Monday, October 03, 2011

Port Authority Screws Bus Commuters Again

Even after imposing massive fare and toll hikes that hit commuters from New Jersey hard, the Port Authority is rubbing it in the faces of bus commuters.

There will be no relief for the nearly 225,000 people who ride NJ Transit buses into the Port Authority bus terminal. More than half are from Bergen or Passaic counties and ride NJ Transit. A promised $800 million expansion of the terminal will not happen, and the Port Authority cites the lower fare and toll hikes.

What the Port Authority isn't saying is that it has failed to get the proposed skyscraper over the bus terminal off the drawing board. The air rights are an invaluable resource that the Port Authority has squandered and would help with the expansion and renovation of the bus terminal that has seen little in the way of upgrades over the years.

The bus terminal is a depressing and squalid place, and yet commuters have been able to get around because buses are more reliable than trying to drive in and fight the traffic. Yet, buses have no place to go once they're in Manhattan and are forced to make return trips into New Jersey to be stored for the rush hour. In the evening, this means that buses clog up the inbound approach and the slightest delays can multiply into massive problems for bus-bound commuters. What should be a 45 minute commute can easily become twice that. There was no reliability on commutes, which is why Mrs. Lawhawk opted to pay more to take the trains rather than deal with the crummy bus service, even though the buses have more frequent operating times.

There is inadequate parking for buses near the terminal, and the Port Authority is again failing on a key part of its obligation to maintain transit systems in the New York City metro region.

It needs to get a deal done to build the skyscraper over the bus terminal so that it can fund the critical expansion project. Moreover, it needs to reduce its costs at the WTC PATH hub, which is where the bulk of the cost overruns have been. The Port Authority claimed that it needed the toll and fare hikes to cover higher costs at Ground Zero, but when you break down the costs for individual components, one sees that the overwhelming majority of overruns have been for the Santiago Calatrava-designed PATH hub. Instead of $2.2 billion, the project is now expected to run $3.44 billion. That's $1.24 billion more than originally expected, and by itself can explain the need for fare and toll hikes. That amount keeps rising, despite any claims for cost containment from the agency.

Had the Port Authority been able to contain costs on the PATH hub, it would have been able to build out the expanded bus terminal. Instead, we get fare hikes, and no bus terminal expansion for the foreseeable future.

Excellent work there by the Port Authority. [sarcasm]

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