TSTC to Port Authority: Bus Service Across Hudson Needs to Improve, Fast

tstc_bus_graph.jpgAverage weekday eastbound trips, 2008. Source: TSTC/Port Authority of NY & NJ.
The Lincoln Tunnel Express Bus Lane is a congestion-busting powerhouse, moving 62,000 riders into Manhattan during the morning rush every day and enticing huge numbers of commuters to leave their cars at home. It is now "the most efficient roadway in the country," according to an analysis by the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. One shudders to think of the traffic nightmare we'd have without it.

The Lincoln Tunnel XBL was established all the way back in 1971. In the last 38 years, bus ridership crossing the Hudson has boomed, especially this decade, but capacity for buses hasn't kept pace. Unless provisions are made to accommodate more bus travel -- and soon -- riders will face slower trips, the ridership gains of recent years will flatten out, and traffic troubles will deepen as more commuters choose to drive.

The good news is that it doesn't take all that much time or money to deliver some significant enhancements for bus riders. In a new report, "Express Route to Better Bus Service" [PDF], Tri-State lays out a strategy to expand on the success of the Lincoln Tunnel XBL and make bus travel more attractive for all trips across the Hudson. It's a wake-up call for the Port Authority to get moving on some long-overdue improvements.

"A population nearly the size of Cincinnati travels by bus across the Hudson River every weekday, but plans to enhance service for these riders are stalled," said Tri-State's Veronica Vanterpool, co-author of the report. "With bus travel anticipated to grow, we need to stop treating bus riders like second-class citizens and provide them with faster commutes and better access to information."

Tri-State recommends creating a westbound Lincoln Tunnel XBL during the evening rush and moving full-speed ahead with plans for a new high occupancy/toll lane for the morning commute (which has been stuck in the study phase for way too long). The report also touches on strategies to speed bus service across other Hudson River crossings, organize on-street loading for the city's growing volume of private bus operators, and make it easier for riders to plan their trips.

Follow the jump for the full slate of Tri-State's major recommendations.

Key Recommendations 

Short Term

  1. Expedite the completion of the Lincoln Tunnel High Occupancy Toll Lanes study and implement the recommendations immediately.
  2. Establish a westbound XBL in the Lincoln Tunnel during the evening rush hour.
  3. Create an online portal for regional bus riders, with maps, route schedules and carrier information.
  4. Improve communications technology for buses and update signage.
  5. NYC should develop, with community input, strategies for formalizing bus loading/unloading and bus parking areas in neighborhoods across the city.
  6. Coordinate with MTA and Westchester County’s Bee-Line to create and/or expand existing bus service between Westchester County and George Washington Bridge Bus Station.

Long Term

  1. Study the potential for High Occupancy Tolling on the Holland Tunnel and GW Bridge.
  2. Move forward plans to renovate and add capacity to the Port Authority Bus Terminal with community input, and to construct a bus garage on the West Side.