New Westchester study begins making case for bus transit on I-287 and Tappan Zee Bridge

Traffic clogs Interstate 287 in White Plains. (Nov. Traffic clogs Interstate 287 in White Plains. (Nov. 21, 2012) Photo Credit: Elizabeth Daza

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Commuting between Westchester and other parts of the region is showing "significant" increases, according to the county, which is analyzing the potential for bus transit along the I-287 corridor and across the new Tappan Zee Bridge.

The growth includes more people than ever traveling in both directions along I-287's east-west corridor, which cuts across Westchester, according to the county Planning Department's analysis of U.S. Census data and federal unemployment statistics. On one end, the highway leads across the Tappan Zee Bridge and west to Rockland County and New Jersey. On the other end, I-287 runs easterly into Connecticut.

When it comes to the east-west commuters coming to and from Westchester over the past 20 years, the federal data shows a 26 percent increase. In 1990, there were 62,483 commuters between Westchester and Rockland, New Jersey and Connecticut. In 2010, that number jumped to 78,914.

"There might well be a market for east-west transit," said Westchester Planning Commissioner Ed Burroughs.

He called the numbers "significant" enough to merit further study by the 28-member mass transit task force appointed by the state Thruway Authority to make recommendations later this year on the viability of bus transit connecting to the Tappan Zee as well as other transportation issues.

As of 2010, 390,311 residents among the 949,113 people who live in Westchester said they were employed, including 202,368 going to jobs outside of the county, the federal data shows. During that same year, 201,472 nonresidents came into the county to work.

Over the past 20 years, thousands of Westchester residents have found jobs in Rockland. Their numbers more than doubled from 3,274 in 1990 to 6,975 in 2010, according to Westchester officials. A similar trend is also going on in New Jersey and Connecticut, where 30,046 residents were working in 2010, a 29 percent increase from two decades ago.

The commuters are also coming into Westchester to work from all directions. By 2010, as compared with 1990, Rockland, New Jersey and Connecticut were each sending about 2,000 more of their residents to Westchester for a total of 41,893 reverse commuters, the federal stats show.

Mass transit advocate Veronica Vanterpool is already liking what this initial analysis could suggest. "The numbers show that residents both need and want to travel between the counties," said Vanterpool, executive director for the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. "When motorists stuck in traffic see bus commuters whiz by in an exclusive bus lane, it will be a powerful incentive to commute by bus."

In addition, Burroughs said this early data could be used to help the county map out potential changes for more effective shuttle bus service from the White Plains Metro-North train station as well as future changes for Bee-Line bus routes running within key county arteries.

The latest numbers also show much more north-south commuting between Westchester and the region over the past two decades. Commuting to Long Island, unheard of 20 years ago, drew 17,439 residents in 2010, according to Westchester officials. Heading north to work in Orange, Dutchess and Putnam has more than doubled since 1990 and is approaching nearly 3,000 jobs in each of those Hudson Valley counties.

As for reverse commuters from New York City coming to work in Westchester, their ranks have grown by 52 percent between 1990 and 2010 to 78,293, while there was only a slight increase of 2 percent to 82,266 over the past 20 years in the number of county residents who headed to the five boroughs to work.

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