WHAT do you call a long bullet-shaped vehicle with rubber tires that zips along roads, stops for traffic lights and carries lots of people?
Whatever you call it, don’t call it a bus.
After four years of study and a cost so far of $6.5 million, engineers working on the Long Island Transportation Plan 2000 are presenting their preliminary proposals to manage Long Island’s traffic 20 years from now. The linchpin of their solution is a transit system with a sleek bus that’s a dead ringer for a monorail car except for the tires. But transportation officials are loath to use the ”B” word to describe it.
”People have an image of a bus,” said David Rettig, the Long Island planning director for the State Department of Transportation, which is overseeing the study. ”A bus is crowded, it smells of diesel fumes, it’s stuck in traffic. That’s not happening with these vehicles. They have to have a fast route to where they’re going to go, they have to be clean, they have to be clean-fueled.”
Whether you call it a bus or a Rapid Commute Vehicle, as the planners do, if the transportation department has its way there will be 1,270 of them, at a cost of about $300,000 each, running along 60 miles of new restricted-access lanes on major roadways on Long Island by 2020.
The $5 billion cost of implementing the transportation plan would be spread out in $250 million chunks over 20 years. It would include 50 new bus routes; 130 miles of road widening in addition to the new restricted-access bus and car pool lanes; shoulder lanes for buses on major roads; electronic signaling equipment for intersections; and 72 new bus stations.
Under the plan, known as ”the preliminary preferred alternative,” roads that would be widened with restricted-access lanes for buses and car pools include the Northern State Parkway from the Long Island Expressway to the Meadowbrook Parkway; the Meadowbrook from the Southern State Parkway to the Northern State; the Southern State from the Meadowbrook to Sunrise Highway; Sunrise Highway from the Southern State to Nicolls Road; the Sagtikos and Sunken Meadow State Parkways from the Southern State to Veterans Highway; and Nicolls Road from State Route 347 to Sunrise Highway.
Some congested roads, like Route 347 in Suffolk County,are already scheduled for additional lanes in a separate state project.
Engineers say the plan also assumes that the improvements to local bus systems — Long Island Bus in Nassau County and Suffolk County Transit — that were recommended by a transportation department study in April, will be made. Other expected improvements taken into account to help relieve congestion include the Long Island Rail Road’s plan to provide service into Grand Central Terminal. But there’s nothing in the plan for the L.I.R.R. per se, and no role for a light rail system. Light rail is a general term for lightweight cars that run along fixed rails, like a trolley system.
The goal of the bus transit system,