RPA to Port Authority: Consider a Comprehensive Plan for Crossing the Hudson

Today at their monthly board meeting, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey reported that the option to rebuild the 42nd Street bus terminal in place is viable from a construction standpoint and will be evaluated under the environmental review process. As PANYNJ moves forward with its plans for a new bus terminal at the current location, RPA calls on the authority to consider a comprehensive plan for crossing the Hudson River. As transit demand from New Jersey to New York continues to grow, we must take a regional approach that crosses current agency silos to create efficient and practical projects that increase capacity and improve commutes, which include building a second bus terminal under the Javits Center as highlighted in RPA’s report Crossing the Hudson.

Public transportation across the Hudson River is in crisis. The Northeast Corridor, Penn Station, and the Port Authority Bus Terminal all suffer frequent service failures, serve many times the number of people they were built to handle, and need major repairs to prevent a catastrophe. The Hudson River tunnels are over 100 years old and were severely damaged by Superstorm Sandy. Penn Station has been partially closed this summer for repairs, and still fails to adequately serve the hundreds of thousands of commuters who use it every day. Riders using the Port Authority Bus Terminal suffer from long lines, frequent delays and obsolete facilities.

Over the past year, we took a hard look at commuting patterns, growth projections, public comments, and the design competition submissions. We found that for the last 25 years, the number of daily commuters traveling from New Jersey grew by 70,000, from 250,000 to 320,000. As a result, rail trips in and out of Penn Station have nearly tripled in the last 25 years, bus trips have grown by 83%, and PATH ridership is up by 27%. RPA’s research projects that this trend will continue over the next two decades, requiring far more capacity than the existing facilities can provide.

What is the solution to this mess? We came to the conclusion that the following set of projects would deliver the most mobility and environmental benefits to New Jersey commuters and New York City neighborhoods. This strategy would have the following benefits:

  • It would bring relief to bus riders suffering overcrowded and substandard conditions faster than rebuilding the existing PABT.
  • It would give bus riders more choices by having two Manhattan terminals—a renovated PABT at 42nd Street and a new facility below the Javits Center.
  • It will make it possible to provide commuter rail service to more places in New Jersey, such as much of Bergen and Monmouth counties where rail service isn’t an option.
  • It would create redundancy in the event of disruptions at either bus facility or Penn Station,
  • It will provide more capacity over the long term for the growing number of trans-Hudson riders, while also fostering regional travel.

Today we are asking the Port Authority to give a full evaluation of this set of projects as one alternative to consider as you continue with the planning process.

The group of projects includes, in this order:

  • Build the Gateway Tunnel – the most important infrastructure project in the nation – and simultaneously construct a new smaller bus facility under the Javits Center to consolidate intercity buses and provide a direct link for NJ commuters to Hudson Yards and the 7 line
  • Rehab the existing Port Authority Bus Terminal, which will now have more gates for commuter buses once intercity buses are moved to Javits
  • Extend Penn Station to the south (“Penn South”) and expand Gateway to Sunnyside, Queens with a stop along the East Side of Manhattan. This action alone will increase the capacity of the Gateway tunnels by an estimated 38%, providing even greater connections between New York and New Jersey.
  • Begin planning now for the eventual replacement of the PABT when it reaches the end of its useful life. We’re confident that the better option than building a new bus facility, at great cost and enormous disruption to the hundreds of thousands of daily bus riders, will be to construct additional rail tunnels between New Jersey and Manhattan. This would greatly expand rail service and provide a much better commute for many New Jersey residents.

Learn more about growing travel demand across the Hudson River and our recommendations for how to handle that growth over the coming years in our recent report, Crossing the Hudson.

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