Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Tunnel xRT: the Queens Midtown Tunnel

This is the last of the major East River crossings to the Central Business District. The Queens Midtown Tunnel, like the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, carries no local buses, only the 21 express buses that make the loop, inbound through the tunnel and outbound over the Queensborough Bridge. There are some private buses that use the tunnel, including the New York Airport Service buses to Kennedy Airport.

There is a morning counterflow HOV 3+ lane on the Long Island Expressway, which begins in the middle of Calvary Cemetary, west of the BQE Interchange in West Maspeth. The lane has no entrances or exits from Maspeth to the tunnel, so there is no way for buses from the BQE to enter it. There is no evening HOV lane, and no bus lanes on any of the other tunnel approaches. However, two of the tunnel approaches have the capacity for busways: Eleventh Street as far north as 44th Drive in Queens and McGuinness Boulevard as far south as the BQE in Brooklyn, where it could connect with the Bedford Avenue BRT project.

The Q67 travels for part of its length along the expressway service road, but instead of going through the tunnel, it turns north towards Queens Plaza. Any new buses to use the tunnel would most likely be new bus routes, or else routes diverted from Queens Plaza.

On the Manhattan side of the bridge, things are very promising. As with the other bridges and tunnels, buses coming out of the Queens-Midtown Tunnel could connect to the First/Second Avenue BRT route. Last month, Transportation Commissioner Sadik-Khan revealed plans to make two lanes of 34th Street into an exclusive, separated busway, river to river. Linking this busway up through the Lincoln and Queens-Midtown Tunnels to the bus and HOV lanes on either side would be a great way to get buses moving.

It's true that 34th Street already has a major transit line running underneath it, but that doesn't go everywhere. Connecting the busway to the tunnels could relieve congestion at the Port Authority bus terminal, because some buses could be through-routed to points east. These could be local buses, such as a West New York to Williamsburg bus, or a Long Island City to Hoboken bus. They could also be long distance buses, allowing people from Long Island to take Greyhound-type buses through to New Jersey and points west with only short stops in Manhattan.

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