Cuomo Admin Makes Small First Move to Improve Transit on Tappan Zee

In addition to two shoulders in each direction, plans for the new Tappan Zee Bridge include "emergcncy access" lanes, an unheard of feature on new bridges. The Cuomo administration now says the emergency lanes can be used for rush hour bus service. Click to enlarge.

Last night Hudson Valley commuters got their first taste of good news when it comes to building transit across the Tappan Zee Bridge. As reported by the Journal News’ Khurram Saeed, the Cuomo administration now says it will allow buses to use the “emergency access” lanes it intends to build on both spans of the new Tappan Zee Bridge, though only during rush hour.

Letting buses run in the emergency lanes would be an easy and essentially cost-free way to make bus rides across the bridge a little faster. The emergency lanes will be built in addition to full-width shoulders on both sides of traffic, a feature unheard of on other major new bridges. All that space is primed to be converted either into bus lanes or more room for cars.

Advocates for Tappan Zee transit applauded the decision, but said it isn’t a substitute for real bus rapid transit along the corridor. “It’s an important step in the right direction,” Rockland County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef told the Journal News. Vanderhoef had previously proposed running buses in the extra lanes.

In a statement Tri-State Transportation Campaign Executive Director Veronica Vanterpool said this should be the start of further accommodations for transit from the Cuomo administration:

This is an important first step, and a small victory, to improve bus commutes for hundreds of existing daily bus riders who idle in gridlock along with cars and trucks. Disappointingly, the dedicated bus lane will only be in operation on the bridge itself, not within the I-287 corridor, and only during rush hour…

Modern buses, new signal technology, off-board fare collection, and dedicated bus lanes—the key elements of a bus rapid transit system—speed bus commutes and incentivize people to ride the system. Without these combined amenities, bus riders will not benefit from an improved system, only brief congestion relief while crossing the bridge. Commuters and residents have indicated they want more.

Streetsblog has been corresponding with the governor’s press office about the use of these emergency lanes for transit service, the possibility of extending bus lanes on either side of the bridge, and a number of other design issues. Next week, we hope to be able to provide more information about how allowing buses to use these lanes fits into the broader goal of building a full bus rapid transit system.

  • Streetsman

    Just cross out the words “Emergency Access” and write in “Dedicated bus only lane” and then you start to have a decent bridge design

  • Anonymous

    Bus lanes limited to the TZB are essentially useless.  Without the toll booth flyovers and/or extensive express bus lanes on I-287, the buses will travel through congestion to congestion with a brief TZB interlude. 

    Doing it better: See all the express bus lanes being built around the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge on Staten Island Expressway and the Gowanus to the Bklyn Battery Tunnel.  The proposal for a VNB Express Bus Lane is a later stage, not the start.  While I think the proposed VNB top deck moveable lane may be unneeded on a 12 lane bridge, and its approaches may mess up the designed bike/ped paths, it is at least coordinated with a full express lane system across SI and Bklyn. 

    Note the MTA VNB bus lane proposal is to use the same moveable guard rail 7th lane as is used on the TZB for extra capacity now – and that hated moveable lane is one of the reasons for building a new TZB!  Nobody likes  the narrow moveable lanes on the TZB.  Why are they trying to add one to the VNB?

    The TZB bicycle/pedestrian path is faced with the same nearly fatal flaw problems the so-called express bus lane has – a lack of effective connections on each end. 

    The Governor’s rush proposal cuts off all planning beyond each end of the bridge.  All design for the bike/ped path ends at the Rt 9 and Rt 9A sidewalks.  All planning to make Broadway / Rt 9 safe for cyclists and pedestrians has been eliminated – and good luck even crossing the streets.  There is no entry/exit ramps for cyclists to the roadway.  There is no crosswalk or signals for pedestrians at the foot of the path, just high volumes of Rt 9 traffic.  There is no planning for safe connections between the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail just a block away, nor to outstanding the Putnam Rail Trail/Westchester North-South County Trail a short 2 miles east along a very dangerous Route 119. 

    The state is building a very attractive bike/ped crossing on the new TZB, but by refusing to make safe connections to the major regional bike & ped routes, nor even to the nearby Metro-North station and local parking lots, is creating a literal fatal flaw.

    It may take a staged multi-year implementation program to upgrade I-287 for an express bus network, and it may not be ready when the bridge is finished.  But planning and design for this network should never have been cut out of the current bridge program.  Nor should planning for a functional rail corridor connection have been cut out.  Looking at the current low-ball quick-and-dirty designs of the TZB approaches, there will be hell and a lot of money to pay to fit in express bus lanes and ramps, and a rail connection if space for it is not included NOW.

    Most of the bike/ped connections can be done quickly and cheaply while the bridge is under construction.  Small things like traffic signals and crosswalks on Broadway, guidance signs to the Aqueduct Trail are nearly trivial, but are being ignored.  Creating bike lanes along Rt 119 is relatively inexpensive and much can be accomplished along with normal road maintenance – if they want to.  Building a complete bypass trail between Tarrytown and Elmsford is more complicated than just bike lanes and signs, but given the safety benefits to high volumes of users, planning and design should be pursued now.

    The governor’s plans are both short sighted and dangerous.

  • An even better design: the current bridge, with 6 rather than 7 lanes if the current lanes are too narrow. Costs $8 billion less than widening the edifice to effectively 12 lanes (10 actual, plus 2 wide shoulder lanes that will eventually be used for traffic, same as the Route 128 shoulders around Boston). If for some reason traffic across the Tappan Zee is so critical – and it’s not; Rockland and Orange have much stronger commute ties to Bergen and Passaic than Westchester – they can improve north-south transportation to keep people out of the bridge.

  • PaulCJr

    We should see this for what it is, a bait and switch. It won’t be too long before they come up with some excuse to keep the bus out of the emergency lane. I hope people don’t bend to this idea.

  • Hope

    Emergency access lanes should located on the south side of the South Structure and the northside of the North Structure with buses permitted during peak period peak direction travel.

    Dedicated BRT lanes are not necessary of the Rockland side. Simply widen the shoulders (along with ramp metering & signage) on I-287 btw Exit 14 Spring Valley & the TZB and permit buses to utilize the shoulder lanes during peak period, peak direction travel. Not the perfect fix but much cheaper and gets the job done; BRT shoulder lanes currently function around DC on both the MD & VA sides.

  • Andrew

    @018517ff084b228a0bb10edd05eebfc9:disqus Doesn’t that put buses and exiting/entering cars in direct conflict?

  • Hope

     Doesn’t that put buses and exiting/entering cars in direct conflict?

    That is correct, Andrew. In this system buses would yield to oncoming traffic however buses in the convertible “BRT” shoulder lane close to upcoming exits may be equipped with the technology to control the ramp metering signals that could be installed on the entrance ramps thus given them real time control. Also simple upgrades like PR campaigns, improved signage and painted shoulder lanes would alert all motorists about the new highway design features. -convertible shoulder lane

    Also given the indication of driver behavior in the tri-state area enforcement of bus exclusivity should probably entail shoulder lane cameras.

    Not quite sure whether key overpasses would have to be replaced btw Exits 10-14 to accomodate a wider shoulder in each direction??

    Again, not the perfect system as bus max speeds would be limited in some sections. Mass transit deemed reliable (and thus patronized) in this corridor is really only needed during peak period, peak direction travel. A system like this should at the very least be in the public’s mind and debated upon. Another positive feature includes the ease to implement vs. constructing exclusive bus lanes and lower implementation costs, and significantly less highway widening.

    However is bus lanes are planned to be constructed in the center of each bridge’s new span
    this idea becomes useless…


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