Volume 20, Number 40 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | September 29 - October 5, 2010

James Cavanaugh, who attended last week’s NextBus press conference, just stepped down as C.E.O. and President of the Battery Park City Authority.

New signs ease waiting worries

BY Aline Reynolds

Riders of the Downtown Connection, the free shuttle-service connecting Battery Park City and the South Street Seaport, will no longer have to loiter at bus stops, wondering when the next bus will come.

The Downtown Alliance, the operator of the free shuttle, has installed energy-efficient signs at seven of the shuttle’s 37 stops in Lower Manhattan. The signs use Global Positioning Satellite technology to monitor the arrival and departure of the shuttles. They are intended to help riders better time their trips around Lower Manhattan.

“Who has waited forever for a bus to arrive and thought, I could have gotten a coffee, I could go buy a pack of gum, I’m going to be late,” said Downtown Alliance president Elizabeth Berger at a press conference last Thursday. “It’s a very important and simple thing.”

The D.A. erected five new “NextBus” signs at Water, Warren, Washington, Greenwich, and Pine Streets, after two successful pilot signs were installed in 2008. Each sign costs $4,600 up front and an about $1,440 per year to maintain; State Senator Daniel Squadron secured $24,000 in funding for the project. An eighth sign will soon be in operation on Water Street, across from Peter Minuet Plaza, once construction is complete. Besides broadcasting the arrival and departure times, the NextBus signs can also transmit emergency public service messages.

“I have no way of knowing when I get to a particular bus stop if the bus is going to come in one minute or 15 minutes,” said Battery Park City resident and Community Board 1 member Jeff Galloway, who takes the shuttle from home to his office, at One Battery Park Plaza, a few times a week. There is currently no sign at the bus stop near Gateway Plaza, his residence, or at the stop on State Street, near his office. “It’d be very helpful in terms of planning what your options are, as well as giving you peace of mind,” he said.

“We know the challenges we’re having with free and public transportation across the city and right here in Lower Manhattan – from Peck Slip to Battery Park City,” said Senator Squadron. “The Downtown Connection really helps folks down here fill in those gaps.”

Community Board 1 chair Julie Menin, who sits on the D.A.’s Board of Directors, said, “It’s vital information, and most importantly, it’ll hopefully lead to people spending dollars in the community.”

“Whether people are tourists, workers, or residents,” she added, “it gives them the chance to be able to pop in a store and get a bite to eat.”

The D.A. will be installing additional signs at two shuttle stops in Battery Park City with $24,000 in matching funds from Goldman Sachs, a 142-year-old office tenant in Lower Manhattan.

“As everyone in our organization is very-well aware, efficient, effective transportation is critical to a vibrant community,” said Dino Fusco, managing director and global head of real estate at Goldman Sachs. “The Downtown Connection has been able to help facilitate that very important cause.”

Not all stops are compatible with the G.P.S. device, Berger explained. The D.A. will be conducting a technical analysis to find out which are and which are not.

“There are a variety of technical issues related to electricity and service and height,” Berger said. “First we have to figure out how many [stops] are eligible, then we need to find funds.”

The D.A. launched the wheelchair-accessible Downtown Connection service in late 2003. The shuttle stops at 10-minute intervals from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily, with limited service on weekends. Improvements have been made along the way to accommodate the upwards of 800,000 workers, residents and visitors that annually ride the shuttle. In 2004, the D.A. created a website, downtownmy.interfleet.com, to allow passengers to remotely identify the location of buses along their routes. In 2009, the D.A. made the shuttles accessible to retailers on Warren and Murray Streets, and added connections to the World Financial Center and Battery Park City.

“It doesn’t seem like a long way to get over here, but it can be, if you’re elderly, have packages or kids and a stroller,” said former B.P.C. Authority president and chief executive officer James Cavanaugh. “And that bus is what allows people to come over here and shop, and be a part of the 24/7 life of Lower Manhattan. It’s an incredible connection.”

Cavanaugh just resigned from B.P.C. Authority, but joked he would come back Downtown just to ride the bus.

“One thing people don’t have, whether you’re a parent, working, or a student… is time,” Menin said, admiring the new sign at 77 Water Street in Wall Street. “And this new service will give that to people.”

 

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