Since We Can’t Fix What Happened on Super Bowl Sunday, Let’s Focus on Improving the Daily Commute

Delays persist on NJ Transit while the agency remains focused on uncovering what happened on Super Bowl Sunday. | Photo: CBS New York

Delays continue to plague NJ Transit’s everyday riders, but the agency and state leaders remain focused on trying to solve what happened on Super Bowl Sunday. | Photo: CBS New York

After the Super Bowl transit “nightmare,” New Jersey Transit (NJT) announced there would be special legislative committee hearings and a Board investigation to figure out what caused such a “hellish commute to and from MetLife Stadium.”

If only state officials focused their efforts instead on solving the problems that plague NJ Transit commuters every day. February has been a dismal month for NJ Transit so far, with delayed trains becoming just another part of the daily routine. So why hasn’t anyone launched an investigation into the cause of these problems? The Super Bowl has come and gone, but the daily commute is here to stay.

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“Mass Transit Super Bowl” Highlights the Difficulty of Getting Across the Hudson


Photo: John O’Boyle/The Star-Ledger

Even with the weather on its side, New Jersey Transit was unable to meet the transit demands of the approximately 28,000 attendees who purchased rail tickets to the Meadowlands station. Super Bowl fans waited hours at cramped stations on overcrowded platforms and squeezed into tightly-packed trains to make their way to and from the game. With each 10-car train only able to accommodate 1,600 passengers, it took hours for attendees to return home after the Seahawks throttled the Broncos yesterday.

But while train service may have struggled, it appears that the many more fans who arrived by bus had a smoother ride.

The Super Bowl Host Committee offered a “Fan Express” bus service from nine locations in New York and New Jersey. To expedite the trip between Manhattan and New Jersey, one westbound lane of the Lincoln Tunnel was dedicated exclusively to the buses, an infrastructure improvement that is noticeably lacking during regular weekday commuting times.

So, what are the lessons learned from the first mass transit Super Bowl?

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Super Bowl Attendees Get a Westbound Bus Lane in the Lincoln Tunnel, but Daily Commuters Aren’t So Lucky

NJDOT Commissioner James Simpson spoke yesterday during a news conference on transportation to Super Bowl XLVIII. | Photo: AP Photo John Minchillo

NJDOT Commissioner James Simpson spoke yesterday during a news conference on transportation to Super Bowl XLVIII. | Photo: AP/John Minchillo

What does it take to be considered worthy of a westbound Exclusive Bus Lane (XBL) in the Lincoln Tunnel?

Evidently, Super Bowl tickets.

New York City and New Jersey transportation leaders announced plans yesterday for enhanced transit services for the game. The MTA, NJ Transit and PATH will be operating close to normal weekday rush, and they’re planning to operate a “Fan Express” bus which will have its own westbound XBL in the Lincoln Tunnel.

This is good news for fans traveling to MetLife Stadium for the Super Bowl, especially since there will only be 13,000 parking spaces available (and by permit only), and 70 percent of game-goers will be expected to use mass transit. All in all, nearly 80,000 people are expected to arrive at the stadium on Super Bowl Sunday.

But what about the 225,000 daily weekday bus commuters who travel to New Jersey from the Port Authority Bus Terminal (PABT) via the Lincoln Tunnel? Don’t they deserve a similarly dedicated westbound bus lane?

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NJDOT Spends More on Walking, Biking and Transit but Not Enough to Improve Safety or Maintain State’s Roads

NJDOT-2014-CP-bar-chartTSTC’s new analysis of the New Jersey Department of Transportation’s (NJDOT) and New Jersey Transit’s (NJT) Transportation Capital Program for fiscal year 2014 reveals encouraging shifts towards greater investment in bicycle, pedestrian and transit projects. However, the agency is still spending too much money to build new roads and bridges for short-term traffic congestion relief instead of redirecting more of these funds to maintain the State’s existing roads and bridges and retrofit more of the State’s most dangerous roads to be Complete Streets compliant.

The analysis finds:

Positive Negative
The percentage of dollars going to projects that significantly expand New Jersey’s roadways and bridges has decreased by 16.5 percent. The percentage of funds dedicated to expansion projects is still high. 
The percentage of dollars going to projects that make the streets safer for pedestrians and bicyclists has increased by 34 percent. The percentage of dollars going to projects that maintain the State’s roads and bridges has decreased by 16.2 percent.
The percentage of dollars going to NJT has increased by 5.5 percent.  A little over 30 percent of the NJT portion of the 2014 Capital Program will go towards funding for buses, yet in Fiscal Year 2012, bus trips made up almost 60 percent of NJT’s average weekday unlinked passenger trips.

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Using NJ Route 9 Shoulder as a Travel Lane Won’t Ease Congestion

Instead of

Instead of “spot fixes” that offer no long term relief (like the plan to convert a shoulder to a travel lane on NJ Route 9), NJDOT should consider an exclusive bus lane on the entire Route 9 corridor.

Just a decade ago, New Jersey became a national model for a progressive and environmentally-friendly transportation system. State leaders seemed to understand that you can’t build your way out of congestion with wider roads, and began prioritizing investments in proven congestion busters like transitwalkability and fix-it-first. Unfortunately though, it seems that New Jersey may be slowly retreating back to a time before transportation planners had ever heard of induced demand.

Howell Township Mayor Bill Gotto, along with State Senator Robert Singer of Lakewood and New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) Commissioner Jim Simpson, are mulling over the idea of opening up the shoulder on Route 9 from Aldrich Road to Interstate 195 to ease evening congestion. According to a release on Howell Township’s website, “[t]his highway is heavily congested from I-195 to Aldrich Road, and the area experiences bumper-to-bumper traffic and gridlock for several hours on a daily basis, especially between 3:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.”

Although opening up Route 9′s shoulder wouldn’t cost anywhere near Connecticut’s $500 million plan to widen Interstate 84, the additional capacity will do very little to ease the township’s congestion woes. While it may temporarily ease traffic congestion, drivers will soon find themselves sitting in the same traffic they did before.

But perhaps a smarter and more sustainable solution to Route 9 congestion is already at Howell’s and NJDOT’s fingertips.

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Hudson-Bergen Light Rail to be Extended to Englewood, not Tenafly

NJ Transit advanced a plan to extend Hudson-Bergen Light Rail to Englewood last week. | Photo: The Jersey Journal

“If Tenafly doesn’t want it, that’s OK. We’ll take it!”

That was New Jersey Assemblyman Gordon Johnson’s reaction when the New Jersey Transit (NJT) Board of Directors voted to approve the study of a modified alternative [...]

New Jersey Transit Ridership Trends Illustrate the Need for More Transit Funding

Ridership increased on all NJ Transit rail lines in the first quarter of FY2013. | Image: NJ Transit Quarterly Ridership Trends Analysis

With Governor Christie set to announce the 2014 budget sometime in late February, recently released data from NJ Transit makes a compelling case for increasing funding for transit operations in the [...]

Connecticut Officials, TOD Advocates Tour New Jersey’s Transit Villages

Kathleen Prunty of the Cranford Downtown Management Corporation (far left) explained the township’s successful transit-oriented development projects on Monday. | Photo: TSTC.

Interest in transit-oriented development (TOD) within Connecticut has rarely been higher. After releasing TOD grants to several cities and towns last year, the state has also moved forward on a TOD [...]

A Megamall in New Jersey Already Turning Into a Mega-Menace

Rendering of American Dream Meadowlands | Image:

Editor’s Note:  East Rutherford passed a budget last night with a 17% municipal tax hike (or an average $400 property tax increase) to cover the financial hole left by NJSEA.

While construction on American Dream Meadowlands is not slated to begin any time soon, the megamall is [...]

Sandy an Opportunity to Refocus New Jersey’s Transportation Priorities

Source: NJTransit. Damaged tracks between South Amboy and Matawan Stations

New Jersey’s transportation infrastructure got hit so hard by Superstorm Sandy that three weeks after the storm, the state is still reeling from the impacts.  The devastation delivers a key message–sustainable transportation investment and policies are needed to weather the next storm.  The [...]