The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is looking to increase the capacity of one of the country’s busiest bus lanes by employing self-driving vehicles. The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday that the agency will test autonomous buses in the Lincoln Tunnel’s exclusive bus lane, which runs 2.5 miles along New Jersey Route 495. The Port Authority estimates the tech could allow for 200 more buses to run during each morning weekday rush, giving 10,000 more NJ commuters a ride to the Midtown terminal.
The exclusive bus lane leads from the Turnpike to the Lincoln Tunnel each weekday between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. It currently carries about 1,850 buses during the peak morning rush, making it the most heavily used highway lane in the U.S. Port Authority officials believe the new technology could increase capacity by 30 percent by letting buses travel closer together.
“We want to be able to improve the question of the exclusive bus lane and the…capacity of the Lincoln Tunnel in any way that we can,” Port Authority Executive Director Rick Cotton told Politico on Monday.
The agency said it will spend about $5 million to test the autonomous technology through a pilot program that will run through May 2021. During the test, no passengers will be on the buses.
Bus companies traveling through the tunnel, including NJ Transit, must agree to install the technology on their vehicles. Two vendors were chosen by the Port Authority for the test run: the Southwest Research Institute and Robotic Research LLC.
A vote on the pilot program was expected for this Thursday but was postponed until next month. Officials told the WSJ they withdrew the proposal after NJ agencies asked for more consultation on the plan.
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