Well over 100 residents of New York and New Jersey gathered at a Midtown hotel Thursday evening to hear the Port Authority’s plans to replace the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Many of them were worried that the agency is going to screw it up.
The terminal handled 260,000 passenger trips every weekday in 2015. The Port Authority expects that number to reach up to 337,000 daily trips by 2040. In addition to — and in part because of — its capacity problems, the 69-year-old terminal is universally regarded as a pit of despair, famously derided by John Oliver as “The single worst place on Planet Earth.”
The Port Authority is currently considering three plans to replace the terminal, at a cost of up to $10 billion. One proposal would move intercity bus operations to a new terminal under the Javits Center on the far West Side, opening up space in the PABT for more commuter buses. A second alternative would convert the Javits lower level to a terminal for intercity and commuter buses, freeing the existing PABT site for private commercial development. This proposal would annex Pier 76, across 12th Avenue, for terminal use, and would require raising the West Side Highway.
A third option, favored by elected officials who represent the area along with community boards 4 and 5, involves renovating the existing terminal. But a major sticking point is that, as of now, none of the three plans would accommodate services like Megabus, which use neighborhood sidewalks for passenger pick-ups and drop-offs. Such services account for thousands of trips per week into and out of Manhattan, according to data published in 2011, and the market has since expanded. Port Authority reps said curbside bus service would be addressed separately, but did not provide specifics.
New Yorkers will have to live with the new terminal for decades, whether they use it or not. Virtually everyone who spoke at yesterday’s hearing implored the Port Authority to think bigger.
In a joint statement signed by state and federal elected officials from Manhattan, Assembly Member Richard Gottfried said current issues with curbside-intercity buses clogging neighborhood streets represent “the same problem the original terminal was built to mitigate.” Gottfried said Port Authority environmental studies should include all bus traffic. “This project must be able to reduce pollution from currently unacceptable levels,” said Gottfried.
Speaking for Manhattan Community Board 5, Sam Levy said it was “unfathomable” that a replacement facility would not have space for curbside-intercity buses. “They are everywhere,” said Levy. Though CB 5 prefers the “build in place” proposal, Levy said the board would oppose any plan that does not account for all intercity bus operations.
CB 4 member Christine Berthet reiterated those concerns, and added that bus service reliability is not addressed by the current proposals. Berthet was one of several speakers who noted that the Port Authority has not factored the Lincoln Tunnel choke point into any of its plans.
Berthet is also a co-founder of the Clinton/Hell's Kitchen Pedestrian Safety Coalition (CHEKPEDS). “In the absence of a subway connection to New Jersey as an option, CHEKPEDS would prefer the ‘build in place’ alternative if it provided capacity for ALL inner-city buses that operate currently at curbside, and for all ALL bus parking that occurs in the district,” Berthet said in an emailed statement to Gothamist. “Unfortunately this alternative does not provide enough capacity.”
At least a couple of speakers said the terminal should be moved to New Jersey. “The thing kills Midtown west,” Manhattan resident Mike Wolffs told Gothamist before the hearing. Wolffs suggested leasing the current PABT site to fund a 7 train extension across the Hudson River.
Dana Anderssen agreed that the new PABT should be sited in Jersey, predicting that area streets and highways would be unable to handle the projected increase in bus traffic. “We’ve seen no creativity here at all,” Anderssen told Port Authority reps. “Every one of your proposals is nonsense.”
The Port Authority will accept comments on the replacement PABT until September 18th.