A New Port Authority Bus Terminal: One Small Piece of the Larger Cross-Hudson Capacity Conversation

Source: PANYNJ

Last week the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey released preliminary proposals for a new bus terminal. There were five proposals in total, estimated to take anywhere from 11 to 15 years to complete, with some estimated to cost as much as $10.5 billion. And while it’s very encouraging to see the Port Authority finally acknowledge the bus terminal’s real long-term needs, a new terminal is not a slam-dunk solution to the cross-Hudson capacity dilemma. There has been a serious dearth of vision for managing cross-Hudson capacity, which is poised to become a true crisis for all public transit modes if solutions and funding are not prioritized.

Port Authority Bus Terminal (PABT)

The PABT was built in 1950 at a cost of $24 million (approximately $233 million in today’s dollars), but quickly reached operating capacity by 1966, necessitating subsequent expansions. Today, the terminal is again operating above capacity, handling over 230,000 riders per day, with demand projected to grow to 330,000 by 2040. This is not a new issue. In fact, Tri-State has been sounding the alarm about cross-Hudson bus capacity since last decade.

PATH Train

Riding trains across the Hudson is also an increasingly daunting experience. Jump on any rush hour PATH train and you are sure to be far from alone. PATH ridership stands at roughly 250,000 passengers per day, an increase of nearly 50,000 passengers per day since 1994, and with even more development slated for Hoboken and Jersey City planned or under construction, capacity is and will continue to be a real problem.

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New Jersey’s Pile of Transportation Troubles in 500 Words or Less

greetings-from-njA quick update on some of the Garden State’s transportation issues:

Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) 

The state’s TTF will run dry on July 1, one year earlier than initially thought. Legislative leadership had been working with Governor Christie to devise a plan to restore solvency to the fund, insisting “everything is on the table.” But after denying the existence of any “crisis,” the Governor announced a new plan to borrow $600 million to meet the state’s FY2016 transportation needs. To put it simply: any hope of honestly addressing this issue appears to be dead.

Port Authority Bus Terminal (PABT)

While the terminal’s $90 million “Quality of Commute” program is underway, the improvements do not address the underlying problems plaguing the 65-year-old facility. After months of pressing the Authority to address the growing demand for cross-Hudson bus service, the Board announced this week that a new terminal would cost as much as $10 billiona price tag that many find suspect.

Gateway

Amtrak announced several months ago that damage to the rail tunnels under the Hudson from Superstorm Sandy was worse than initially perceived, and to repair it would require that one tunnel be taken out of service for at least a yearwhich could happen as early as this year. Given that NJ Transit ridership is steadily increasing, the work would cause major disruption to service. Last week, Senate President Sweeney announced a funding proposal for the Gateway Tunnel Project, which would include a $3 billion Port Authority contribution from the sale of non transportation-related real estate.

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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 Jersey State Senator Raymond Lesniak | Photo: njleg.state.nj.us

New Jersey State Senator Raymond Lesniak | Photo: njleg.state.nj.us

WINNERS

New Jersey State Senator Raymond Lesniak — Amid threats of another fare hike, State Senator Lesniak is introducing a bill to give commuters a greater say over NJ Transit decisions.

New York State Assembly — The Assembly wants to limit state aid to the Tappan Zee Bridge project until the state gives up the details of its financial plan, and has proposed increasing funding for statewide transit systems.

Bridgeport, Glastonbury, Hartford, Simsbury, South Windsor and Stamford, CT   Six Connecticut municipalities have signed on to the USDOT Mayors’ Challenge for Safer People and Safer Streets, more than New York and New Jersey combined.

Linden, NJ — The City Police Department has received a $200,000 grant from the New Jersey Safe Routes to School program for safety improvements near School #1, including the addition of bike racks and sidewalks.

New York City Councilmembers Donovan Richards and Helen Rosenthal — The transportation sector is the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases in New Yorka threat to both the environment and residents’ healthand the councilmembers want YOUR help in the fight against violators of the City’s anti-idling law.

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“Not a Crisis,” You Say?

Photo: Mel Evans/AP

Source: Mel Evans/AP

Anyone trying to make sense of all of the bad news for New Jersey transportation this weekthe lack of transportation talk in Governor Christie’s FY2016 budget address, the 8.4 percent cut to the transportation budget, more debt to fund transportation, the threat of the first NJ Transit fare hike in yearsnow has their answer.

Last night, Governor Christie said of the soon-to-be-insolvent Transportation Trust Fund, “I’m hopeful that the Senate president and the [state Assembly] Speaker and I will be able to come to a resolution sooner rather than later, but, you know, again, it’s not a crisis at the moment, because we’re funded pretty well now.”

Let’s be honest here. This is a legitimate crisis; New Jersey’s Transportation Trust Fund is set to run completely dry on July 1, 2015, which has disastrous implications for the state, given that:

  • one in three New Jersey bridges is structurally deficient or functionally obsolete
  • the poor condition of New Jersey roads costs drivers nearly $2,000 a year
  • New Jersey’s rate of pedestrian injuries and fatalities is more than double the national average
  • expansion of mass transit is at a standstill due to lack of funding

And yet, Governor Christie’s now proposing to cut the transportation budget by 8.4 percentabout $119 million less funding than the current fiscal year. Given the state’s needs, if anything, the budget ought to be increased.

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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.

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. | Photo: bronxboropres.nyc.gov

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. | Photo: bronxboropres.nyc.gov

WINNERS

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. — During his State of the Borough speech, Diaz called on the state to stop dragging its feet and redevelop the Sheridan Expressway.

Hicksville commuters — Governor Cuomo has announced a $120 million improvement project for the Hicksville LIRR stationthe busiest station on Long Island.

Fair Haven, NJ Mayor Benjamin Lucarelli — The bike-friendly mayor is taking his campaign for streets safety to Washington to participate in the USDOT’s Mayors’ Challenge.

Ossining Village Board of Trustees  Ossining has adopted a Complete Streets policy which will take effect immediately.

New Rochelle, NY — The City Council has approved two development projects near the town’s Metro-North station, which will include affordable housing.

Metro-North riders — By mid-April, all Metro-North conductors will carry credit card machines.

Statewide transit riders — On Thursday, state and local electeds came together at separate events in Buffalo and in Yonkers for a unified call to action: the State must prioritize funding for statewide transit systems.

New York City road users — WNYC analysis of NYC’s speed camera program has found that the program is improving safety, as both tickets and crashes have decreased in areas with cameras.

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New Amtrak Site Aims to Make the Case for Gateway Project

NEC Tunnel TrafficAmtrak launched a new website last week designed to increase awareness about the importance of the Northeast Corridor (NEC) to this region and its capital needs.

The new NEC website includes informationupdates, maps and infographics, and other resources about several NEC infrastructure projects both under construction and in the planning stage, including the 104 year-old Portal Bridgea key component of the Gateway projectwhich carries 450 trains daily and has been blamed for more than 250 delays in the last two years.

Hands down, the NEC is the region’s economic vitality linchpin, with 750,000 daily trips supporting a $2.6 trillion economy. Here in the tri-state region, the NEC and public transportation go hand in hand in supporting New Jersey’s economy, linking the Garden State to the economic powerhouse of New York City:

  • As of the 2010 American Community Survey, more than 11 percent of all New Jersey commuters used public transit, with Hudson, Essex and Bergen Countiesthe counties closest to New York Cityhaving the highest percentages of commuters using transit;
  • As of the 2000 Census, one in every 15 employed New Jersey residents works in Manhattan, and more than 70 percent of them commute by public transit;
  • NJ Transit ridership continues to grow, with an increase in total ridership between 2013 and 2014 of more than 950,000 riders;
  • Mass transit provides access to higher paying jobs in Manhattan, where average wages were 2.5 times the national average in the first quarter of 2014 and were 60 percent higher than in New Jersey in 2009.

Some have predicted rail ridership will double by 2030, and the Northeast Corridor’s most critical need is additional cross-Hudson rail capacity. Since Governor Christie cancelled the Access to the Region’s Core (ARC) project in 2010, the burden to address that need falls on the shoulders of Amtrak. The Gateway Program could potentially satisfy the burden with support from mutiple funding partners, but with the exception of funds for the “tunnel box” under Hudson Yards, the project is still lacking much-needed fundingat least $15 billion is still needed, in addition to “cooperation from local, state and federal agencies controlled by politicians with competing interests.”

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New Jersey 2014: Looking Back on the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

NJ Year In ReviewTransportation was quite possibly the hottest topic in New Jersey in 2014, seeing major highs, major lows and everything in between. Momentum for improving bicycle and pedestrian safety continued with the passage of new Complete Streets policies, bike accommodations along the rebuild of Route 35 in Ocean County, and new support for the Circuit trail network. Legislative leadership finally started realistic conversations about addressing the transportation funding crisis.

But for just about every step forward, there was another step back. Before the paint was even dry, Newark suspended enforcement of newly-installed protected bike lanes, critical safety legislation appears to be indefinitely stalled in the Senate, and the red light camera pilot program ended. Port Authority reform in particular turned out to be a robust source of lows, including blocked transparency efforts and misguided capital programming priorities.

But by far the biggest fail for New Jersey in 2014 was the fact that the state’s looming transportation financing crisis remains unresolved with less than six months left until the Transportation Trust Fund runs dry.

The Good

“Everything is on the table.” — The grave state of the Transportation Trust Fund generated a deluge of attention towards restoring solvency to the TTF.  A total of five special hearings were held by the Senate and Assembly Transportation Committees on the state of transportation funding, resulting in a number of solutions “on the table.” Transportation leadership in New Jersey— including NJDOT Commissioner FoxSpeaker PrietoAssemblyman Wisniewski and Senator Lesniakwas boldly vocal about the need for an increase in the state gas tax, which has not been increased since 1988 and is the second lowest in the country.

Complete Streets progress continues — The Garden State continues to lead the tri-state region with 14 new Complete Street policies added in 2014 as of October, bringing the total number of policies to seven counties and 111 municipalities.

Bicycle network grows — The Circuit received $8.6 million in funding to support the continuation of the 750-mile regional trail network, 300 miles of which are now open for use with 50 more underway. Once complete, more than half of the Camden-South Jersey-Great Philadelphia region’s population will live within a mile of the Circuit. Also in 2014, Tri-State, along with NJ Bike & Walk Coalition and Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, launched an all-out campaign to ensure that the 12.5-mile,eight-municipality rebuild of Route 35 in Ocean County served as national model for implementation of Complete Streets. On April 1, the New Jersey Department of Transportation revealed revised plans which now include ten miles of bike infrastructure.

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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 York City Councilman Donovan Richards Jr. | Photo: council.nyc.gov

New York City Councilman Donovan Richards Jr. | Photo: council.nyc.gov

WINNERS

Environmental Protection Agency Region 2 - Regional Administrator Judith Enck’s office was the only government office brave enough to stand up to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s attempt to raid Environmental Facilities Corporation water and sewer funding for the new Tappan Zee Bridge construction project.

R Train riders - The Montague Street Tunnel storm recovery project has been completed ahead of schedule and under budget.

New York City Councilman Donovan Richards Jr. – Queens commuters are applauding the stellar service provided by the new Q114 route, and the Councilman has plans to further expand service in the borough.

Metro-North Railroad - The agency launched a pilot program for bike racks on Connecticut’s New Haven line trains, and also received an award from the 2014 BuildSmart NY Awards for its Grand Central terminal energy conservation projects.

New Jersey Transit –While only a partial solution to addressing capacity concerns, the agency will be replacing all current train cars with double decker designs and all buses with a fleet of longer designs with more seats.

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NJ Transit Ridership Up Across the Board

Hudson-Bergen Light Rail saw twice as many passengers as Newark and four times that of RiverLine. | Photo: New York Post

Hudson-Bergen Light Rail saw twice as many passengers as Newark and four times that of RiverLine. | Photo: New York Post

New Jersey Transit recently opened its committee meetings to the public, allowing riders greater insight into the agency’s operations and performance stats. Ridership data made available at the August Customer Service Committee meeting has revealed some interesting usage trends across NJ Transit’s operations, highlighting customer needs in several areas.

The most encouraging insight gained from the committee’s report is that total June 2014 ridership across all three modes increased by 4.8 percent compared to June 2013, while statewide vehicle miles traveled (VMT) decreased and gas prices continued to soar. Rail ridership was up 7.3 percent, and the HBLR showed tremendous gains with a 6.9 percent increase in May and 7.4 percent in June, compared to 2013.

With statewide transit ridership increasing at such an encouraging rate, the state would be wise to prioritize a sustainable funding source for transportation projects. Thankfully it seems there is growing momentum to help push this issue in the right direction, though with NJ Transit already dependent on borrowing against its own capital funds to cover growing operating costs, a solution to the state’s transportation funding crisis can’t come soon enough.

Ridership stats across NJ Transit’s three transit modes allowed us to identify three specific transportation infrastructure projects that, if prioritized, could significantly improve and expand existing service for NJ Transit customers.

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Fix-it-First Investment Takes Priority in NJ’s FY 2015 Transportation Capital Program

NJDOT logo colorNew Jersey’s 2015 Transportation Capital Program reveals the state is spending less on unsustainable expansion projects and more on maintenance and preservation. According to Tri-State’s analysis, the FY 2015 Capital Program is dedicating the highest share of funds towards road and bridge maintenance and the lowest percentage of funds to expansion projects in recent memory.

Expansion projects in the 2015 Capital Program comprise only 3 percent of funds and maintenance/preservation projects comprise nearly 32 percent. By comparison, expansion projects made up 10 percent of the 2014 Capital Program funds and maintenance/preservation projects 25 percent; in 2013 expansion projects accounted for about 12 percent of funds and maintenance/preservation projects nearly 30 percent.

In 2015, for every dollar spent on roads or bridges, about 7 cents will go towards expansion while nearly 80 cents will go toward maintaining existing assets. In 2014 and 2013, about 25 cents on every dollar going to road or bridge projects went to expansion, and about 63 cents went to preservation.

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