It was pretty much smooth-sailing for commuters on Monday, but as the reconstruction work on the road leading into the Lincoln Tunnel continues for the next 2 and a half years, congestion is expected to get worse and worse and worse.

Axel Hellman, the transportation coordinator and co-founder of OurBus, a technology company that coordinates long distance and charter bus service, is suggesting the New Jersey Department of Transportation seriously consider banning passenger vehicles from the Lincoln Tunnel during the morning and afternoon rush.

“If the capacity is being reduced, the amount of vehicles going in there needs to be reduced," Hellman said. "Half the traffic now is buses going into New York, into the Port Authority, and there really isn’t much of a way to divert those.”

He said traffic may have been light on Monday -- at least compared to expecations -- but drivers in passenger cars can’t be counted on to not drive into Manhattan in the weeks and months to come.

“They’re not very likely to change because they’re already driving on the most congested road into the most congested place in the country," Hellman said .

He suggested “there needs to be some mechanism to actually prevent people from driving in and wasting that road capacity, be it either a toll surcharge or just blocking single cars from going into the tunnel.”

He said the potential for horrible traffic congestion at the Lincoln Tunnel should be considered an emergency situation that warrants emergency measures.

So would the DOT actually consider such a move?

According to Steve Schapiro, the director of communications for the New Jersey Department of Transportation, the answer is no.

He said reducing the number of vehicles using the Lincoln Tunnel is a good idea, “however the idea to prohibit cars from using the Lincoln Tunnel for 2 and a half years just isn’t feasible.”

“We’re always looking to expand options for our commuters, so restricting options for people really isn’t a good idea," Schapiro said.

He stressed the exclusive bus lane into and out of the Big Apple is being maintained, so bus riders can still avoid dealing with passenger vehicle hassles, and the Port Authority bus terminal is already at capacity, so there would be no reason to add any additional bus lanes.

Schapiro added it’s very important for commuters to continue to look for different ways to get into and out of New York.

“Whether it’s taking ferries, taking the PATH, trying a different route, the George Washington Bridge, the Holland Tunnel, across Staten Island, or telecommuting, these are all helpful," he said.

Hellman said we really only have two choices here.

“Do nothing and everyone riding in a car or on a bus will become outraged, or if you ban cars the bus riders are happy, who are 90 percent of the people going into the tunnel at rush hour, and the car commuters would have been outraged anyway," he said.

He added if the DOT bans passenger vehicles during the morning and afternoon rush, “those people who need a car, maybe they work at some delivery trade, they can go in before that takes effect, for instance at 6 a.m. instead of 7 a.m.”

You can contact reporter David Matthau at

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