Plans advance for "rapid-transit" buses from South Jersey to Center City

Posted: June 12, 2012

A proposed bus "rapid-transit" route designed to reduce traffic and ease commutes on the heavily traveled South Jersey corridor that includes Routes 55 and 42 and I-676 was approved Monday by the NJ Transit board.

The NJ Transit rapid-bus system between South Jersey and Philadelphia would allow rush-hour buses to travel on highway shoulder lanes and medians for part of the trip and would provide 1,800 new parking spaces for commuters in Winslow and Deptford Townships.

NJ Transit planners now will ask the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission to include the proposed $46 million project in its long-range plan at the commission's June 28 meeting, which would clear the way for seeking federal funds. Half the proposed funding could come from the federal government, with the rest from state coffers, according to current plans.

The system would be in addition to a proposed light-rail line that would operate between Glassboro and Camden. An $8 million environmental-impact study is under way for that rail line. The Delaware River Port Authority is overseeing the study, which is being paid for by NJ Transit.

NJ Transit has examined alternative routes for a rapid South Jersey-to-Philadelphia bus system for several years. The board on Monday approved "Alternative No. 6," providing for a 23-mile main line to the city from Avandale in Winslow Township. A branch would take riders from Deptford along Route 55 to join the main line at its merger with Route 42.

If approved and funded, the bus service could be in full operation by 2020, said R.J. Palladino, NJ Transit's assistant director for strategic investment. Some parts of the project could be phased in earlier, he said, with construction beginning in about two 1/2 years.

An estimated 6,400 riders would use the rapid-bus route daily by 2035, according to NJ Transit projections. It would cost from $5 million to $10 million a year to operate, planners said.

The plan chosen as the "locally preferred alternative" would call for 26 buses to run at 10- to 15-minute intervals during rush hours from Winslow to a location west of City Hall on Market Street in Philadelphia.

The plan would expand the existing Avandale park-and-ride lot on Route 536 and add new parking lots on College Drive in Winslow and Delsea Drive in Deptford.

The rapid-bus system would allow buses to travel in dedicated lanes, with traffic-signal priority, to speed the commute to Philadelphia. Stops along the way would have train-style shelters with ticket machines and real-time information about bus arrivals.

Contact Paul Nussbaum at 215-854-4587 or pnussbaum@phillynews.com.

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