By VICTOR E. SASSON
I've taken NJ Transit buses into Manhattan for many years to enjoy restaurants, Broadway shows and jazz concerts, but my trip on Wednesday afternoon took me directly into gridlock hell.
After more than 90 minutes, my 3:02 p.m. local from Main Street and Euclid Avenue in Hackensack was stopped dead on West 35th Street at 10th Avenue.
And we couldn't turn the corner, because we were blocked by other buses that were frozen in lines heading to the ramps of the Port Authority's midtown Manhattan terminal.
Many of the buses had no passengers and were returning to the terminal from New Jersey to pick up weary commuters heading home to the suburbs.
Empty buses frozen in traffic have been cited as the chief reason for weekday afternoon delays at the antiquated terminal -- a story The Record ignored until late last year, when the paper published angry letters from commuters.
That led to a state legislative hearing, and a decision by the Port Authority board to approve $90 million in emergency terminal repairs, but the problem of empty buses caught in gridlock is expected to remain.
The Record's lazy local editors, including Deirdre Sykes and Dan Sforza, have treated North Jerseyans who use mass transit as lower forms of life not worthy of the editorial coverage given drivers in the lame Road Warrior column, which once appeared at least three times a week.
No transportation reporter in memory has ever ridden a rush-hour bus or train to or from the city and reported on the quality of service, and the paper refuses to call for expansion of PATH, light rail and bus operations -- despite mounting traffic congestion.
Reverse lane needed
One change that could speed the empty buses into the city during the weekday afternoon rush hour is a reverse lane into the Lincoln Tunnel like the one that usually accommodates hundreds of commuter buses heading to Manhattan during the morning rush.
But an afternoon reverse lane wouldn't have helped me on Wednesday afternoon, because my bus approached the tunnel from Boulevard East, not the Route 495 helix.
The trip through the tunnel was smooth, but even buses that use the helix can get caught in Manhattan gridlock, if PA police deny them access to terminal ramps.
Bus trip from hell
Despite the nightmarish trip, I enjoyed a wonderful seafood dinner at Fulton Restaurant on East 75th Street, then walked uptown to the 92nd Street Y to hear Cecile McLorin Salvant perform the songs of Newark-born Sara Vaughan, backed by a quartet.
The young singer was just divine.
But next time, if I want to go into the city at mid-afternoon, I'll drive, despite the traffic and extra cost.
The MCI Cruiser buses I rode to and from the city on Wednesday have seen much better days.
They are noisy, with screeching rear brakes; the ride is rough and interior panels rattle. It took several tries to find a seat back that wasn't broken.
And when drivers speed around curves on Boulevard East, there is nothing to hold onto.
On the conflict in Gaza, The Record continues to run sensational body count stories from The Associated Press, denying readers the kind of insight provided by WNYC-FM and other media outlets (A-1).
This morning, National Public Radio reported Hamas was able to acquire sophisticated arms, including rockets, that crossed the border from Egypt during the year-long reign of another militant group, the Muslim Brotherhood.
As for the cement and other material that went into building the tunnels Hamas uses to send terrorists into Israel, they were brought in when Israel eased the blockade of Gaza.
Sanitizing the news
Another front-page story -- on the resignation of the state's chief economist after optimistic tax-revenue predictions -- doesn't mention that Governor Christie vetoed a surcharge on millionaires at least three time, shooting the state Treasury in the foot (A-1).
The densely written, complicated story, from Trenton reporter John Reitmeyer, seems aimed more at accountants and actuaries than long-suffering property tax payers.
What can you say about the Bergen County sheriff's plan to acquire two armored vehicles, weighing nearly 15 tons each, except that they can carry a lot of doughnuts and boxes of Joe (A-1)?
All the armored vehicles and SWAT teams in the world couldn't have prevented a gunman from invading Westfield Garden State Plaza last Nov. 4, and firing random shots that panicked shoppers and employees before he committed suicide.
For that, you need good security at the mall, not military surplus.
Law & Order section
I suppose Editor Marty Gottlieb intended the Page 1 armored-vehicle story as an appetizer for today's Local Section, which is filled with Law & Order news.
The most sensational crime is the theft of "nine luxury cars" in Paramus since January, with drivers inviting the disappearances by leaving their keys in the unlocked vehicles or the engines running (L-1).
That is just one of more than a dozen police stories in the thin section, which is devoid of Hackensack municipal news for yet another day.
There is even a photo of three officers being promoted to sergeant in the city of Passaic just to show the editors don't ignore the impoverished city (L-2).
|On Wednesday afternoon, this line of buses on 10th Avenue and West 38th Street stretched back to West 35th Street -- where my bus was frozen at the light -- and beyond.|
|Bus drivers say you can't get to the terminal from here.|
|Empty buses on the way to the terminal were immobilized on a side street.|
|Another empty bus.|
|Buses stretch as far as the eye can see, above and below.|
|One small improvement inside the bus terminal are touch screens listing departure times and gates, but that doesn't guarantee your bus home will leave on time.|
|Seen from the bus: On the way to the city on Wednesday, I saw that the Little Ferry Circle is history, though construction continues.|
|Late Tuesday morning, I rode a packed 7 train from Queens to Manhattan. Another passenger said it is even worse during the rush hour.|
|A homeless man taking a nap on Tuesday, oblivious to his surroundings on the subway platform at 42nd Street.|
|At Penn Station in Manhattan, noisy fans are needed to help cool the hall used by NJ Transit train riders.|