Friday, July 3, 2009

NYC-area bus networks - east vs. west

The greater New York area has one of the best train networks in the country. However, there are some major gaps in this network. West of the Hudson, these gaps are filled by an extensive bus network. It's not as convenient as the train, but most towns from Point Pleasant Beach to Albany have daily bus service, with routes stretching deep into the Poconos and Catskills. These are relatively new, clean, comfortable buses, and most of northern New Jersey has hourly service or better. Much of it is provided by private operators at a profit.

Now let's look east of the Hudson. There are three major private companies, which stick to established routes: Bonanza up the Hudson and Housatonic valleys; Bonanza, Peter Pan and Greyhound along the shore and up the Connecticut River valley.

The State of Connecticut and the New York counties of Westchester, Putnam and Dutchess run subsidized bus systems, much of which is the infrequent, indirect "charity bus" service familiar to transit advocates from other parts of the country. Of these public systems, only one, the Westchester Bee-Line, brings passengers to the city, and only one Bee-Line route, the BxM4C, goes to Manhattan. (Judging by the name, I'm guessing that this route is a relic of the express bus routes formerly operated by Liberty Lines, which runs the Bee-Line system under contract to the county. The BxM4A and B, which did not go into Westchester, are now operated by the MTA Bus Company.)

On Long Island, there's one major private bus company, Hampton Jitney, which offers near-hourly service from Manhattan to and from the South Fork, and less-frequent service to the North Fork and Westhampton. Intercity carriers New York Trailways and Coachusa each offer three runs a day from their core areas in the Catskills and Adirondacks through Nanuet, White Plains and Queens Village to Hempstead and other major towns on Long Island. I'm pretty sure that Greyhound offers at least one run a day, but I don't have more details.

Local bus service in Nassau County is provided by Long Island Bus, which is under the MTA umbrella. There is very frequent service on some lines (for example, Hempstead Turnpike sees buses every few minutes at some times), and others not so much. The Town of Huntington is served by Huntington Area Rapid Transit, and the rest of Suffolk County by Suffolk Transit, and both of those are charity bus services.

Coming up, I'll talk about how this dichotomy affects commuting patterns, and what it means for future transit development.


Alon Levy said...

This discrepancy sounds like different stages of transit development. Long Island and the eastern Hudson Valley have rail service with 80% share of the commuters to Manhattan market. New Jersey and the western Hudson Valley have to make do with buses.

Cap'n Transit said...

Interesting, Alon. Where did you get that 80% number from, if I may ask?

Alon Levy said...

The MTA has claimed this for Metro-North - see for example here, where it claims an 85% market share during rush hour.

You can also compare ridership numbers to the number of people who work in the relevant suburban regions and work in Manhattan. The Census Bureau publishes exact county-to-county work flows, which you can compare to weekday ridership figures.

Finally, some charts show exact market shares. I don't remember the link's address, but it shows that among people who work in Manhattan rail has an 80% share in Long Island and the Metro-North region, and a 50% share in New Jersey.

RatherBeBiking said...

Very informative, thanks.

Friday I rode my bike from Babylon to East Hampton, and saw many of the Suffolk County (well, about 10) transit buses you mentioned here.

Bad drivers, 2 of the approx. ten I saw run red lights and pass me at about 60 miles per hour at about 6 feet in 55 miles per hour zones.

The MTA Long Island buses are all very new models (some only recently introduced to Manhattan bus routes) and seem to operate on reasonable schedules.

James said...

I've utilized the Westchester Bee-Line service a couple of times - when I was living in Westchester and I had to spend a week car-free, I used it a couple of times a day. My impression pretty much matches with what you wrote here. While the buses themselves are pretty clean, the service has very long headways and tries to do too much - a trip from, say, Sleepy Hollow to White Plains has so many stops (many of which are in truly bizarre locations, like parkway onramps, for example) that biking would be a faster alternative by far. Earlier this year, County Executive Andy Spano pledged that his office would instruct WCDOT to install bike racks on all buses. Given the "Invisible Cyclist" population that constitutes a large portion of Bee-Line's ridership, this is sorely needed, but it has not happened yet, and who knows if it ever will.

Cap'n Transit said...

I'm convinced by Alon's figures that the west-of-Hudson/east-of-Hudson comparison has too many factors. However, a much closer comparison is Bergen County with Staten Island.