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Society

Loathed New York City Bus Terminal Is Bound for an Upgrade

January 22, 2021

NEW YORK — New York City's main bus terminal, long ridiculed for leaky ceilings, dirty bathrooms and frequent delays, could be in for a major overhaul.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey unveiled a proposal Thursday to rebuild and expand the embattled midtown Manhattan bus terminal.

"Everyone knows the bus terminal. Very few have anything good to say about it," Port Authority Executive Director Rick Cotton said. "It is way past time that this building be replaced."

The new station would be built on top of the existing one, with sleek, glass-walled entrances and added infrastructure to accommodate more buses. Ramps that stretch across several blocks would be moved, and a storage building would be built to keep empty buses off the streets.

Construction could begin in 2024, finish by 2031 and cost as much as $10 billion, the Port Authority said. About $3 billion would come from selling rights to build four commercial buildings in the area, including one atop the terminal. It would also require local and federal funding.

The Port Authority Bus Terminal opened in 1950 at Eighth Avenue between 40th and 42nd streets near Times Square. 

A statue of Ralph Kramden, the fictional bus driver from "The Honeymooners," stands outside its main entrance. It also provided an apt backdrop for "Midnight Cowboy," the 1969 film that illuminated New York's seedy underworld.

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the terminal handled more than 250,000 passenger trips on weekdays, many commuting from New Jersey. A Port Authority-commissioned study projected that number would increase to more than 330,000 by 2040.

Tom Wright, president of the Regional Plan Association, an urban planning think tank, called the new plan "a creative approach to a complicated problem." 

"Fixing the Port Authority Bus Terminal for the 260,000 people who rely on it every weekday is one of the highest infrastructure priorities for our region," he said. "The prosperity of our tri-state area will depend on our ability to provide access across the region and connect people to jobs."

Officials have debated replacing or overhauling the bus terminal, the country's busiest, for years. But political squabbling between lawmakers and Port Authority officials from both states left the project stalled while other major infrastructure projects advanced, including a new World Trade Center transit hub and multibillion-dollar makeovers of LaGuardia, JFK and Newark Liberty airports. 

The bus terminal wasn't included in the Port Authority's 10-year capital plan in 2014, raising the ire of commuters and New Jersey lawmakers.

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