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Mario Cuomo Bridge

Street Beat: A New Bus For A New Bridge. TZx–>LHTL

by Chris Stanton and Dave Zornow

LHTL will use buses suitable for BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) service

LHTL buses will have WiFi on board. Bus stations will have countdown clocks to the next bus arrival as well as bike racks and Internet connections at most LHTL stops. The buses selected will look something like this.

The new LHTL bus system on the new Tappan Zee Bridge has just about everything a commuter could ask for. Except vowels — and a dedicated lane to ride across the new Tappan Zee Bridge.
The Lower Hudson Valley Transit Link will replace Rockland County’s Tappan Zee Express (TZx) bus system sometime in late 2018 after the second span of the new Mario M. Cuomo Bridge opens. The NYS Department of Transportation says the new system will improve the availability, accessibility and overall quality of public transit in the Lower Hudson Valley. “The LHTL will limit delays for commuters and make the region more attractive for economic development,” says NYSDOT Commissioner Matthew Driscoll.

LHTL Benefits

An outside operator will be chosen by the New York State DOT to run the LHTL, which will take over the existing TZx service from the Rockland County Department of Transportation. Commuter benefits include:

  • Weather-protected bus stops
  • Real-time arrival information at each bus stop (similar to the countdown clocks you see on some NYC Subway platforms)
  • Commuter connections with Internet connections: Each bus will be WiFi enabled as will many of the bus stops
  • Bike racks at most bus stops
  • Off-board fare collection for faster boarding: Customers will be able to buy their tickets at bus stops rather than on the bus itself.
  • Buses With Traffic Signal Superpowers:  New LHTL buses will get Traffic Signal Priority (TSP), a feature that will hold green lights for LHTL buses to speed buses through intersections.

What’s This Going To Cost? And Where Do I Get My Bus?

South Nyack LHTL stop Downtown Nyack LHTL stop NYSDOT officials expect LHTL fares will be the same as those of the Tappan Zee Express when the system opens in 2018. Bus stop locations will closely mirror those on the TZx. In downtown Nyack, the LHTL stop will sit at the corner of South Franklin and Artopee, while the South Nyack stop will be near the intersection of Route 9W and South Franklin.
The first phase of the project will include a bus route running between Suffern and White Plains with a stop in Tarrytown.

Fast Track Across The Tappan Zee Bridge? (Maybe).

BRT-Lite is Better…
But Not Good Enough

“We conclude that BRT – as proposed by the Task Force – does not appear to adequately reduce congestion on the corridor or significantly improve transit service. We evaluated the extent to which these objectives could be achieved more cost-effectively by upgrading existing bus routes, rather than full BRT implementation. Ultimately, neither BRT implementation nor upgrades to existing bus service may be enough to mitigate congestion on the corridor.
“Given the need for both long-term auto congestion reduction and a viable finance model for the proposed BRT system, we explore several more aggressive demand-side policies, including transportation demand management, congestion pricing, variable lane tolling, and VMT taxation. Along with improvements to existing routes, measures are needed to reduce congestion generated from private automobiles. Various pricing
mechanisms are recommended even though the strategies may be initially viewed as controversial. This situation points to the overall difficulty of enacting transit and auto congestion measures in a low-density environment. — “Promoting Bus Rapid Transit Options on the New Tappan Zee Bridge and I-287 Corridor,” Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, May 2014

There’s dedicated space for a (mostly) bus only lane on the Mario M. Cuomo Bridge but the LHTL doesn’t have a green light to use it. Yet. NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Tappan Zee Bridge Mass Transit Task Force (MTTF) recommended a subway-like above ground bus system called Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), but the LHTL doesn’t meet that standard.
“[My students and I] recommended BRT because it’s less costly than heavy rail,” says Dr. Floyd Lapp, Adjunct Professor in Urban Planning at Columbia University. “I always felt, and so did my students, that BRT was the way to go.”
Lapp, an outspoken critic of the LHTL, has published several proposals for project improvements alongside his graduate students at Columbia. The Tri-State Transportation Campaign voiced a similar opinion, arguing that even the more robust proposal from the Mass Transit Task Force in 2014 did not meet the BRT standard.
At this time, the LHTL isn’t slated to get a dedicated bus-only lane but NYSDOT’s Project Manager for the LHTL suggests that future phases of the project could include a bus-only lane. “The LHTL bus service lays the foundation for regional BRT,” says Kevin Novak. “Going forward, as ridership warrants and funding allows, NYSDOT hopes to both expand the network to new destinations and add additional amenities associated with world-class BRT systems.”
It’s still possible that Governor Andrew Cuomo will wave a magic mass transit wand and remove this pesky limitation. In that the new TZB  has always been one of his favorite projects long before he renamed the crossing after his father, it’s a good bet that the LHTL will get its only lane when the new system opens.

But Wait, There’s More! (Maybe).

The original MTTF proposal included six additional routes, versions of which may or may not be included in future phases. At the county level, other uncertainties remain surrounding the specifics of the LHTL. “Once the state takes over, it’s not clear to me whether they’ll really be keeping in touch with the experts in the county and the Rockland’s Department of Planning and Public Transportation,” says Harriet Cornell, Rockland County Legislator and a former member of the Mass Transit Task Force.
There’s no official date for the new service to open nor is there a firm date for the bridge to be finished. But it’s likely that Rockland County Metro North and Westchester commuters will be boarding new LHTL buses by Fall 2018.
See also:

Street Beat is a weekly feature on Nyack News And Views covering streets, sidewalks, cycling, mass transit and safety. Sponsored by Velo Bistro Wine Bar, Weld Realty and Bike Nyack.

Nyack People & Places, a weekly series that features photos and profiles of citizens and scenes near Nyack, NY, is sponsored by Sun River Health.

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