Students Critique Planned Tappan Zee Bus System

Columbia University grad students offer their opinions on the state’s Mass Transit Task Force plan.

Seven Columbia University urban planning graduate students released a report this month criticizing as inadequate a planned transit system overhaul for the Tappan Zee Bridge and the surrounding area.

The state’s 31-member Mass Transit Task Force worked for a year crafting a proposal that would create seven new bus routes in Westchester and Rockland County along with new bus stations, bus lanes, and other infrastructure projects aimed at alleviating heavy traffic by increasing public transportation use.

The students’ report, which was researched and published over the span of 14 weeks, argued that the state’s plan for a “bus-rapid transit” system (BRT) had potential, but was currently inadequate. Among their critiques were: bus stations were planned in areas with less-than-ideal accessibility; bridge bus lanes alone won’t encourage enough people to take public transit; and there were not enough incentives to use public transportation.

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“Several of the Task Force’s proposed bus stations are not viable based on generally accepted standards of transit feasibility,” the report states, and “a new bridge with a fourth lane in each direction along the shoulder of the structure will be helpful but there is no single ‘silver bullet’ solution that will reduce congestion.”

The students said the BRT could be a key to reducing traffic congestion in the future, but added that Task Force should put an even greater focus on accessibility to mass transit, especially for commuters from low-density suburban areas.

Still, the report claimed that “upgrading existing bus service would cost around $3,130,000, and increase ridership from 10,300 to 13,600,” which won’t largely reduce traffic congestion. The students argued for a carrot-and-stick approach by introducing “aggressive demand-side policies to discourage single-occupancy vehicle trips,” adding that “parking cash out, congestion pricing, or vehicle miles-traveled taxation may be necessary.”

According to The Journal News, state officials were not persuaded by the report. The Journal News reported Trent Lethco, a technical advisor for the state task force, said the “report lacks academic rigor and misses the point of the Mass Transit Task Force’s work by treating the recommendations as the end rather than as a beginning. Unfortunately, the conclusions put forth in the students’ executive summary were not fully supported in the body of the report itself.”

You can read the students’ full report here.

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The Mass Transit Task Force’s report can be read here.

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