Monday, the MTA focused its attention on Long Island commuters, who will face significant service disruptions when Amtrak’s emergency repairs at Penn Station begin July 10. But the summer of aggravation will be tough for NYC commuters, too.
The MTA’s contingency plans to mitigate the pain are extensive, dare we say forward looking, as the agency encourages those who ride the rails or drive cars or trucks to think differently about travels to and from Manhattan. But it won’t be easy. More Long Island commuters will be funneled onto the subways from Jamaica, Hunters Point Avenue and Atlantic Terminal, where many LIRR trains will be diverted. Still, others will take one of 200 coach buses that will head into the Queens Midtown Tunnel and down either 34th Street or 42nd Street. And some will take ferries from Long Island or Long Island City to the East Side.
This will likely mean crowded subways, ferries and roads all summer long. To help, Gov. Andrew Cuomo aims to complete construction at East River bridges and tunnels early. And in one of the more exciting pieces of the MTA’s plan, truck drivers will pay a 50 percent lower toll to Manhattan if they enter from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. It’s an experiment with congestion pricing — and a good start.
It all sounds promising, yet such plans often don’t work the way we hope. And questions remain. Can NYC accommodate the 200 express buses in the Queens HOV lane that feeds into the Midtown Tunnel? Can it increase enforcement of bus-only lanes on 34th and 42nd streets? How will the beleaguered, overcrowded subways deal even more riders? And, of course, who will pay for all this mishegoss Amtrak has caused?
The MTA has no margin for error. It must execute its plans with precision and care. Above all, executives have to COMMUNICATE with riders. Out of this summer of pain might come creative ways to change how we commute. And this is a sharp reminder that we need leadership and action to maintain and upgrade our region’s transportation infrastructure so we don’t find ourselves sidelined again.