N.J. transportation chief proposes sending commuter buses across Midtown Manhattan

A New Jersey Transit bus. (Flickr via DaCosta1)
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In late April, New Jersey transportation commissioner Jim Simpson fiercely defended Governor Chris Christie’s decision to kill the ARC tunnel, which would have doubled capacity for New Jersey Transit trains, alleviating the congestion now plaguing the commute of Garden State residents.

Last week, Simpson, a Christie appointee, offered a rather more modest proposal to improve the lives of some New Jersey commuters. Some New Jersey transit buses, he said, should be rerouted so that they pick up and drop off riders on the East Side of Manhattan, rather than at the heavily congested Port Authority Bus Terminal on Eighth Avenue.

“New Jersey Transit may be able to start a service that actually does not go to the bus terminal,” he said, according to NorthJersey.com. “It might start on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, make a series of stops, get on the tunnel and go straight to New Jersey.”

It might. But it would probably be a lot less neat, in practice, than it sounds.

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Congestion at the Port Authority is certainly an issue, but so is congestion throughout the central business district, on both sides of Manhattan.

Martin Robins, director emeritus of the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center at Rutgers University, told NorthJersey.com, the very fact that New Jersey Transit buses operate out of the Port Authority bus terminal is a result of dissatisfaction with buses clogging up city streets. 

The proposal comes amid a separate bus-congestion dispute involving Megabus, which has been picking up passengers street-side outside the Port Authority, and bus companies that pay to operate from within the terminal. 

Wendy Pollack, spokeswoman for the Regional Plan Association, said, "It’s not clear that having New Jersey-bound commuters travel through a traffic-congested midtown at peak travel hours would ease their trips. On the contrary, it would add to congestion and slow down crosstown travel for everyone.”

Asked on Friday if Simpson’s new idea was a serious one or merely an off-the-cuff suggestion, New Jersey Transit spokeswoman Nancy Synder said, “He asked our bus team to look into it, and we’re going to be looking into it and reporting back.”

New Jersey transit already operates on-street bus stops in Lower Manhattan.

New York City’s Department of Transportation would presumably have to issue permits for any new on-street bus stops.

“At this time we have not received any request,” said Scott Gastel, a spokesman for the department. “We would review any such request closely before making a determination.

The Port Authority declined to comment.