By Julie Shapiro
LOWER MANHATTAN — Instead of putting tourists on buses, put them on boats.
That’s the idea behind a new proposal to reduce traffic from tour buses in lower Manhattan. Dozens of buses already choke the neighborhood’s narrow streets, and the Port Authority expects an additional 210 buses per day to visit the 9/11 memorial once it opens next year.
To help solve this problem, Statue Cruises is encouraging bus drivers to park in Liberty State Park in New Jersey and send the tourists across the Hudson on ferries. The tourists would land at the World Financial Center in Battery Park City, a short walk from the World Trade Center site.
“This is one way to keep buses from going through the Holland Tunnel and ending up on this side,” said Michael Burke, vice president of Statue Cruises, which runs the ferries to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.
Burke got a positive reception when he presented the idea this week to Community Board 1’s World Trade Center Redevelopment Committee, which has been raising concerns about tour buses for years.
“We don’t want these buses down here,” said Pat Moore, who has lived on Cedar Street across from the Trade Center site for over 30 years. “It makes more sense to do this.”
Burke said he is just beginning to reach out to tour companies, but he thinks they will be receptive because Liberty State Park is offering buses all-day parking for just $10, and drivers wouldn’t have to pay the $8 toll on the Holland Tunnel. Liberty State Park has plenty of extra parking spaces and would appreciate the extra tourist traffic, Burke said.
Statue Cruises already runs a 150-seat ferry between Liberty State Park and the World Financial Center every half hour. One-way tickets for the five-to-seven-minute trip cost $5.50. If demand rises, Burke said he could put larger boats on the route and possibly reduce the ticket price.
Local residents first suggested moving the tour buses to New Jersey several years ago, and the city Department of Transportation is considering that as a long-term solution, said Ro Sheffe, chairman of CB1’s Financial District Committee.
In the short-term, DOT is leaning toward using vacant lots uptown to house the buses, Sheffe said, based on a meeting with DOT officials last year.
A DOT spokeswoman declined to comment on the specific options and said only that DOT is working with the Port Authority and other agencies on the plans.