Why the Port Authority Bus Terminal Is Crumbling, Crowded, Unloved

Thursday, August 21, 2014

port Authority Bus Terminal Port Authority bus terminal. One-third of all commuters from New Jersey pass through the terminal every day, but the building hasn't kept up with the number of buses or people coming and going. (Rose Trinh/flickr)

The Port Authority Bus terminal is overtaxed, with 7,500 buses arriving and departing each day, circling the terminal waiting for gates, clogging the streets, spewing pollution. The terminal building has been stagnating even as ridership has been rising: a third of all New Jersey commuters pass through it every day. WNYC transportation reporter Jim O'Grady discusses the problems with the terminal building, which opened in 1950 and expanded in the 1970s, but since then has lost hundreds of millions of dollars, in part by subsidizing NJ transit with artificially low gate fees. The Port Authority once had plans to lessen the crowding by building a bigger terminal, but Governor Christie's administration have funded other projects instead, such as extending the PATH train to Newark Airport and rebuilding the Pulaski Skyway.


Jim O'Grady

Comments [11]

Oh the corruption in NY from 179 & bdway

It's crumbling because the PA is riddled with the worst employees you could possible find. So, what do you do with an employee who had the title of Exec Director of Business Services at Empire State Development but was very incompetent...she's gets a job at PA as Senior Adviser. PA is terrible from their hiring processes, from the fact Pat Foye and his cronies have never experiencing commuting into a PA bus terminal as they are all have private drivers. Top management don't manage, both governors offices are corrupt and good luck getting either Christie or Cuomo to go to the 179th street bus terminal and witness this first hand. Port Authorities HR division is a joke on many levels because who gets hired at this agencies is a big mystery as they post jobs on a website but nobody gets them unless you are a Cuomo or Christie Donor. Vote for Teachout

Aug. 24 2014 09:25 PM

The solution to the bus terminal's problems is in a balanced Regional Transportation System which includes the addition of heavy commuter rail capacity across the Hudson River. Buses will never be able to provide the capacity of a commuter rail line. Cancellation of the ARC project set this back by at least ten years. The capacity issues at Penn Station only exacerbate the ills of the Port Authority.

Aug. 21 2014 09:00 PM

@antonio from bayside

The plan was to divert roughly 2/5ths of the bus commuters to a heavy rail cavern terminal south of Penn. Christie killed that.

A lot of the bus riders are coming from too far away, spread among too many locals, for it to be worth running a light rail when there is already a heavy rail. Modernized operations for NJtransit/LIRR would free up slots at penn to run more trains to the existing station, and critically, allow more trains through the existing north river tunnels.

A lot of the bus riders are coming from just over the river though, and an extension of HBLR through the tunnel, if feasible, would allow them to get off buses. And once you replace the slow loading, loud and dirty commuter buses with faster loading, quieter and clean HBLR, you don't need the terminal for them, you can run it as a cross town transit line instead. The bus terminal would still be needed for intercity passengers and those still not served by NJTransit rail, but the existing facility would be big enough with HBLR in midtown and penn south+gateway/modernized commuter rail.

Aug. 21 2014 03:42 PM
Will from Chelsea

The Port Authority it'self is in need of reform. The P.A. operates with no judicial over-site, lacks Twenty First Century transparency, operates with a staggering budget of $8.2 Billion, and with public officers laws that were written in 1921 - never amended. How can this be possible? The Port Authority Bus Terminal is a product of decades of mis-management and neglect.

Aug. 21 2014 12:52 PM
Dan Parietti from Manhattan

I live in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan. As I listened to this discussion I really had to quietly laugh to myself, because right now, the George Washington Bridge Bus Terminal, another PA property, is currently being completely renovated. Though, I must admit, it is an easier project to implement, because the GWB facility handles a much lower volume of bus trips than does the mid-town location.

Aug. 21 2014 12:48 PM
peter from NJ

If you examine Manhattan's west side and the Lincoln tunnel as it exists, one would wonder Why is the PABT at 41/2 street?

It would be more logical to be in a location where ramps can be fluidly redirected, where there is more open land (albeit, that's always a debate), where services are or could be dovetailed into the needs of a burs terminal.

Such a place may exist at the Southern end of the entrance/exit ramps. Currently a building exists there which has heavy truck traffic. Exchanging that truck traffic for buses and possible mustering real estate for rush-hour coordination makes this a bit more obvious.

I nominate the Morgan Post Office as a logical location... it could (in the very near future) dovetail into the #7 subway, and (adding an underground concourse) could reach Amtrak (at the current GPO), Penn Station, and Herald Square subways. Wouldn't that improve access?

Aug. 21 2014 12:45 PM
CHR$ from Manhattan West Side

Too many people, not enough space. There are so many other bus companies that do not use the PA bus terminal but park and run their engines all over the place. They should be considered as future tenants if and when there will be a new PA terminal. There plenty of buildings of no significance in the area that can be torn down to make space for a brand new terminal! This old place is a blight on the city.

Aug. 21 2014 12:34 PM
May from bklyn

A third of NJ commuters use the terminal. What percentage of travelers are going to/from NJ and how many are traveling elsewhere?

Aug. 21 2014 12:28 PM
antonio from baySide

Are there plans of making the terminal into something else?
How about a streetcar terminal or take all bus lanes into light-rail lanes?

Aug. 21 2014 12:10 PM
foodaggro from Brooklyn

Rip it all out and rebuild from scratch.

Aug. 21 2014 12:08 PM

Perhaps crumbling in the headline, crummy as well.

Aug. 21 2014 10:32 AM

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