Skip to content

Posts from the "Port Authority" Category

3 Comments

TSTC and Manhattanites Call for Port Authority to Improve Bus Facilities

TSTC's Veronica Vanterpool, center, and CB 4 chair Christine Berthet, to her right, outside the Port Authority Bus Terminal today. Photo: Madeline Marvar/TSTC

TSTC’s Veronica Vanterpool, center, and CB 4 chair Christine Berthet, to her right, outside the Port Authority Bus Terminal today. Photo: Madeline Marvar/TSTC

The Tri-State Transportation Campaign joined locals in Hell’s Kitchen today to call on the Port Authority to invest in improved and expanded bus facilities to relieve pressure on local streets.

With no more space left in the authority’s existing facilities, a growing number of buses are parked by curbs near the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Locals and advocates have long urged the Port Authority to remove idle buses from neighborhood streets and improve conditions for bus riders with a new garage and renovations to the terminal.

“The asthma rate for our children is the third highest in Manhattan,” said Christine Berthet, chair of Manhattan Community Board 4 and co-founder of CHEKPEDS, in a written statement. “Bus gridlock prevents pedestrians from crossing the streets and retail stores see their revenues plummet. With each residential tower replacing a bus parking lot, the problem has escalated to crisis proportions.”

Today’s event took place before the Port Authority board was scheduled to vote on the 2014-2023 capital program.

“Every day, more than 8,500 buses carry nearly 400,000 people through the PABT and the GWBBS [George Washington Bridge Bus Station] so it’s baffling that there are no funds in the next capital program for a new bus garage or improvements to the bus terminal,” said Veronica Vanterpool, TSTC executive director.

A billion-dollar bus garage was proposed in the authority’s 2007-2013 capital program, but the project was dropped in 2009, Vanterpool told Streetsblog. The authority is looking to build a 100-spot garage annex on W. 39th Street between 10th and 11th Avenues, but that proposal is dependent on a federal grant. It’s also much smaller than the garage that was shelved by the authority, Vanterpool said.

Vanterpool noted that the authority can make year-to-year budget and capital spending adjustments, which leaves room for bus improvements to resurface.

“The annex is certainly something that will help,” said Vanterpool, “but the Port Authority needs to revisit its priorities and start making capital investments for buses.” 

19 Comments

GWB Will Get Bike-Ped Upgrades as Part of Cable Rehab Project

Yesterday, the the Port Authority board authorized a $1.03 billion rehabilitation of the George Washington Bridge’s suspension cables that will also fix problem spots for cyclists and pedestrians using its shared paths. But the upgraded biking and walking routes will still be two feet narrower than the recommended width for shared-use paths.

Say goodbye to these stairs on the George Washington Bridge path...in 2024. Photo: Google Maps

Say goodbye to these stairs on the George Washington Bridge path… in ten years. Photo: Google Maps

Today, users of the south path face a hairpin turn on the Manhattan side. The north path, which remains closed, has staircases on both sides of the Hudson. Under the plan, both paths would be upgraded to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, eliminating the hairpin turn and the stairs.

The north path will receive upgrades first and then reopen to the public before the south path is closed for construction.

The fixes were welcomed by Transportation Alternatives and the New Jersey Bike & Walk Coalition, which both worked with the Port Authority as it was planning the project.

In his testimony, Neile Weissman, who serves as president of the New York Cycle Club, also praised the changes but prodded the Port Authority to widen the paths, which at 8 feet would fall below federal guidelines, which call for a minimum of 10 feet, or up to 14 feet for busy shared-use paths.

“We have a budget and a limited amount of revenue,” Port Authority spokesperson Chris Valens told Streetsblog. ”We did what we thought we could accommodate based on the project and the cost of the project.” Valens added that with both the north and south paths open, it might be possible to designate one path for cyclists and another for pedestrians, though no final decision has been made.

Construction is set to begin in 2017, with final completion in 2024.

3 Comments

One-Way Gap in Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway Set to Be Closed This Fall

The Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway is planned to run along the inside edge of a Port Authority lot in Red Hook. Negotiations between DOT and the Port Authority have delayed this short section until the fall. Image: DOT

Construction continues on the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway along Van Brunt Street, with a two-way buffered bike lane extending the greenway south through Red Hook striped recently, but there’s a conspicuous gap in the route that won’t be filled until at least this fall.

Missing link: This two-way bike path on Conover Street is supposed to continue through the fenced-off lot in the background. Photo: Stephen Miller

Reader Anna Zivarts flagged the problem with this short video and set of photos showing how southbound cyclists on Imlay Street find that the two-way bike lane suddenly ends at Verona Street, giving them the option to backtrack, divert to a cobblestone street, ride on a narrow sidewalk, or ride against traffic for two blocks before rejoining the new bike lane on Conover Street.

Why the gap? As shown in this DOT presentation from February [PDF], the missing link is supposed to be bridged by a bike path that jumps off the street and runs along the edge of a Port Authority truck storage yard, but it appears negotiations between the Port Authority and DOT didn’t wrap up before the on-street section was striped.

“The permanent greenway route along the Basin is expected to be completed in the fall,” DOT spokesperson Nicholas Mosquera said in an e-mail. In the meantime, he said, DOT will be installing temporary bike route indicators on the sidewalk. This stretch of sidewalk, while not heavily used by pedestrians, isn’t especially wide, and on a recent visit was blocked by companies that were unloading trucks.

“We continue to work with the Port Authority and other agencies to implement the portion along Atlantic Basin,” Mosquera said. Streetsblog has inquired with the Port Authority, but is still awaiting a response.

No Comments

Proposal for New Park Near Lincoln Tunnel Endorsed by CB 4

Image: CHEKPEDS

A community-driven proposal to create a new public space on a street near the Lincoln Tunnel was endorsed by Manhattan Community Board 4 Wednesday.

The plan, as reported by DNAinfo in December, is to convert three lane-widths of leftover asphalt on Dyer Avenue between 34th and 35th Streets into a park. That stretch of Dyer currently has three lanes for vehicle traffic exiting the tunnel and one lane for inbound vehicles. The Port Authority, which owns the street, plans to eliminate one of the outbound lanes. A coalition of neighborhood groups, including the Hell’s Kitchen Neighborhood Association and CHEKPEDS, envisions a park on the east side of Dyer, encompassing about 7,200 square feet.

DNAinfo reports that last night CB 4 voted unanimously to recommend the plan to the Port Authority.

There is still money to be raised, and the board wants “at least two” public feedback sessions. But organizers are upbeat — and with good reason, especially considering that the idea for the park came about only a few months ago.

“We’ve made a tremendous amount of progress so far,” said Jeffrey Peyser, who’s part of the effort to create the park.

“We’ve done outreach for corporate sponsorship to fund the initial aspects of the park and are working on getting matching grant programs.”

Meta Brunzema, an architect who helped create the initial design for the park, said that despite its tiny size, the green space would include new trees, seating areas and other amenities.

“Our group’s intent was really to make this a park for everybody — for seniors, for people with disabilities, for young people, for old people,” she said.

“The goal here is to make a real park.”

19 Comments

NYC’s New Curbside Bus Rules Are No Long-Term Fix

Under new regulations passed by Albany last month, curbside bus companies must now go before community boards before receiving a permit from DOT. Greyhound and Peter Pan, jointly launching service to Philadelphia from Chinatown, are among the first to navigate the new process. The bus companies are facing stiff opposition from neighbors before a community board committee vote next week.

New York's streets have become the heart of an interstate transit network. Image: Nicholas J. Klein and Andrew Zitcer via The Washington Post

The expansion of intercity transit wouldn’t come down to community-level fights if capacity limitations at the city’s transportation hubs were addressed. In the meantime, buses will continue to be kicked to the curbs.

Growing demand for commuter and intercity transit has pushed NYC’s existing terminals and tunnels to their limits. The problem is especially problematic for travelers who cross the Hudson River.

Penn Station is connected to the rest of the country by just two tracks, and in the wake of Chris Christie’s cancellation of the ARC tunnel, any expansion will be a very long time coming.

The Port Authority Bus Terminal, where commuter buses have shouldered the demand that the rail system cannot, is operating beyond its capacity, with riders facing mounting delays that show no sign of dissipating.

Now that the Port Authority has filled up, New Jersey Transit is considering using Midtown streets as loading zones for its commuter buses. Chinatown-based intercity bus operators have long offered curbside service; competitors owned by major carriers have joined them in recent years.

A new state law allows the city to regulate curbside pickups, giving the practice some added legitimacy. Instead of expanding capacity at existing hubs, New York has converted its streets into its latest bus terminal.

Read more…

No Comments

Lautenberg Introduces Bill to Limit Bridge and Tunnel Tolls

Last summer, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey raised EZPass tolls from $8 to cross a bridge into the city during peak hours to $9.50, with planned increases to $12.50 in a few years (cash tolls are increasing somewhat more). Tolls for five-axle trucks will rise as high as $125.

The hikes marked the first time the Port Authority had raised tolls since 2008, and the only the third since 2001. Nevertheless, congressional representatives from the area are making noise. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY) teamed up today to announce a bill to increase federal oversight of road tolls.

The “Commuter Protection Act” would restore U.S. DOT’s power to determine whether tolls on interstate bridges and tunnels are “just and reasonable” and set lower maximum tolls if they deem it necessary. The agency had that power until 1987, when it was revoked during an era of deregulation. The bill would also require the Government Accountability Office to produce a report on the “transparency and accountability” of how toll rates are set.

“When it costs $12 to drive your car across a bridge in America [the rate for cash tolls], something is wrong,” Lautenberg said in a statement. “Commuters are suffering.”

Lautenberg has a strong pro-transit record, but in this case he may end up hurting transit by taking up the cause of constituents who drive into the city. For one thing, the tolls have led to a four percent drop in traffic across the Port Authority crossings, which is good news for bus speeds. Meanwhile, ridership on PATH trains has risen 3.7 percent.

It’s still an open question whether the final draft of the bill will consider transit a “just and reasonable” purpose for tolling funds. There is currently no legal definition of “just and reasonable.” Even if transit is covered, however, the bill could still do damage.

If the U.S. DOT were to actually intervene with the Port Authority, for instance, there would probably be less funding available for transit. Already, the Port Authority scrapped plans to build a much-needed new bus depot in Manhattan because Governors Chris Christie and Andrew Cuomo scaled back the latest round of toll hikes.

Read more…

3 Comments

Cuomo Names Patrick Foye to Head Port Authority

Patrick Foye

As expected, Governor Cuomo has tapped Patrick Foye to replace Chris Ward as executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Foye, Cuomo’s deputy secretary for economic development and an MTA board member, had been considered a contender since shortly after Ward announced plans to step down.

An appointee of David Paterson, Ward was praised by sustainability advocates for sound fiscal stewardship and his awareness of the importance of transit and cycling to the region’s transportation mix. But Cuomo was reportedly never a fan of Ward, and Ward clashed openly with Cuomo and Chris Christie when the two governors raided billions in Port Authority funds, a move that precipitated a hike in tolls and transit fares.

Foye is a Republican who also worked with Democrat Eliot Spitzer as downstate chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation. Wrote the Observer in 2008: “Mr. Foye, once a member of the Conservative Party and a Republican donor, was brought in by Mr. Spitzer during his campaign. An acquaintance of both Mr. Spitzer and his wife Silda from his days at [law firm] Skadden Arps, Mr. Foye joined the governor in his rhetoric of parsimony with state dollars, keeping subsidy amounts to a minimum.”

Foye will take the helm at the Port Authority at the end of the month.

6 Comments

Amid Christie and Cuomo Raids, Port Authority Plans Huge Fare and Toll Hike

The Port Authority has planned massive fare and toll hikes for the PATH and its bridges and tunnels, made worse by billions taken from the agency by Governors Christie and Cuomo. Photo: Terraplanner via Flickr.

Crossing the Hudson River will get much more expensive under a proposed Port Authority plan to sharply increase tolls and fares on its four bridges, two tunnels and the PATH train. The increases are a result of the poor economy, the costs of rebuilding after the attacks of September 11, and the expensive repairs needed on the agency’s aging infrastructure, said the Port Authority. Left unstated was the enormous cost of raids on the agency by the state governments of New York and New Jersey.

Under the Port Authority proposal, the cost to drive a car across a bridge or tunnel would increase by $4 this September, with another $2 increase in 2014. Tolls will increase the most on the costliest users. By 2014, the peak E-ZPass toll would be increased by 75 percent. Off-peak tolls would be doubled.

Truck tolls will nearly double during most times of day, reflecting the exponentially greater wear and tear inflicted by heavier vehicles. The Port Authority also hopes to disincentivize cash payments by tacking on a $3 surcharge, rising to $5 in 2014, for those who haven’t switched to E-ZPass.

PATH riders will also be forced to pay. The base fare will rise from $1.75 to $2.75; with discounts, the average fare will increase from $1.30 to $2.00 per trip. PATH riders will be spared from additional fare hikes in 2014.

To sell the toll package, which needs approval from both Governor Andrew Cuomo and Governor Chris Christie and is sure to be a heavy political lift, the Port Authority is broadcasting both its record of fiscal responsibility under popular but politically threatened executive director Chris Ward and the necessity of the projects the toll increases would fund.

The agency’s operating budget has been flat for three years, they said, while the capital budget has already been cut by $5 billion. That comes even as the costs of rebuilding at the World Trade Center have topped $11 billion and extra security requirements have added another $6 billion to the agency’s costs. The proposed toll increases, including those scheduled for 2014, would raise roughly $1 billion, according to the New York Times.

But Christie and Cuomo also bear responsibility for the Port Authority’s budget.

Read more…

15 Comments

If Cuomo Fires Chris Ward, NY and NJ Will Lose a Proven Leader

Chris Ward may only have a few months left as executive director of the Port Authority despite a record of success. Photo: Port Authority via NYT

Chris Ward may only have a few months left as executive director of the Port Authority. According to a report in the New York Post, Andrew Cuomo intends to replace the Paterson appointee this fall, once the ceremonies marking the tenth anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks have passed.

Ward has been widely lauded for his stewardship of the Port Authority. Before Cuomo took office, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign urged him to keep both Ward and MTA chief Jay Walder in their positions. Now in response to rumors that the governor may fire Ward, environmental and transportation advocates are rallying to his side.

“The Port Authority is cleaner, greener and more efficient thanks to Chris Ward’s leadership,” said Tri-State Executive Director Kate Slevin.

“He stands up for the public interest, whether that’s with the real estate industry, the construction industry, or other agencies,” said Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul Steely White. “He’s looking out for the public, whether that’s bus riders or bike riders.”

Rumors of Ward’s ouster come at an important moment for the Port Authority. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has for months been trying to use Port Authority funds to pay for local road projects that would normally be funded by the state department of transportation. If successful, Christie’s plan would transform the Port Authority from an agency dedicated to regional planning and long-term investment into a piggybank for the two states. Bus riders would be hit especially hard as potential investments in projects like a larger Port Authority Bus Terminal get postponed and neglected.

As executive director, Ward has perhaps attracted the most attention for his successful guidance of the World Trade Center reconstruction, which has made significant progress recently. His skills as a financial steward extend to the Port Authority’s transportation business as well. The development of a plan to build a new Goethals Bridge under a public-private partnership could serve as a model for future infrastructure projects across the region, said Slevin.

In an era of tight budgets, Ward put forward a 2011 budget for the Port Authority with no growth but didn’t lose sight of the need for investing in the region’s future. In part, Ward struck that balance by eliminating wasteful spending where he could find it. He cut consultant spending by 32 percent and overtime by 20 percent, said White, but “nobody would say that the Port Authority is doing less.”

Read more…

1 Comment

Public-Private Plan for Goethals Trades Higher Costs for Faster Construction

The Port Authority will pay extra for a new Goethals Bridge to be built under a public-private partnership so that it can be completed sooner. Image: Port Authority via SI Advance.

Public-private partnerships, or P3s, have been repeatedly held up as a way for New York and other states to replace crumbling infrastructure despite enormous budget deficits. The Port Authority recent announced that it will use a P3 to finance the new Goethals Bridge, an important development that’s sure to be closely watched by the state’s transportation officials.

The Port Authority will be paying a premium to get a new Goethals sooner, which will in turn save the agency from spending large sums to maintain the old bridge. It’s a Plan B made necessary by the authority’s inability to use traditional financing methods immediately. It’s not a source of free money or huge efficiencies.

Under a public-private partnership, a private company would design and build the new Goethals and maintain it for a set period of time. The Port Authority wouldn’t put up any money up front, but instead would pay back the company a bit each year. The Port Authority would still own the bridge and have the ability to set tolls.

According to agency spokesman Steve Coleman, the Port Authority received eight proposals when it put out a request for qualifications last year. Now it is working to whittle those eight down to four finalists and will ask them for formal proposals later this year.

In terms of financing, said Coleman, there isn’t a major difference between this particular P3 approach and traditional bonds. In both cases, the Port Authority would get a capital infusion up front and pay it off, with interest, over decades.

Read more…