by Owen Voutsinas-Klose
In 2018, you won’t have to wonder when the next Tappan Zee Express will arrive, because the answer will be…never. The TZx bus service, which shuttles passengers between Rockland and Westchester and takes West of the Hudson commuters to Metro North stations in Tarrytown and White Plains, will be replaced by the new Lower Hudson Transit Link service when the second coming of the Tappan Zee Bridge opens in two years. The LHTL will include real time bus arrival times posted at each bus stop, similar to what you might see on a platform at NYC subways. The new, state of the art bus service, will be able to communicate with traffic lights as well as commuters.
New York State Department of Transportation officials say the LHTL will improve safety, reliability and accessibility of transit services. “High quality” bus stations will be rolled out in Rockland and Westchester. In addition to the predicted arrival times, passengers can buy their ticket before the bus arrives and access Wi-Fi at all stops. Some will even have bike parking.
The LHTL rollout will require new buses and new stop lights, too. An electronic Traffic Signal Priority (TSP) will tell stop lights when a bus is on the way, holding the green light until the bus passes through the intersection.
Road Infrastructure Improvements
One of the primary purposes of LHTL is improving pedestrian safety and bus stop access. ADA-compliant sidewalks will be implemented near the LHTL bus stops to help improve safety for senior and people with special needs. These include curb ramps and warning panels, which help alert the visually impaired to the presence of a road.
LHTL design embraces the concept of “complete streets,” a New York State and Rockland County policy and holistic way of thinking about our roads and intersections. Complete Streets requires consideration of the needs of all users (students, special needs, seniors, etc) and all modalities (motorists, pedestrians, bicyclists, mass transit).
LHTL Better, But Not BRT
Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Mass Transit Task Force (MTTF), which looked at ways to improve mass transit options after both spans of the new Tappan Zee Bridge open in 2018, called for implementation of Bus Rapid Transit. BRT is essentially an above ground subway system, where buses run in their own lane on a predictable schedule. The MTTF hammered out a plan with seven new lines spanning Rockland and Westchester, however, critics say the new LHTL falls short of what is really needed to make mass transit competitive with driving from Nyack to Westchester. And it doesn’t even meet the full definition of BRT because the LHTL won’t have a dedicated lane. “When the bridge opens in two years we will remain stuck in traffic even with the Lower Hudson Transit Link Program,” says Columbia University Professor Dr. Floyd Lapp. The former New York City Planning Department Director of Transportation doesn’t think the whistles and bells offered by the LHTL will offer much relief from today’s congestion. “With a bus capacity of 74 and four bus trips each hour during peak periods, a maximum of just under 300 passengers would be accommodated on the four lanes of the new TZB, carrying 6,000-8,000 vehicles per hour. In the low density environment near the I-287 corridor, it is highly unlikely that motorists would drive to a bus station, park their vehicles, walk and wait for a bus to remain stuck in traffic,” he says. Lapp says despite the billions spent on new bridge construction, there will still be only four lanes in each direction when the new bridge opens in 2018.
Although LHTL buses will potentially zip through intersections, current plans won’t allow them that same superpower when they cross the New NY Bridge. Thruway officials say they are currently studying a proposal to run the new bus system in a dedicated bus lane when the new TZB opens.
Former members of the governor’s Mass Transit Task Force members have expressed disappointment that the LHTL has failed to live up to their expectations, but the New York State Department of Transportation is urging patience with their process, saying the new service is creating a foundation for a future full implementation of bus rapid transit.
- October 2016 Lower Hudson Transit Link Open House presentation, NYS Dept of Transportation
- New NY Bridge Mass Transit Task Force, Final Report June 2015
- Near-BRT Proposed by MTTF For TZB II, 3/3/2014
- Governor Cuomo Announces Funding for Mass Transit as Part of New NY Bridge Project, governor.ny.gov 4/28/2014