Volume 23, Number 3 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | May 28 - June 3, 2010
A solution to stave off the tour bus crisis
BY State Senator Daniel Squadron
Anyone who lives or works in Lower Manhattan knows that the neighborhood is packed with tour buses – too often parking illegally, idling, or snaring traffic. And the bus problem will soon become a crisis: the National September 11 Memorial is slated to open on September 11, 2011—the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center—and between 4 million and 5 million visitors are expected within its first year. That will mean thousands more buses, which will mean more gridlock – which is bad for residents, and bad for the city’s economy.
To make sure the area is ready to handle the increase in visitors, the Port Authority, the NYC Department of Transportation, and other city and state agencies are working to devise a comprehensive transportation and parking management plan.
One part of the plan is the Vehicle Security Center, an underground drop-off and parking complex, but it is not scheduled to open until 2013. Even after the Vehicle Security Center opens, it will provide parking for only 70-80 buses—not nearly enough to accommodate the anticipated spike. Furthermore, construction of One World Trade Center and the other planned buildings will not be completed until well after 2011—this means that many streets and sidewalks in the area will still be closed when the Memorial opens.
There is a simple solution to prevent bus traffic at the World Trade Center from reaching crisis level: just across the river, in New Jersey, there’s a whole lot more space, and fortunately there’s a train that runs from New Jersey and literally into the site – the Port Authority’s underused PATH train. For example, buses could drop off visitors at the Harrison PATH station, less than 20 minutes from the Memorial. After dropping off, the buses could park at adjacent lots such as the new Red Bull Arena, which has a nearly endless parking capacity during peak tour bus times – a whole lot better than competing for scant parking and road space in Lower Manhattan. And with construction of a new, permanent PATH station at the World Trade Center underway, visitors will soon be arriving in a facility that will be a tourist destination in and of itself. For the millions of people visiting the Memorial, taking a train is a much more sensible—and much more New York—way to get into the city than sitting on a bus in gridlock. In fact, this is a solution that would benefit both sides of the river.
This solution is also the least that the community, and the Memorial itself, deserves. By the time it is completed, the World Trade Center site will have been under construction for a decade and a half – it must not become a permanent site of overwhelming traffic, noise, and air pollution.
Regulating tour bus traffic to require the use of PATH stations and excess parking space across the river will alleviate the traffic burden in Lower Manhattan, while offering tourists a convenient path to the Memorial and other attractions across the city – it is the solution we should adopt.
Squadron is State Senator for the 25th District