New York State Goes on Offensive Against Transit Over Tappan Zee Bridge

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The Tappan Zee Bridge, which connects Rockland and Westchester Counties (photo by Patsy Wooters via Flickr)

If Rockland and Westchester Counties want mass transit over the new Tappan Zee Bridge, they can pay for it.

That seems to be the message behind a strongly-worded email just sent out by the  New York State Thruway Authority. The email comes a day after a packed public hearing in Nyack in which dozens of members of the public voiced their support for transit over the new Tappan Zee Bridge.

The email, which is copied below, is called "Myths vs. Facts about Mass Transit on the New Tappan Zee Bridge." It also came with a PDF attached, graphically illustrating what it says is a $4.5 to $5.3 billion estimate to build a bus rapid transit corridor stretching from Rockland County's western border eastward to Westchester County. The state didn't include an explanation for the basis of these costs.

When asked, a Thruway Authority spokesman did not provide any further documentation of cost estimates.

The Institute for Transportation and Development Policy generally estimates that BRT costs $20 million per mile. Los Angeles's BRT system, which it built in 2005, came in at $25 million per mile.

Walter Hook, the CEO of the ITDP, who has advised on BRT systems around the world, said: "We doubt they have done a systematic analysis  of the projected causes of bottlenecks in a proposed new BRT service."  Hook added that further analysis could "bring the price down very significantly."

There's another hearing about the Tappan Zee Bridge project in Westchester County on Thursday.

The email is below.

Myths vs. Facts about Mass Transit on the New Tappan Zee Bridge

MYTH: Mass transit is not part of the new Tappan Zee Bridge.

FACT: The new bridge will support mass transit including bus rapid transit and commuter rail -- even before Rockland and Westchester Counties begin plans for a full mass transit system that could connect with the bridge.

MYTH: Mass transit options are far in the future.

FACT: The new bridge will have immediate, dedicated express bus service.

MYTH: Mass transit will never be part of the Tappan Zee Bridge.

FACT: The opposite is true. There can be no mass transit system without first building a new Tappan Zee bridge. The new bridge is being built to support bus and rail transit so that Rockland and Westchester can build a mass transit system to connect to the bridge.

MYTH: Mass transit can be built now.

FACT: A mass transit system in Rockland and Westchester requires 64 miles of construction in those counties at a cost of billions of dollars. There is no plan and no funding available to build a new mass transit system in the counties. However, if that changes, the new bridge will be able to accommodate it.

MYTH: We can afford to build mass transit now.

FACT: Building this separate mass transit system through Rockland and Westchester Counties would cost up to $5.3 billion and once the system was built it could cost $80 million to operate it. This means it could cost more to build and operate a separate mass transit system then to build the new Tappan Zee Bridge.

MYTH: We can afford to build mass transit now.

FACT: The $5.3 billion pricetag for a mass transit system means that the County Executives that want to build the system now will have to pay for it leading to the biggest tax and toll hike in Westchester and Rockland County history.

MYTH: A full mass transit system is a fundamental part of building a new Tappan Zee Bridge.

FACT: A full mass transit system would extend 64 miles from the bridge into Rockland and Westchester respectively. Currently the Counties have no plans in place to construct these 64 miles of mass transit. The entire bridge is only three miles and will support mass transit, if and when the Counties build it.

MYTH: There is no mass transit on the bridge now.

FACT: New York State already spends $2 million a year to provide Express Bus service across the Bridge, currently serving 499,000 riders per year and approximately 2,000 riders a day. The State will expand these services as market demand grows. However, numbers developed by New York's Planning body currently show that only 5,900 additional riders would cross the bridge on future Bus Rapid Transit, and that could only happen if the systems are in place on either side.

MYTH: The new Tappan Zee Bridge being built for drivers only

FACT: The new Tappan Zee Bridge will include a pedestrian walkway and bike lanes, in addition to the dedicated express bus service.