Even the Cuomo administration’s smallest concessions to transit riders on the Tappan Zee Bridge, it seems, are far from guaranteed.
After canceling all transit planning along the corridor, the Cuomo administration has consistently done everything in its power to avoid giving Hudson Valley commuters the transit system they are demanding: inflating the price tag of transit by including unrelated highway work, ignoring cheap or incremental transit improvements, and imagining popular opposition to transit that doesn’t seem to exist.
In the final environmental impact statement for the new bridge, released today, the administration continues to do all those things, throwing up roadblocks to providing transit rather than knocking them down. But the Cuomo administration goes further still, walking back the only accommodation they had offered to bus riders in Westchester and Rockland Counties. The administration’s promise to allow buses to use the extra lanes being built on each span of the new bridge, the so-called “emergency vehicle lanes,” has dwindled to a mere possibility, requiring further study.
The decision to let buses skip traffic on the Tappan Zee Bridge was hailed as Governor Cuomo’s first step in the direction of a transit-friendly bridge. County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef, who had been fighting for better transit service across the bridge, identified that offer as a prime reason he was willing to start going along with the governor’s plans for the Tappan Zee. And in public forums since then, top administration officials have repeatedly cited it as evidence that they weren’t ignoring transit entirely.
Now, however, even that minor concession is being walked back.”The Replacement Bridge Alternative configuration could support the ability for express bus services to use the extra width on the bridge during peak hours,” says the FEIS. “This use would have to be appropriately assessed and considered before being implemented.” Similar language is repeated throughout the lengthy document.
Cuomo’s press release, too, switches to conditional language: “The new bridge could support the ability for express bus services to utilize the extra wide shoulders on the bridge.”
“Governor Cuomo must firmly commit to the rush hour bus lane access his administration promised in June and further improvements to east-west bus transit in Westchester and Rockland Counties,” said Tri-State Transportation Campaign executive director Veronica Vanterpool in a statement, “improvements that will get people out of their cars and provide them a viable transit option that will spare them the burden of the bridge’s proposed higher tolls.”