Tappan Zee Bridge Needs Bus Rapid Transit: Panel

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When the currently under construction Tappan Zee Bridge opens for business in 2018, it should have seven new bus rapid transit lines—and eventually plan to reboot rail service in the Rockland County area.

That's the recommendation by the bridge's Mass Transit Task Force (MTTF), which was formed by New York Governor Cuomo in 2012 after key county politicians threatened to withhold support for the bridge if transit wasn't included.

The MTTF's recommendations are broken down into three sections: short-, medium-, and long-term. When the bridge opens, the MTTF wants it to have seven BRT lines. Three would run east/west, and four north/south. The lines are designed to connect to shopping centers and regional destinations like the Westchester Medical Center, and the local airport; they'll also link to Metro-North in Westchester County. One bus line would extend into the Bronx to connect with the 1 train.

"What's being proposed is better bus service," said Veronica Vanterpool, a member of the MTTF and the head of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. "It's a win, it's positive news, it's going to transform the transportation in that corridor."

But it lacks one defining feature that many think is the 'gold standard' of BRT lines: a lane reserved solely for buses throughout the service area. "We could have liked to have seen a dedicated bus lane throughout the corridor," said Vanterpool, "but right now it's just on the bridge." So while buses would have priority over the 3.1 mile-long Tappan Zee, they would have to merge back into traffic on either side.

Here's what else the MTTF plan doesn't have: any guarantee that transit recommendations will be put into place. "We have no authority as a task force," said Vanterpool. "Now it's up to discretion of governor and the Thruway Authority to decide if they want to implement them or fulfill them—and how." Not to mention how to pay for them.

Longer-term recommendations include starting passenger service on what is now a freight line in Rockland County, and building rail across the bridge itself.

The governor's office says it's reviewing the recommendations.

Tappan Zee Mass Transit Task Force