Port Authority Bus Terminal “Commuter Chat” Event Tomorrow

Last Friday, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey “announced” via social media that it would be holding a “Commuter Chat” session for feedback about the Port Authority Bus Terminal on August 12.  Tomorrow’s session is part of the recently-announced “Quality of Commute” Improvement Program for the failing bus terminal, which according to the [...]

A New Port Authority Bus Terminal May Be Closer Than We Thought

Riders waiting to board buses at the Port Authority Bus Terminal. | Photo: The Record

Riders waiting to board buses at the Port Authority Bus Terminal. | Photo: The Record

Back in February, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) officials said it was “premature” to put any spending for the Port Authority Bus Terminal (PABT) in the capital program, and that nothing would be done regarding building a new bus garage until a $5.5 million study was complete.

But it seems like the Authority is revisiting this stance given new financial optimism and pressure from advocates and elected officials.

A few weeks ago, PANYNJ Commissioners Ken Lipper and Jeffrey Lynford of New York and David Steiner of New Jersey indicated that due to “several recent positive financial developments for the agency,” a new terminal “could and should be added” to the 10-year, $27.6 billion capital plan adopted in February. This news comes in response to New Jersey State Senator Loretta Weinberg’s testimony last month during the monthly meeting of the Port Authority Board of Directors.

The growing number of public complaints from New Jersey Transit commuters who use the PABT caught the attention of Assemblymembers Gordon Johnson and Senator Loretta Weinberg, who held a hearing on June 11 in Teaneck specifically to discuss concerns regarding the PABT. “We wanted to make sure in a most public way that NJ Transit and PANYNJ are well aware of the problems,” Weinberg said. “We’ve been hearing from our constituents,” who Weinberg says often must stand for more than an hour at a gate waiting to board a bus.

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Wednesday Winners (& Losers)

A weekly roundup of good deeds, missteps, heroic feats and epic failures in the tri-state region and beyond.

New Amtrak baggage cars feature roll-on bike storage. | Photo: blog.amtrak.com

New Amtrak baggage cars feature roll-on bike storage. | Photo: blog.amtrak.com

WINNERS

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo – This morning Governor Cuomo signed into law a piece of legislation that authorizes the expansion of speed camera use on Long Island, saying that “By empowering Nassau and Suffolk Counties to install dozens of speed cameras in school zones, we are helping to protect our students and ultimately save lives. This should send a message to all drivers – slow down and obey the speed limit, especially when passing by a school.”

Hopewell Township, NJ – The township became the 100th municipality in the Garden State to embrace Complete Streets and the first municipality to do so by way of a Complete Streets ordinance. According to the Township Administrator/Engineer Paul Pogorzelski, “we decided that this policy should be in the form of an ordinance and have the weight of law rather than simply be part of a resolution which does not transcend governing body changes. “

Amtrak - Amtrak announced that they have begun testing new bike-friendly baggage cars to alleviate passengers of the hassle of boxing and checking their bikes as luggage. These baggage cars, which are manufactured in New York state, are expected to be put into service on all 15 long-distance routes by the end of this year.

New Jersey Transit – The agency has unofficially launched its first-ever one seat ride summer shore rail service from Penn Station to Bay Head using new energy-efficient dual-powered locomotives. Riders will save 25 minutes by not having to change trains at Long Branch, which will likely boost ridership to the shore and alleviate summer parking in shore towns. » Continue reading…

NJ Transit Chief: “No Service Cuts Or Fare Increases”

NJ Transit’s new Executive Director Ronnie Hakim has gotten off on the right foot by protecting bus and train riders from service cuts and fare hikes. In response to a Tri-State inquiry concerning the proposed $15 million cut to NJ Transit’s operating budget included in Governor Christie’s budget, Executive Director Hakim assured advocates that there [...]

Insult to Injury: Governor Christie’s Cuts Would Reduce Subsidy for Already-Underfunded NJ Transit

NJ Transit says there won't be any fare increases if Governor Christie's subsidy cut is approved. What riders don't know is if there will be any service cuts. | Photo: AP

NJ Transit says there won’t be any fare increases if the subsidy cut is approved. What riders don’t know is if there will be any service cuts. | Photo: AP

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie announced several budget cuts Wednesday aimed at plugging the Garden State’s $807 million budget deficit. Among the cuts was a $14.8 million cut to the subsidy the state provides to New Jersey Transit.

This $14.8 million represents just under 1 percent of NJT’s $1.9 billion operating budget, but it’s an operating budget that’s already substantially underfunded. Over the past three years, $1.16 billion ($363 million in FY2012, $397 million in FY2013 and $397 million in FY2014) has been transferred from NJT’s capital fund to meet the agency’s operating needs. That’s nothing to sneeze at: $1.16 billion is enough to fund the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail extension, replace the Portal Bridge or make a serious dent in the cost to build the Camden-Glassboro Light Rail project.

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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

mass-transit-SB

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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