Thursday, May 20, 2010

Special Report: Bus Rapid Transit

By Joel Rudikoff, Old Oak Ridge Neighborhood Association President and WPCNA Treasurer

A meeting was held on May 17 in the Common Council chambers on the subject of "Bus Rapid Transit," the NYS Department of Transportation's proposed multi-route service intended to connect locations in Rockland County with MTA train service in Tarrytown, White Plains and Port Chester as well as with connections to existing Bee Line bus service to other parts of Westchester, Putnam and Fairfield counties.  Attendees included five representatives from various state agencies, six members of central White Plains neighborhood associations (Fisher Hill, Battle Hill, Old Oak Ridge and Havilands Manor) and two representatives of the Mayor's Office.  Mayor Bradley welcomed the group but then had to leave to attend a budget work session with the Common Council.

The DOT presentation was an abbreviated version of the talk which was given before the March meeting of the WPCNA.  For the most part the issues raised by the neighborhood representatives were similar to the ones that had been raised at that meeting: selection of the route within White Plains; disruption of traffic flows; the potentially negative impact on entrance to and egress from Battle Hill and Fisher Hill; the set-aside of dedicated lanes for the BRT buses; the uncertainty as to ridership; and the ultimate cost of the project, including that for new structures at stops along the route(s). 

Neighborhood representatives suggested two alternatives for bus traffic other than the proposed Tarrytown Road/Hamilton Avenue/Westchester Avenue: North Broadway from Exit 6 of I-287, proceeding to the Transit Center, which it was said would have less impact on traffic flow; or Exit 8 to Westchester Avenue/Hamilton Avenue and the Transit Center, which would be essentially a one-way route through White Plains.  The need for the bus to proceed from White Plains to Port Chester was also called into question.  The state representatives agreed to study these proposals.  In addition they conceded that a route which last March they had presented as being under consideration but which would have meant a major disruption of the County Center parking lot (which is controlled by Westchester County) is now a virtual non-starter.

The key points stressed by the DOT representatives was that the plan would proceed only after local "buy-ins" (toward which meetings like this one are an integral component), and that the plan could be implemented only after the replacement for the existing Tappan Zee Bridge was opened.  They said that the most optimistic time-frame for the bridge project would result in a completion date of 2017/2018.  Funding for the bridge is believed to be in place, but ...

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