Transit's Future
Avoiding the Crush of the Rush

Changes coming to New York’s Port Authority Bus Terminal have a lot to teach us about the future of transit. The WSJ reports that the Terminal will be changing how it organizes busses, moving around where the vehicles leave from and arrive to:

The aim is to give the carriers better control over their dispatching, so if a problem arises it can shuffle buses as needed. That way, they don’t have to work through the other carrier whose buses may be at nearby gates or send buses out of the terminal, only to re-enter to access gates on another floor […]

Earlier operational fixes have helped get more buses into the terminal during evening commutes, the authority said […]

The result, according to the Port Authority, has been reduced bus congestion, less crowding of passengers waiting for buses, and fewer buses clogging city streets.

This story suggests three transit lessons. First, the humble bus remains the key to mass transit. It’s less expensive and more popular than rail.

Second, using existing infrastructure more effectively can postpone or even eliminate the need for massive, new construction that costs billions. There is a lot more to come here as smarter cars and busses—and ultimately autonomous vehicles including busses—make better use of existing roads and terminals.

Finally, as telework takes hold—and it will—look for declines in the commuter rush. Telework won’t just mean that some people stay home all, or almost all, of the time. More commonly, it will mean that workers will stay home (or at convenient, shared satellite office facilities in the exurbs) for one or more days a week, coming in and going home at more flexible times to avoid the crush of the rush—and this, too, will have implications for infrastructure.

The Big Infrastructure lobby, backed by unions and crony construction companies, will scream bloody murder and warn of imminent disaster as some of these changes take hold. But, in fact, while not totally fictitious, the so-called “infrastructure deficit” is one of the country’s problems that’s not as bad as advertised.

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