Super Bowl Attendees Get a Westbound Bus Lane in the Lincoln Tunnel, but Daily Commuters Aren’t So Lucky

What does it take to be considered worthy of a westbound Exclusive Bus Lane (XBL) in the Lincoln Tunnel?

Evidently, Super Bowl tickets.

New York City and New Jersey transportation leaders announced plans yesterday for enhanced transit services for the game. The MTA, NJ Transit and PATH will be operating close to normal weekday rush, and they’re planning to operate a “Fan Express” bus which will have its own westbound XBL in the Lincoln Tunnel.

This is good news for fans traveling to MetLife Stadium for the Super Bowl, especially since there will only be 13,000 parking spaces available (and by permit only), and 70 percent of game-goers will be expected to use mass transit. All in all, nearly 80,000 people are expected to arrive at the stadium on Super Bowl Sunday.

But what about the 225,000 daily weekday bus commuters who travel to New Jersey from the Port Authority Bus Terminal (PABT) via the Lincoln Tunnel? Don’t they deserve a similarly dedicated westbound bus lane?

The Lincoln Tunnel’s eastbound exclusive bus lane now sees three times as many buses as it did when it opened in 1971. But a westbound XBL during the evening rush has yet to be introduced, even though there are nearly as many westbound afternoon bus commuters using the Lincoln Tunnel as there are eastbound morning bus commuters. For years, Tri-State and other advocates have been calling for a westbound XBL to address the capacity limitation of the PABT. Perhaps the Super Bowl is a window of opportunity to get that much-needed dedicated bus lane by both opening the westbound XBL before the Super Bowl (and leaving it open after the game ends).

While the odds of either the Giants or the Jets making it to the Super Bowl this year are slim to none, perhaps at least New York and New Jersey commuters could come out of this victorious.

8 Comments on "Super Bowl Attendees Get a Westbound Bus Lane in the Lincoln Tunnel, but Daily Commuters Aren’t So Lucky"

  1. Rob Durchola | December 10, 2013 at 7:01 pm |

    One can operate a bus lane for the Superbowl because overall traffic through the tunnel is usually at a lesser volume on a Sunday than on a weekday. But your continued push for a westbound weekday peak period bus lane continues to concern me.

    If the Port Authority uses one lane of the tunnel and an existing westbound lane of NJ 495 for a bus lane, it may alleviate some of the overcrowding in the PABT. But the far larger problem is the lack of capacity in the PABT and the constriction caused by only two lanes for eastbound traffic in the PM peak. For example, I recently took a bus into New York scheduled to arrive in the PABT at 4:55 PM. Due to congestion, it arrived at 6:20 PM. This is not an unusual occurrence. And I am confident that the bus was late for its scheduled outbound trip.

    A larger PABT would allow both for more boarding locations reducing platform congestion and the need to shut off escalators to the platform to prevent dangerous situations and the room to hold buses not needed for passenger trips into the city on the NY side of the river instead of deadheading them from garages and storage lots on the New Jersey side. This would most likely save the bus companies some money, would provide more reliable PM peak service both into and out of New York, and would reduce congestion and air pollution caused by all eastbound PM peak tunnel traffic. In addition, more reliable inbound PM peak service might encourage more reverse peak commuters to use buses instead of autos and might encourage more Jerseyans coming into New York for an evening event to use the bus instead of a private vehicle.

  2. Joseph Alacchi | December 11, 2013 at 12:23 am |

    Rob, if it takes you 90 extra minutes by bus, wouldn’t it still take 90 extra minutes by car? I don’t see your point. However, clearly, if reverse-peak congestion is that bad, NJ should prioritize getting buses to connect to trains and PATH.

  3. Rob Durchola | December 11, 2013 at 7:24 pm |

    @Joseph Alacchi – Yes, it takes autos the same extra time that it takes buses. That is why priority treatment is needed for getting buses into New York. That, in turn, will provide the buses traditional peak commuters need to get back to New Jersey on a more reliable basis than presently.

    Diverting the inbound buses to trains and PATH does not work for many reasons, most notably that there would then be no buses in New York for outbound commuters. Trains and PATH are already operating at peak capacity outbound in the PM peak. There is no capacity for a significant number of additional commuters.

  4. The fundamental problem with the Port Authority Bus Terminal is that it’s in the wrong state. Instead of expanding it as was done some years ago, it should have been replaced altogether with a new facility in NEW JERSEY. That would have required added train service to get people across the Hudson such as the proposed extension of the subway’s #7 train or proposed new rail tunnels to Penn Station.

    The problem with proposing an evening WESTBOUND bus lane in the Lincoln Tunnel is that there’s no evening EASTBOUND bus lane. There are, after all, only six lanes in the Lincoln Tunnel.

    Inbound buses are delayed at least a half hour, often much longer, just to get to the tunnel and then again much longer because there is nowhere for them to go at the other end. Buses loaded with passengers go onto city streets and wander around the PABT area (apparently waiting for a space inside) before actually going in to unload. I’ve gotten off such buses at places like 37th Street and Dyer Avenue once they can reach a curb and safely let me off. Even when the bus finally goes to the ‘spiral ramp’ leading into the terminal, it can take 20 minutes to reach a gate! This typically happens between 4 and 7 pm and is known to bus drivers as the “Five O’Clock Runaround”. Since I can take a train instead, I do. The delays often exceed an hour.

  5. The undressed problem here is where’s the planning for the Lincoln Tunnel’s 4th tube?

  6. There is no need for a westbound XBL. The westbound lane capacity in New Jersey is equal to or larger than the Lincoln Tunnel capacity, so there is not a constriction or cause of delay. The PM problem for buses is getting TO the tunnel, not getting THROUGHT the tunnel. The other commentors are correct about the issue of getting buses eastbound in the PM.

    I think we are talking here about quick inexpensive fixes. The expansion proposals may be good, but are long term, high cost (expanded PABT, rail access, etc.)

  7. What needs to happen is the implementation of of a bi-directional XBL in the PM rush hour period, utilizing two tunnel lanes and the center-most lanes of NJ 495.

  8. Historical correction: The XBL opened on December 17, 1970, not in 1971. Its initial implementation was funded by a federal program, the Urban Corridor Demonstration Program, that implemented or otherwise advanced a number of other projects.

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