What the Port Authority Capital Program is Missing


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.

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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.

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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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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.

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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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Groups Question Cargo Projections of Raised Bayonne Bridge


Larger ships won’t be able to pass under the Bayonne Bridge as it exists today. | Image: PANYNJ

It seems that the Bayonne Bridge Navigational Clearance Program – the $1.4 billion dollar project that will raise the height of the bottom of the bridge span from 151 feet to 215 feet – has come under fire recently, primarily because of unclear prognostications about the project.

Last month, Coalition for Healthy Ports, along with two Staten Island-based organizations and the NRDC (the Coalition) filed a law suit questioning the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s (PANYNJ) assertions that the project will have a minimal impact on the overall volume of cargo handled by the Port of New York and New Jersey (PONYNJ). Of particular concern is the potential negative impact on air quality that might result if the impact is understated.


Location of the Bayonne Bridge. | Image: PANYNJ

To understand the Coalition’s concerns, it is helpful to talk about the PANYNJ’s stated basis for the project.

The Bayonne Bridge connects Staten Island to New Jersey by passing over the Kill van Kull, the waterway that connects Newark Bay with New York Harbor. Currently, the bridge is 151 feet above the waterline – enough to handle most of the ships currently in the global fleet (called Panamax ships). However, with the ongoing expansion of the Panama Canal, ships are getting bigger (“Post-Panamax” ships) hence the need to increase the Bayonne Bridge’s clearance. If the bridge isn’t raised, the Port would stand to lose business; the majority of carriers said “they may need to bypass the Port of NY/NJ in the future if the Bayonne Bridge remains a restriction” because Post-Panamax ships “will be deployed on most relevant trade routes whether the Port of New York and New Jersey can accept them or not.”

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Port Authority Bus Terminal Comprehensive Study Must Also Investigate Additional Bus Lane Capacity

Additional bus lane capacity must be a part of PABT’s study. Source: NJ.com

A study to improve and expand the Port Authority Bus Terminal was granted funds yesterday at the monthly meeting of the Port Authority of New York [...]

With Gateway Years Away, Trans-Hudson Bus Capacity Needed Now

With the Gateway Tunnel more than a decade off, trans-Hudson commuters need transit capacity beyond what the Lincoln Tunnel’s sole Exclusive Bus Lane (XBL), pictured here, can provide. | Photo: Port Authority of NY & NJ

How do you transport more people between New Jersey and Manhattan when the existing tunnels are at [...]

San Francisco Leapfrogs New York Region on Cashless Tolls

Cashless, open-road electronic tolling on New Jersey’s Garden State Parkway. | Photo: New Jersey Monthly

Since 1999, TSTC has been pushing for the MTA, which operates seven bridges and two tunnels in New York City, to convert its congestion- and pollution-inducing toll booths to gateless, cashless, all-electronic, high-speed open-road tolls. In 2011, the MTA took a small step toward [...]

NJ Transit Scorecard: Second Verse, Same as the First

Ratings on NJ Transit's second quarterly customer scorecard haven't changed much compared to the first scorecard.

NJ Transit’s second quarterly “Scorecard” results are in, and they aren’t anything to brag about. The agency’s overall score rose from 5.2 to 5.3 on a scale of 1 to 10, which NJ Transit still describes as “satisfactory” or “acceptable.” [...]