TRANSPORTATION

Regional Plan Association proposes transit system revamp

BY Brenda Flanagan, Senior Correspondent |

25,000 people travel round-trip every day from New Jersey into Midtown Manhattan, and the 67-year-old bus station on 42nd Street is overwhelmed and falling apart, its upper floors unable to support today’s heavy buses, according to the President of the Regional Plan Association (RPA), Tom Wright.

“The Port Authority Bus Terminal was not built to handle the number of people who travel through it today, let alone the kind of growth that’s anticipated for the future. And it’s really in danger of collapse.” he said.

But Wright says, the RPA’s got a better idea than the Port Authority’s current plan, which would completely replace the bus terminal for $10 billion. In a new study, the RPA recommends upgrading the current terminal and building a second bus terminal a few blocks away, in the basement of the Javits Convention Center.

“We think it’d be a more flexible approach. You could do that with the money we have now, you could do it more quickly. And at the same time, of course what we have to do is build the Gateway Tunnel underneath the Hudson River,” said Wright.

“It’s very New York-centric. Very Manhattan-centric,” according to Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, who represents Bergen County, “I’m really disappointed because they didn’t reach out to us, they didn’t talk to us.”

Sen. Weinberg, who’s toured the bus terminal with other Jersey lawmakers, claims the RPA never consulted her side of the Hudson, and is unaware of the Port Authority’s current discussions on the bus terminal.

Weinberg said that the Port Authority’s current plan is “to build up on the current site. Which minimizes any impact on the neighborhood on having to expand the footprint.”

Weinberg said that the current bus terminal is close to subway lines and the Javits Center is not. And she says, bus service is far more important for Jersey commuters. RPA’s own studies show close to 7,700 commuter buses travel to midtown from New Jersey, far more than from Brooklyn, Queens, Upper Manhattan or the Bronx.

Weinberg and the RPA both agree, job one is getting the $24 billion Gateway train tunnel project under the Hudson financed and completed. But, the RPA also wants to extend the tunnel all the way to Sunnyside, Queens and hook up with the Long Island Railroad (LIRR). That’s controversial.

“Jersey commuters would have more options, more flexibility – a system that’s more resilient under the proposal we’re talking about,” said Wright.

“There is no rail access in Elglewood or Teaneck or Fort Lee. There’s no railroad. So where are they gonna increase rail to these places?” asked Weinberg.

Lawmakers, advocates and transportation experts will continue to debate this issue but ultimately it’s up to the Port Authority to decide where the 154 bus will go in Manhattan.