Monday, May 11, 2009

Lower Manhattan buses: a better way

On Sunday I discussed the saga of the ninety or more buses that are stored in Lower Manhattan every day. Some of these buses are tour buses, and others are commuter buses from New Jersey that bring workers in in the morning and take them home in the evening. There are also a number of MTA-run express buses from all over the city that also lay over in Lower Manhattan, and I'm not sure they're counted in the total. In the past I've seen numerous buses parked along West Street, Greenwich Street and Church Street; I don't know if they're still being kept there.

My previous post dealt with efforts to find places to keep these buses where they won't get in the way, but the fact of the matter is that Lower Manhattan is one of the most crowded places in the country, and it's really not the best place to keep hundreds of buses. According to the Express, some people have figured this out:

If the bus garage cannot get funding, Catherine McVay Hughes, chairperson of C.B. 1’s W.T.C. Redevelopment Committee, mentioned several alternatives. One that has gained particular support in the community is for tour buses to park in New Jersey, with the tourists taking the PATH train in to see the World Trade Center site. That proposal has not gained much political traction, but Hughes said several 9/11 family members support it as well.

Another idea would be for the buses to take the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel to Red Hook after dropping people off in Lower Manhattan, just a short ride away, Hughes said. Joyce Mulvaney, spokesperson for M.T.A.’s Bridges and Tunnels, said commuter buses would fit through the tunnel but double-decker tour buses might not meet the 12-foot height cutoff.

I've got an even better idea: store the commuter buses from New Jersey in Staten Island, Spring Creek, Springfield Gardens, Far Rockaway and South Jamaica. Some of you may recognize those neighborhoods as the locations of MTA Bus Company garages. They are in fact the homes of the MTA buses that are parked in Lower Manhattan in the middle of the day, so they have room for the Jersey buses. The MTA could make a little cash by renting them out, but it actually makes more sense to trade space in those garages for space in Hoboken, Newark, Nutley, Cliffside Park, Trenton, etc.

Now why would the MTA, New Jersey Transit and private bus companies want to clog up the roads, burn diesel and emit fumes, and pay drivers to schlep the buses all the way out to these far-flung garages, only to bring them in again right before rush hour? Well, they already run buses out there for passenger service, actually. It would just mean a few more on the roads. The best part about it is that those buses could be used for passenger service as well. Rush-hour, peak-direction only bus service is just as bad as rush hour, peak-only train service.

"But Cap'n," you say, "there just isn't enough demand for that kind of service. The buses would be empty most of the time." Maybe so, but do you know for sure? Frequent, convenient service can induce demand. If you run them every hour during middays until the new bus garage gets built, you may just wind up with a solid transit constituency.

But let's assume that for some routes, there just aren't a lot of people traveling in the middle of the day. Well there are routes that do see significant midday demand. Shopping routes, lunch routes, people going to meetings. These are routes between one job center and another. For example, from Midtown to Downtown; I bet there's a lot of people who'd pay $3 or even $5 to take an air-conditioned express bus from Grand Central, Penn Station and the Port Authority to Wall Street in the middle of the day. There'd be even more demand if the buses had dedicated busways along Sixth Avenue and Broadway. so they didn't get stuck in traffic.

Other possible destinations are transportation centers like the airports, Downtown Brooklyn, Long Island City, White Plains, Secaucus and Newark. Or suburban business clusters like Morris County, NJ or Lake Success on Long Island.

Some of the buses, like the tour buses, really do need to sit in Lower Manhattan for eight hours. But most of them don't. There are still plenty of people who want to go places, and the buses can get them there and make some money for their owners at the same time.

1 comment:

CityLights said...

Expanding bus service in imaginative ways (a staple of the Ravitch Plan), together with more dedicated bus lanes, is a great idea. I'm a reverse commuter and my options for going from Manhattan to NJ, Staten Island, or Long Island at "odd" hours are sorely lacking.