Premature, or Too Little Too Late? Port Authority Reallocates $90 Million for “Obsolete” Bus Terminal

Port Authority Bus Terminal | Photo: Allix Rogers/Flickr (via WNYC)

Port Authority Bus Terminal | Photo: Allix Rogers/flickr via WNYC

Trans-Hudson bus commuters received some promising news about the outdated Port Authority Bus Terminal (PABT) Wednesday: the Port Authority’s Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a resolution officially reallocating $90 million from its current 10-year Capital Program to a (nonspecific) plan for improvements under the working title “Quality of Commute.” A detailed plan on how the Port Authority will spend that money is slated to be presented at the September 17 Board meeting.

Port Authority Board of Commissioners Vice Chair Scott Rechler called the PABT “obsolete in every way you can imagine” and expressed concern that none of the commissioners had made the PABT a top priority while the most recent 10- year capital program was being developed.

“I was a little dismayed that we spent two years going through this capital plan and getting input from all the commissioners who were taking feedback from the community and it didn’t reach that level, and I’m not exactly sure why,” Rechler said at Wednesday’s meeting.

» Continue reading…

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.

» Continue reading…

Sunshine at Port Authority: Time to Let the Public In

PA-panel-letterOn Tuesday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie announced the formation of a bi-state “Special Panel on the Future of the Port Authority” with the mission of studying the “governance, legal and operational issues” that could lead to reform of the beleaguered agency. The panel will include two commissioners from each state, as well as the legal counsel of both Governors. (The announcement included no information about whether any good government groups will be included.) The panel is to report back in 60 days, well after Albany’s legislative session has ended.

While structural reform is undoubtedly needed at the Port Authority, and an initial comprehensive analysis of the options is a good place to start, there are two key concerns about the panel’s formation:

First, to what degree will this process be uninhibited by the interests of both Governors? Panel independence is key to any reform success. If Governor Cuomo’s recent comments about the Moreland Commission –“It’s my commission. I can’t ‘interfere’ with it, because it’s mine. It is controlled by me.” — are an indication of the level of independence that a special panel on the Port Authority panel would see, reform could be hard to come by.

» Continue reading…

Safer Streets Bills Dominate the New York State Legislature’s Transportation Agenda

Two items legislators in Albany may consider this session: Local control over speed limits and new measures to ensure complete streets are being implemented. | Photos: FHWA and Reconnect Rochester

Among the transportation-related bills legislators in Albany may consider this session are local control over speed limits, speed cameras on Long Island and measures to guide complete streets implementation. | Photos: FHWA and Reconnect Rochester

UPDATE: The New York State Assembly and Senate have passed speed camera legislation; it’s awaiting Governor Cuomo’s signature.

New York’s State legislators returned to work in Albany yesterday with a host of “shovel ready” transportation bills awaiting their attention — bills with matching language in both the Senate and Assembly that need just a shot of political will to cross the finish line.

Speed Cameras for Nassau, Suffolk and NYC

Suffolk CountyNassau County, and New York City have all approved the required home rule messages asking Albany to pass bills (A9206/S6918) that authorize the installation of new speed cameras. Yesterday, their first day back from break, the NYS Assembly passed the bill. Now, all eyes are on the Senate. Last year’s efforts to authorize 20 cameras in New York City were often contentious, but this year’s legislative effort has been smoother, thanks in part to support from Governor Cuomo and the executives in all three jurisdictions.

Concerns remain, however, and a bill’s passage is never certain until it’s signed into law. One concern is that camera enforcement is about revenue, not safety. But the fines included in this legislation are low — $50 (whereas Governor Cuomo has announced speeding fines up to $975) — and only apply to drivers going 10 mph or more above the speed limit.  Plus, speed camera revenue has been shown to drop off precipitously once drivers understand they may get caught. Camera programs across the country have shown impressive gains in safety. After speed cameras were implemented in Washington D.C., for example, traffic deaths fell by 72 percent from 2003 to 2012. If New York City were to achieve a similar reduction, 200 lives would be spared each year.

Local Control for Speed Limits

New York is a home rule state, but unfortunately, local officials don’t have control of speed limits. No level of government—village, town or city—can enact a municipal speed limit lower than 30 mph. Villages and cities can enact 25 mph limits on specific roads, but towns under 50,000 in population have to petition the New York State Department of Transportation in order to do so. If a municipality wants to set speed limits lower, they must pass a law in Albany, a time-consuming prospect that is rarely successful.

» Continue reading…

Groups Call for Bus Capital Improvements in PANYNJ’s 2014-2023 Capital Plan

TSTC Executive Director Veronica Vanterpool spoke today outside the Port Authority Bus Terminal at a rally for increased bus infrastructure funding in the PANYNJ capital plan. | Photo: Madeline Marvar

In advance of today’s Port Authority Board Meeting, advocates from community, business, transit, real estate and environmental groups gathered in front of Manhattan’s Port Authority Bus Terminal to call [...]

What the Port Authority Capital Program is Missing

d

Instead of investing in trans-Hudson bus infrastructure, the Port Authority is prioritizing a PATH extension to Newark Liberty International Airport. | Photo: NY Daily News

Citing decreased revenue, five years ago the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey “postponed” a bus garage from its 2007-2016 capital plan period to the next capital program. In transportation parlance, “postponed” is often a euphemism for “not likely to ever happen,” a message delivered again by the PANYNJ in its most recently approved 2014-2023 capital program. The omission was scantly observed except by those paying close attention to the lack of bus parking in and around the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan.

The postponed West Side bus garage, once estimated at $1 billion, would provide indoor parking for hundreds of NJ Transit and private buses, sparing dozens of communities on Manhattan’s West Side from the dominating presence of buses on their residential streets. The projected cost is a seemingly massive impediment to the project — that is until you compare it with other projects with a similar price tag that deliver fewer immediate direct transit benefits. One such project is the PATH extension from Newark Penn Station to Newark Liberty International Airport.

» Continue reading…

Annual Transit Ridership Grows, but Not on Long Island

Transit ridership is up across the region, except in Nassau and Suffolk Counties. | Photo: Ed Betz/Newsday

Transit ridership is up across the region, except in Nassau and Suffolk Counties. | Photo: Ed Betz/Newsday

The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) released its annual overview of transit ridership in the United States today, and by and large the news across the country was good. According to the report:

In 2013 Americans took 10.7 billion trips on public transportation, which is the highest annual public transit ridership number in 57 years[...]This was the eighth year in a row that more than 10 billion trips were taken on public transportation systems nationwide. While vehicle miles traveled on roads (VMT) went up 0.3 percent, public transportation use in 2013 increased by 1.1 percent.

In New York, annual transit ridership growth largely mirrored national patterns. The Long Island Rail Road saw annual growth of over 2 percent, and even Metro-North, which had a year that Connecticut General Assembly Transportation Chair Representative Tony Guerrera aptly described as “appalling,” still saw growth of .6 percent.

Ridership grew by 3.6 percent in New York City; in Westchester County, ridership on the County’s Bee-Line bus system grew by over 1.5 percent.

In New Jersey, ridership on the Port Authority’s transit systems grew by .47 percent and ridership on NJ Transit grew by 1.54 percent.

The lone blemish on the region’s widespread transit ridership growth was Long Island’s bus systems, with both Nassau Inter-County Express (NICE) and Suffolk County Transit (SCT) experiencing ridership drops in 2013. With a ridership drop of almost 2.4 percent, NICE ridership fell to its lowest level since 1998. In Suffolk County, ridership fell by just over 3 percent, resulting in the system’s lowest annual ridership since 2005.

» Continue reading…

“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?

» Continue reading…

Port Authority Kiosks a Step Toward Improving Trans-Hudson Bus Travel

Port Authority Bus Terminal| Photo: BusTripping.com

Port Authority Bus Terminal| Photo: BusTripping.com

Last week, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) announced the installation of nine self-service information kiosks at eight different locations within Manhattan’s Port Authority Bus Terminal (PABT).  The kiosks will provide directions to gates and other amenities within the terminal, as well as searchable, real-time bus schedule information.

This move is a positive step toward improving trans-Hudson bus travel.  In a 2009 Tri-State report, “Express Route to Better Bus Service: How to Improve Bus Travel across the Hudson River, and Beyond,” the lack of accessible, streamlined information available to PABT users prompted the Campaign to call for an online portal for trans-Hudson bus riders with maps, schedules, carrier information, modern communications technology, and updated signage in order to improve the experience of riding — and waiting for — the bus.

» Continue reading…

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?

» Continue reading…