The Port Authority of NY/NJ Is Doing Fort Lee to Eastern Pennsylvania Every Day

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The political spectacle of the culture of retribution in New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s office spilling out into the open is just too fun, but if there’s a policy angle here, it’s that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is basically pulling a Fort Lee on eastern Pennsylvania (and even more New Jerseyans) every day of the year.

The future of eastern PA’s economic growth depends on further shrinking the time distance between the two big rich metros to our north and south – New York City and Washington, DC.

The physical distance and the necessary speed limits account for some of the time distance. But another big chunk of the time distance comes down to policy choices about how to manage the flow of traffic on the highways and at the tunnels. Do mass transit vehicles, which move a lot of people using a radically smaller amount of space, get priority on the public roads? No they do not, as Michael Noda points out:

Meanwhile, even rid of the New Jersey appointees directly responsible for the closure of the Fort Lee toll lanes, PANYNJ is still fairly useless from a transportation reform perspective. The Lincoln Tunnel Exclusive Bus Lane (XBL) is arguably the most successful and efficient transit facility in the country, but the XBL runs eastbound-only from 6:00a to 10:00a on weekdays, with not even a hint that PANYNJ might build on that success by creating a westbound XBL in the evening. Or implement any kind of bus priority at any other time. Or at any other crossing under its jurisdiction.

For Greater Philadelphians who travel up the Turnpike of Anger by bus, who still number thousands of passengers daily, this is a big deal and a big problem; it’s far worse for daily commuters at the PANYNJ crossings. And with Greyhound, Peter Pan, their subsidiaries BoltBus and Yo!, Megabus, and the resurgent Chinatown carriers all looking like they’re here to stay, and Amtrak fares likely to remain out of reach for the bottom tiers of the market, this is one New York problem that strikes home in Philadelphia.

If PANYNJ were to ever get wise and implement 24/7 bidirectional bus priority lanes at the Lincoln Tunnel, or any kind of improved bus approach to the George Washington Bridge, it’s probable that the concerns of us here in Philadelphia wouldn’t have had the slightest bit of influence on the decision-makers. But you’d better believe that, when they do, we’ll care. Meanwhile, we have the unfortunate task of anticipating a third of our region’s transportation decisions being made by a temperamental bully for the next three years. Oh, rapture.

A 24/7 Express Bus Lane through the Lincoln Tunnel and a dedicated bus lane on the highways would make it easier for people to work in New York City and bring their disposable income riches back home to spend in Pennsylvania, but Chris Christie and Andrew Cuomo clearly have a plot to destroy our economy! Let’s see some more of those emails..

This entry was posted in Transportation.

11 Responses to The Port Authority of NY/NJ Is Doing Fort Lee to Eastern Pennsylvania Every Day

  1. Albert Brooks says:

    There is a train already that my father took it for almost a decade and takes 75 minutes to NYC so why is a slower dedicated bus line that carries less people needed? Also being almost the exact same population as DC you need to include Baltimore in your metro thinking.

    • Jon Geeting says:

      The more non-car options the better. Agreed about Baltimore.

    • Nick C says:

      Most people can’t afford the cost of the train which can be four or five times what the bus costs.
      Also, for many daily commuters from Southern New Jersey, the train is not an option. I commuted from near Exit 4 of the NJ Turnpike and Greyhound was right there, train was a 45 minute drive away.
      For ‘day trippers’, you can buy a round trip from Philadelphia to NYC via Greyhound for $ 12 round trip versus $ 80 or more on Amtrak.

      • Jon Geeting says:

        And that’s a problem with the train too, because it doesn’t have to be that expensive. There are other ways to pay for train service besides fares. We should be charging higher road fares to cut congestion and nudge more people toward the less space-intensive options like buses and trains.

    • Michael Noda says:

      a slower dedicated bus line that carries less people

      There’s your faulty assumption. Are buses on NJ-495 slower than any equivalent rail service? You betcha. But more people cross into Manhattan by bus through the Lincoln Tunnel than enter by any single other crossing, road or rail. The one lane of the XBL carries more people in four hours, than all four lanes of the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel do in 24.

      It’s not as though there’s much in the way of new capacity across the Hudson on the horizon. The existing rail tunnels run trains as close together as the signal systems can safely permit. PATH can’t/shouldn’t lengthen trains until it’s dealt with the platform at Grove Street, and Amtrak’s Gateway Tunnels are two decades and billions of dollars in funding away. The only person excited by the prospect of doing major surgery to the GWB Lower Level to squeeze in the subway tracks it was intended for, is me. Meanwhile, better use of existing facilities at the Lincoln Tunnel and George Washington Bridge, meanwhile, are achievable with signage and paint.

  2. Michael Noda says:

    Just because I wrote that with a Philly slant doesn’t mean this statewide blog has to! Let’s not forget everyone who takes the bus into New York from the Lehigh Valley, or NEPA, both of which are, on aggregate, just as densely scheduled with buses to and from Port Authority Bus Terminal as Philadelphia is. And none of the riders of Trans-Bridge Lines, Carl Bieber Tourways, or Martz Trailways have the option of upgrading to Amtrak if personal economic fortunes improve. This strip of asphalt in Hudson County, NJ unites all of eastern PA in common interest.

  3. Pingback: 1/10 Morning Buzz | PoliticsPA

  4. (Am I crazy in thinking that it’s insane to tie the fortunes of a region in one state to a city two states and 90 miles away? When did we decide that sprawl of that magnitude was ok to support, when we can barely support transit in cities of any size in the first place?)

    • Jon Geeting says:

      To a large extent, the market has tied their fortunes together – all the cross-linkages between people and businesses have entangled the Bos-Wash megaregion over time. And our transportation networks serve the whole thing decently well. But they could shrink the time distance within the region a whole lot more, especially if policy were to actively favor the least space-intensive modes for priority right of way.

    • Michael Noda says:

      It’s not just about daily supercommuters, although supercommuters are great for bored writers of NYTimes trend pieces. It’s about entire intercity travel markets, with strong groundings in business traffic (remember those episodes of The Office where Michael Scott had to go down to the Corporate Office in Midtown?), and cultural and personal ties. It’s not as though there are any other candidates for Metropole of the Northeastern United States these days.

      Of course, nobody in their right mind would fly such a short distance, unless they were connecting on to somewhere else. And New York is the one place in this country where you just do not want to bring a car, especially if you’re not from there. So the bus rules the intercity market in a way that it notably doesn’t in other places.