by Barrett Seaman –
Wrapped into the overall New York State Department of Transportation (DOT) plan to update and streamline regional transportation is a new trans-Hudson express bus service, known as the Lower Hudson Transit Link, or LHTL. With a goal of enticing as many commuters as possible into using public transportation, the state DOT has proposed an enhanced, express service that would whisk commuters west of the Hudson on wifi- and a/c-equipped buses over the new Mario Cuomo Bridge to Westchester, and for many, onto Manhattan-bound trains—and back.
Currently, there are regular trans-Hudson local buses that stop at the Tarrytown Metro North station on their way eastward across Westchester County. These have been popular for NYC-bound west-of-Hudson commuters. When the DOT first came out with its new plan, using express buses from the Palisades Mall traveling on dedicated lanes each way across the new bridge—and then along I-287 using “Integrated Corridor Management” to get around rush hour congestion, they planned to route the express buses directly to White Plains. That meant that those who wanted to ride the Hudson Line to Manhattan could do so only by taking local buses that made multiple stops in Rockland County.
The case they made was that, with all the streamlining built into the new system, the net time it would take to get into Manhattan via White Plains would be no different than via Tarrytown. Plus, White Plains trains are cheaper and run more often.
Rockland County commuters and their elected officials didn’t buy that. In March, a phalanx of pols from west of the river held a press conference denouncing the Tarrytown bypass plan. One called it “a huge injustice to commuters.” Rockland County Executive Ed Day later wrote, “The fact of the matter is that Rockland commuters who cross the river to connect with Metro-North should do so at Tarrytown- the closest East of Hudson station. Commuters who need to go to (or connect from) White Plains [Commuter Bus Depot] should go to White Plains.”
While the plan is far from settled (a bus company hasn’t even been picked), the DOT back-pedaled quickly, announcing at an April “open house” public discussion that it was going to split the difference and have roughly the same number of express buses go to Tarrytown as to White Plains.
Solomonic as that decision seemed, it did not sit well with officials east of the river, specifically Tarrytown. Mayor Drew Fixell said he was strongly against the proposal to funnel all the buses to his village and only slightly less unhappy with the compromise. The whole point of sending cross-river buses to White Plains, he argued, was to streamline regional commuting, based on two year’s worth of careful study. ”There are more trains and greater capacity available on White Plains’ Harlem line than on the Hudson Line, and commute times are a few minutes shorter,” he said, citing the study. Besides, he contended, there would be no economic benefit to Tarrytown from having commuters ride into town on buses, get off and hop on a train to Manhattan.
His village, said Mayor Fixell, is already burdened by other bridge-related development: the state police barracks, a thruway maintenance facility and, at least until now, the toll booths. “These facilities not only provide zero tax revenues to our village or schools, while gobbling up huge tracts of extraordinarily valuable land, but they also generate enormous amounts of traffic that clog our narrow village streets.”
Westchester State Assemblyman Tom Abinanti went further, calling on constituents to “tell the Governor and State DOT that express buses in Tarrytown endanger public safety, increase traffic congestion on main roads, and diminish quality of life for Tarrytown residents.”
West bankers still aren’t buying the switch. “If it can be physically demonstrated that the commute to NYC via a White Plains routing is equal to or quicker than the express bus connection to Tarrytown,” conceded Ed Day, “then we have something to talk about.”
More talking is in the offing. According to Abinanti, Assembly members from both sides of the Hudson will meet again with the DOT and the Governor’s office for “further discussion.”