Thursday, January 7, 2016

Huge mass-transit gains may come too late to bust traffic

Replacing the Port Authority's antiquated midtown Manhattan bus terminal, above; a $3 billion overhaul of New York Penn Station, and new tunnels and tracks to double the capacity of trains from New Jersey to Manhattan are among plans to expand mass transit in the metropolitan area. A story on Page 1 of The Record today reports that "with any luck," [new tunnels, tracks and bridges] "should be completed in the next 20 years."

Meanwhile, backward-looking residents of Tenafly have rejected the extension of NJ Transit's zero-emissions Hudson-Bergen Light Rail to their wealthy borough, meaning the new line would end at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center in Englewood.

Editor's note: I wrote that today's story on the new Hudson River rail tunnels project is by Christopher Maag, the transportation reporter. But the takeout is by Paul Berger, and it's not clear whether he replaced Maag on the beat.


The Record has ignored growing traffic congestion in North Jersey and at the Hudson River crossings for more than a decade.

Meanwhile, editors, reporters and columnists haven't addressed mass-transit crowding, including the lack of rush-hour seats on buses and trains, or challenged officials to expand capacity.

Some of these same reporters have written front-page stories on "highways of the future," and focused almost exclusively on opposition to the extension of NJ Transit's Light Rail to Bergen County.

Bigger, better

Now, Staff Writer Paul Berger reports the new Gateway tunnel-and-rail plan is far superior to the ARC project that Governor Christie killed in 2010, and will give many North Jersey commuters a coveted "one-seat ride" into Manhattan (A-1).

Of course, all of these grandiose plans ignore the Port Authority's continued refusal to expand the single reverse bus lane into the Lincoln Tunnel during the morning rush or operate it in the afternoon.

And traffic congestion certainly will get worse before it gets better, aggravating air pollution and leading to tens of millions of dollars in lost productivity.

Hospital deal

The front page today also carries another story on a bill requiring Hackensack University Medical Center and other non-profit hospitals to contribute to their host communities in lieu of property taxes (A-1).

HUMC and other hospitals fear more lawsuits, like the one Morristown filed, leading to a landmark state Tax Court decision that raised doubts about their century old property tax exemptions.

None of the stories by Staff Writer Lindy Washburn have said whether the bill, if it becomes law, would prevent Hackensack and other towns from filing lawsuits like the successful one against Morristown Medical Center.

That case was settled, and the hospital agreed to pay $15.5 million over 10 years.

Compare that to the $690,762 HUMC would be assessed under the proposal in the state Legislature.

Second look

Freelancer Michael J. Feeney's upbeat profile of Anthony Hutchinson -- Englewood's "healthy juice man" -- spent a good deal of time describing his celebrity clients, but contained no prices (Better Living cover on Wednesday).

Maybe, the suggestion is that ordinary people can't afford Hutchinson's fresh-pressed vegetable and fruit juices.

Still, readers welcomed the rare focus on health and nutrition from Food Editor Esther Davidowitz.

Opposite the continuation of Feeney's article on Wednesday was a recipe for Breakfast Tacos with 4 slices of artery clogging bacon from clueless freelancer Kate Morgan Jackson of Upper Saddle River.

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