On Saturday I wrote about the abandoned Manhattan Terminal at the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge, where trolleys used to turn around, allowing their passengers to transfer to the BMT Centre Street trains (now the J/Z) and, after 1936, to the E train (now the F). In addition to the trolley terminal, the Centre Street loop was four tracks, two from the Williamsburg Bridge to Chambers Street and eventually connecting with the Montague Street Tunnel (now used by the R train), and two from the Manhattan Bridge intended to connect with the trains from the Brooklyn Bridge. The tracks across the Brooklyn Bridge were removed and the tracks from the Manhattan Bridge reconfigured to connect to the Sixth Avenue line, and two of the Centre Street tracks have now been abandoned.
As I wrote four years ago, that means that these two tracks are now available for additional service. In general I think we shouldn't give rail infrastructure to buses, and I would ideally like to see the old Tomkins and Nostrand Avenue trolleys rebuilt.
In the meantime, I would be willing to see these relatively short tracks used by buses. In particular, the Nostrand Avenue Select Bus will be running from the Bridge Plaza bus station in Williamsburg south to Sheepshead Bay. It will connect to the 2, A and J trains at all times, the 3, C and M trains during the day and the 5 and Z during rush hours. But the transfer to the J/M/Z at Bridge Plaza is not particularly convenient, involving walking a block and a half, crossing busy streets, and climbing stairs.
What if instead the buses continued across the bridge and into the tunnel, where they could whisk passengers right to existing stations with transfers to the N, Q and R at Canal Street and the 4, 5 and 6 at Chambers Street, and the J and Z at every stop?
There are similar challenges with ventilation as there are in my proposal for the trolley terminal, but with hybrid or natural gas buses we could keep emissions to a minimum. You might argue that the buses would still get stuck in bridge traffic, but not if we gave them a dedicated lane. We might not be able to allow other buses, like the Chinatown vans and buses, into that tunnel, but we could allow them to use the lane on the bridge if there's room.