Microtransit: How Private Residential Shuttles Can Become Hyperlocal Public Transit

By Stewart Mader

Every workday, 58% of the working population of Hoboken, New Jersey relies on public transit to earn their paycheck. That makes Hoboken’s share of transit use higher than every other city in the US, including New York City.

An increasing number of multiunit residential developments in Hoboken offer private shuttle service to the city’s major transit hub, Hoboken Terminal. These shuttles are a desirable amenity for real estate developments because they reduce the perceived distance to access mainline transit, streamline trips with luggage or strollers, and shield people from inclement weather. However, these shuttles are not open to all residents of the city, despite their impact on public resources. They contribute to congestion because each development operates its own shuttle service, impact the quality of life on streets maintained using public resources, and draw people away from The Hop, Hoboken’s hyperlocal municipal bus service.

With such a high rate of public transit use, Hoboken has an opportunity to turn The Hop into a case study for microtransit, a new service model outlined by the nonprofit transportation policy organization Eno Center for Transportation in its study UpRouted: Exploring Microtransit in the United States. Eno explored how cities are bridging the ‘last-mile’ between traditional, fixed-route rail and bus service, and people’s trip destinations in a way that eases congestion, reduces wear-and-tear on city streets, and is supported by an innovative public-private partnership.

Hoboken can do this by partnering with private-sector real-estate developers to subsidize redesigned Hop service that is more frequent, has extended operating hours beyond the current 7AM-8PM service, and reaches residential developments that currently run private shuttles. New vehicle branding, signage at stops, and simple service maps posted throughout the city will increase awareness and use of the system. The reimagined Hop would be funded by the city entering into agreements with real estate developers to subsidize public transit in lieu of their private shuttles, and through givebacks in future development agreements. Developers would be incentivized to support citywide public transit by a special transit assessment that would be applied to developments that opt to run private shuttles.

Eliminating The Hop’s current $1 fare would put it at parity with the private shuttles operated by residential developments, and is the first step to transitioning developer investment from privately operated shuttles that contribute to congestion to shared investment in building ridership on the public service. The existing 22% fare box recovery ratio isn’t high enough to justify the current $1 fare, whereas partnering with residential developments to provide a predictable operating subsidy for The Hop would enable the City of Hoboken to use its existing $250,000 annual municipal subsidy for capital investment in an expanded fleet of minibuses to support more frequent service.

Update – March 2019: Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla announced the city would drop the $1 fare for The Hop, making the hyperlocal bus service free for the first time.

Update – February 2020: The City of Hoboken announced that ridership on The Hop grew 30% in the year since the service was made fare-free.

Reimagined Hop service that is more frequent, reaches the residential developments that currently run private shuttles, and has extended operating hours will give all Hoboken residents access to better bus service. Partnering with private-sector developers to subsidize this service benefits the public. Strengthening street safety, transforming local transit, and building new public space at Hudson Place will advance pedestrian priority in Hoboken, and cement the city as a national leader.

Hoboken could make the Hop into an indispensable, hyperlocal transit backbone with expanded service, and an iconic fleet.

Hoboken could make the Hop into an indispensable, hyperlocal transit backbone with expanded service, and an iconic fleet.

Regional Transit Diagram: Good Start, but NY & NJ Need a Better Transit User Experience

By Stewart Mader

In 2013, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, New Jersey Transit, and Port Authority of New York & New Jersey released a Regional Transit Diagram–dubbed the first of its kind for the region–to help fans and media visiting for Super Bowl XLVIII in early 2014. The diagram was designed by Yoshiki Waterhouse of Vignelli Associates, in a style reminiscent of the 1972 subway map designed by Massimo Vignelli. It depicts the New York City Subway, Long Island Rail Road, and Metro-North in Manhattan below 96th Street, and PATH, Hudson-Bergen Light Rail, Newark Light Rail, and NJ Transit passenger rail service in Hoboken, Jersey City, Newark, and adjoining areas in New Jersey. Continues…

Hudson Place: A New Public Plaza at Hoboken Terminal

Hudson Place Pedestrian Plaza

Imagine stepping off your bus, ferry, or train at Hoboken Terminal and onto a new public plaza at Hudson Place. From spring to fall, you can shop at the downtown farmers’ market, and enjoy expanded outdoor seating at adjacent restaurants and bars. A pop-up holiday market brings cheer to the cold winter months. Year-round, Hoboken has a safe, and welcoming civic space at its namesake transit hub. Continues…

What’s Involved in Upgrading a Century-old Subway Signal System?

 

By Stewart Mader

Transit systems like PATH and the New York City Subway need ongoing maintenance to maintain frequent and reliable service. Since both operate 24/7, work is often squeezed in during nights and weekends when passenger demand is lighter. But sometimes larger work periods are needed for major projects like the complete overhaul of a century-old signal system, deep cleaning and repair of tunnels damaged by Superstorm Sandy, and construction of new stations, like the World Trade Center Transportation Hub built to replace the one lost on September 11, 2001. Continues…

Joy, Reflection Mark Opening of WTC Hub and Subway-PATH Connection

A few weeks before the opening of the new World Trade Center Transportation Hub, PATH invited journalists and members of the PATH Riders Council for a behind-the-scenes tour.

WTC Transportation Hub at night

WTC Transportation Hub at night

The new Transportation Hub is the fourth station to occupy the site. The first, built in 1909 as the Hudson & Manhattan Railroad’s Hudson Terminal, was replaced by a new station in 1971 under the original World Trade Center twin towers. After that station was destroyed on September 11, 2001, a temporary station opened in 2003. In October 2013, the West Concourse – the first portion of the new Hub – opened, connecting the Transportation Hub and Brookfield Place (formerly known as the World Financial Center). Platform A opened to regular PATH service in February 2014, followed by Platform B in May 2015. Continues…

Berlin’s Two Transit Agencies Appear on a Single Subway Map

New York & New Jersey Subway Map shows how we can give people a comprehensive view of transit options in the NYC region. The map generated lively discussion on SubChat, a popular transit discussion board, and commenter AEM-7AC #901 noted that the official rail rapid transit map in Berlin displays services provided by two agencies.

SU-Bahn-Ausschnitt_AB

Berlin U-Bahn and S-Bahn have different owners, BVG and DB respectively, yet somehow, the concept of leaving the other off the map is seen as silly. The notion that we should only have an “MTA map” with MTA services is rather silly, especially when the bus maps in Queens listed the private bus lines on the NYCTA maps when they operated. I just don’t see the need to pretend that PATH doesn’t exist just because it goes to that place where “dragons may be” and has “train engineers” in lieu of train operators on what are essentially smaller versions of an R-160. As far as I’m concerned, it’s the subway to Hoboken, Jersey City, and Newark.

Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG) is the main public transport agency in Berlin, which manages the U-Bahn subway, as well as bus, ferry, and tram networks. Deutsche Bahn (DB) is the German national railway company, which manages the S-Bahn regional rail service. They appear together on the city’s official transit map, and operate with a unified fare structure and payment system. Continues…

Plan B for Penn Station Expansion?

Could Penn Station finally get a grand new entrance on Eighth Avenue? In December 2015, Charles V. Bagli reported in the New York Times that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was considering ways to jumpstart the long-running project to overhaul Penn Station.

Perhaps with an eye toward an announcement at the governor’s State of the State speech in January, state officials are considering a Plan B, including reviving the idea of moving the 5,600-seat theater beneath Madison Square Garden…That would allow for an expansion of Penn Station and new entrances on Eighth Avenue.

On January 6, 2016, Cuomo announced the project, dubbed the Empire Station Complex, as part of his 2016 agenda. Continues…

Will the Maryland Purple Line Appear on the Washington DC Metrorail Map?

New York & New Jersey Subway Map shows how we can give people a comprehensive view of transit options in the NYC region. In the Washington DC metro area, a similar issue will soon be under consideration: whether to include the Maryland Purple Line on the Washington DC Metrorail Map. The Maryland Purple Line is a proposed 16-mile light rail line that would link Bethesda and New Carrolton, with connections to the Washington DC Metrorail Red, Green, and Orange lines.

As the line moves closer to construction, Greater Greater Washington contributor Peter Dovak asks Will the Purple Line appear on the Metro map? Continues…

Transit Hubs: Catalysts for the Urban Economy

Transit hubs in the New York area have long been catalysts for the growth of their surrounding neighborhoods, and the shared economy of the NY & NJ urban core. Five terminals were constructed along the New Jersey shore of the Hudson River during the rail boom of the late 19th Century: Weehawken Terminal, Hoboken Terminal, Pavonia Terminal, Exchange Place, and Communipaw Terminal.

West Shore Railroad Terminal, Weehawken, NJ. c. 1911

West Shore Railroad Terminal, Weehawken, NJ. c. 1911

On the New York side, Erastus Corning’s New York Central Railroad built Grand Central Station, the precursor to the Grand Central Terminal that stands as a landmark today. By 1910, Pennsylvania Station became the seventh major passenger rail station serving New York City and its urban surroundings. Continues…

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