Over the past few years, transportation advocates’ eyes have been fixed on high profile projects such as the ACR commuter rail tunnel and the Tappan Zee Bridge. But the Manhattan Young Democrats Transportation Committee believes it’s important to highlight equally critical – but perhaps lesser known – investments that will decrease congestion by enabling more commuters to utilize mass transit.
One such project that could reduce traffic, ease the stress of commuters, and improve the city’s environment is the Port Authority Terminal bus garage.
Every weekday 9,000 buses, transporting 315,000 passengers to work and the city’s economy, cross the Hudson River. According to the Tri-state Transportation Campaign, this number will swell 18% by 2030, requiring 1,600 additional buses everyday. Yet, when the fleets of buses arrive at the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan every morning, they don’t have a designated area to park before taking passengers home in the evening; instead, they turn back around toward New Jersey without any customers or circle midtown Manhattan for hours in search of a public parking spot.
From parking lots in New Jersey, it often takes buses 45 minutes to reach the entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel, according to Jim Gigantino, a managing director at NJ Transit. With these kinds of unpredictable delays, how can any bus provider create a reliable system? They can’t.
This inefficient routine does not only waste money on additional fuel and wages of the bus drivers who are delayed in traffic, but it also affects bus riders and driving commuters alike. Bus riders are forced to wait for the delayed buses, while drivers battle the empty buses circling the streets or crossing the bridges and tunnels.
The bus system in its current form also deepens an environmental and public health concern. According to a 2009 Department of Health report, Manhattan has the worst street-level air quality of all five boroughs, in part due to vehicular traffic. Thousands of empty buses idling in traffic needlessly exacerbate this problem.
The question then becomes: how do we ameliorate these problems and provide a space for buses to park during the day? Fortunately, the Port Authority recognizes the problem, and it even included an $800 million garage in its 2011 capital improvement plan. Policy makers in Trenton and Albany, however, were unwilling to endorse toll hikes that would have paid for the entirety of the Port Authority’s capital plan, so the agency chose to table its parking garage proposal.
Like many state capitals and government entities, the Port Authority has been forced to punt on common sense long-term investments in infrastructure, despite findings that predict the bus situation will worsen over time. A Port Authority Terminal bus garage presents a pragmatic opportunity for regional policy makers and public servants to improve the lives of citizens.