hudson streets can be configured to work with such an arrangement.)

    Concerning a Secaucus bus terminal, there are some advantages for some bus passengers and for some bus operators. However, many bus passengers would be faced with an additional transfer. While transferring is part of using public transit, too many transfers discourage its use. Also, almost all discussion of a Secaucus bus transfer ignores the needs of the reverse commuter, especially the heavy reverse commute population that boards AM buses in Hudson County to proceed to jobs further out in suburbia.

  4. I’m concerned that IF they get serious about extending the #7 line to New Jersey, that NYCTA will be governed by Federal interstate railroad statutes, and not by NYS law. This doesn’t sound like much, but is a big deal – as New York’s Taylor law prohibits the NYCTA/MTA employees from striking and disrupting service. Would Federal law give us the same benefit?

    A better solution would be to find a way to bring the PATH network into NYC via new tubes, serving new communities on both sides of the river. Since PATH already operates under Federal Railway statutes, there would be less internal disruption to the political operating infrastructure if this rail network were to be expanded. One could then offer “metrocard” payments to allow a “one token” (one fare) connections with NYCTA and PATH without merging the two systems or disrupting existing political organizations….

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