It took two hours to get into NYC this morning. It usually takes an hour.
Somebody wrecked a truck on the outbound side of 495 prior to 5:00 a.m. and things just got uglier until my commuter bus arrived on the scene, during the heighth of the morning rush, at 7:00 a.m. It took us an hour to go five miles. And even when we got to the tunnel, we crawled through it.
It's hard to explain the setup to anybody who hasn't actually driven up the NJTP to exit 16-E (Lincoln Tunnel), then on 495 (the connector) to what is called "The Helix." The Helix is a huge, curving, diving roadway, 8 lanes wide, that rises from river level, in a 180 degree arc, starting at the openings of the three tubes which comprise the Lincoln Tunnel, up over 150 feet, to an altitude sufficient to transverse the solid rock mini-mountains which line the Jersey side of the river, called The Palisades.
The Pallisades are where Aaron Burr shot Alexander Hamilton a couple of hundred years ago.
When I was a kid the Pallisades were the home of "Pallisades Park", an amusement park immortalized in song by Freddie Cannon way back in 1375 (when Dick Clark was 23).
Anyway, the cops still hadn't cleared the mess away by the time we arrived, which meant that the special bus express lane, for inbound commuter buses only, wasn't functioning. That forced us to blend into the regular traffic lanes.
The system, obviously, is stretched to its limits. The policy-wonks keep saying that "more asphalt is NOT the answer", meaning more traffice lanes.
I think the problem lies in the whole concept of a tunnel. The Lincoln Tunnel was originally built in the 1930's with two tubes, 4 lanes, any or all of which were reversible as needed. Sometime in the 40's it was decided to add a third tube, for a total of six lanes.
I guess they could add a fourth tube. But then, where do you put an additional 6,000 cars and trucks and buses on the Manhattan side, between 6:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m.?
Nah, for once the wonks are right. It's time... it's long past time... for the whole region to re-think how they move people into and out of New York City every day.
Some people are making noises about adding a new rail tunnel from New Jersey into New York. That'd be fine, but the existing stations are already strained to capacity. The existing trains are already full by the time they leave central Jersey. Anybody who boards north of New Brunswick is doomed to standing all the way into the city.
What are people supposed to do? Sprout wings and fly? Hire a helicopter service? Buy pogo sticks or roller blades?
Not to brag, but I have come up with what I think is the ideal (and elegant) solution. I think we should build a multi-track monorail system on concrete pylons ABOVE the center of the existing roadbed of the Turnpike, with station stops spaced out every 20 miles or so, with new park and ride facilities at the new stations.
Furthermore, the monorail wouldn't terminate in New Jersey. It would fly OVER the Hudson, again on pylons 100's of feet in the air, and cruise straight along over 42nd Street in Midtown, stopping at the Port Authority Bus Terminal (8th Avenue), Times Square, Bryant Park (6th Avenue), Grand Central Station (Park Avenue) and terminate at the United Nations, on the East River.
With so few stops (and with no dangerous vehicular traffic to contend with) the monorail could travel at a hundred miles per hour up the turnpike, only stopping at those few, designated, stops along the way. A trip from the state capital, Trenton, to New York, could be accomplished in as little as 30 minutes.
I often think about my dream monorail on trips like this mornings.
And then I remind myself that, once upon a time, I saw something very much like it, when I was a teenager riding through the World of Tomorrow, at the GM Futurama Exhibit at the 1964 New York Worlds Fair.
Maybe we should try some 40 year old technology to replace the obviously failing 70 year old technology.