SUGAR LOAF — The Tri-State Transportation Campaign brought the case for bus rapid transit in the Tappan Zee corridor to Orange County yesterday.

SUGAR LOAF — The Tri-State Transportation Campaign brought the case for bus rapid transit in the Tappan Zee corridor to Orange County yesterday.

In a spirited presentation, Kate Slevin, the campaign's executive director, told about a dozen people at the Orange County Citizens Foundation breakfast that BRT will do a better job in moving people from suburban Rockland to suburban Westchester at less cost than commuter rail.

"The congestion is a result of people traveling from suburb to suburb, not to New York City,'' said Slevin. "Most of the traffic in the corridor — 60 percent — is going to Westchester County and Connecticut. Only 7 percent is going to Manhattan and 16 percent to the Bronx."

Slevin said high-frequency bus service that can collect commuters from their neighborhoods and deliver them to their office parks in a one-seat ride on buses traveling in dedicated lanes has proven to be a popular and effective transit option across the country and around the world.

The system's infinite flexibility and high-tech bells and whistles have also dispelled many of the negative images historically associated with buses, Slevin continued, as she explained how drivers can prompt a traffic signal to change as they approach an intersection to give buses priority.

"Transit has got to compete favorably with driving if it's going to get people out of their cars in this corridor,'' said Slevin.

Paul Ernenwein, chairman of the foundation's transportation committee, said the kind of bus service that Slevin described would open the job markets around White Plains to more Orange County residents, adding, "Commuter rail doesn't make sense for us."

Susan Metzger, the county's representative to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, countered that a one-seat ride on the Port Jervis line to Grand Central Terminal would do the same thing — open job markets on the East Side.

Slevin's long-scheduled presentation fell the morning after the Tappan Zee study team held a briefing in Goshen at which the county formally endorsed commuter rail as the transit mode of choice, "if at all feasible and economically justifiable." The team plans to select a mode — commuter rail, BRT, light rail or a combination — in May.

But the county, at the same time, reiterated its support for Access to the Region's Core, the NJ Transit-Port Authority project that will build a second rail tunnel to Midtown and give Port Jervis line commuters a one-seat ride, too. Construction of ARC is scheduled to begin next year.

The study team is recalculating its 2006 ridership estimates to account for ARC's impact, and refiguring its 2004 cost estimates to reflect double-digit inflation in the price of concrete, steel and other construction materials. But the old estimates put BRT at $38,776 per rider and commuter rail at $117,544 per rider.

Slevin said the national competition for federal transit funding is intense, and the successful projects are likely to be the ones that not only offer the promise of high ridership but also the pledge of local money — a major issue in New York, with its multiple transportation priorities.

She argued that cost was another reason to choose BRT and predicted the new estimates for commuter rail, previously pegged at a high of $14.5 billion, would be staggering, given the need for "heroic engineering."

To counter the punishing grades through the corridor, a rail line would have to rise on a mile-long viaduct 45 feet in the air in front of the Palisades Center in Rockland and would have to be buried in tunnels through most of Westchester.

Slevin's nonprofit advocacy organization has conducted an educational and promotional campaign for BRT over the past two years to fill the information void about the concept in the study team's work. Metro-North Railroad's role on the study team initially put the emphasis on commuter rail.

The campaign also sponsored a BRT seminar last year that featured three international experts and subsequently issued a report about why this mode should be chosen for the corridor. Since then, the study team has expanded the BRT options.