Home PANYNJ Midtown Bus Master Plan could usher in PABT replacement

Midtown Bus Master Plan could usher in PABT replacement

by Benjamin Kabak

A new master plan could spell the end for the Port Authority Bus Terminal in its current form. (Photo by flickr user Andrew Mace)

For all the talk about Penn Station and all the grief it gets, just a few blocks north sits a far worse transit hub. I had the distinct pleasure of arriving at the Port Authority Bus Terminal from Boston very early on a Sunday morning a few weeks ago, and it was not a sight to see. From the inside, the building seems to be falling apart, and from the outside, it isn’t much better. As city planners eye a Penn Station overhaul, midtown’s bus terminal may soon see a brighter future.

With capacity the main concern — the PABT is at capacity during rush hour — the Port Authority announced on Thursday that it has commissioned a comprehensive study to assess how to accomodate future growth in bus commuting. The options could include things as mundane as terminal improvements and state-of-good-repair programs to possible terminal replacement. Ultimately, Port Authority wants to limit the number of buses idling on the streets of Manhattan and needs a better facility to serve as an entry point into the city.

“The development of a Master Plan underscores the Port Authority’s commitment to make the Bus Terminal a world-class facility and bus transit the most reliable mode of access to midtown Manhattan,” said Port Authority Chairman David Samson. “While the Port Authority has already begun the work of revitalizing the Bus Terminal, including the recent acquisition of top-shelf tenants like Starbucks and Cake Boss Café and the installation of WIFI in the South Wing concourse, this comprehensive approach is the best way to ensure the Bus Terminal keeps pace with future passenger growth over the next fifty years.”

Setting aside the hilarity of considering Starbucks and Cake Boss Cafe to be top-shelf tenants, the Port Authority should assess if its infrastructure can keep up with bus commuting over the next fifty months, let alone fifty years. With 65 million people passing through the Port Authority Bus Terminal each year, the structure, this monstrosity that breaks up the city grid, is nearing the end. What the future holds though is anyone’s guess.

In announce the new Midtown Bus Master Plan, Port Authority identified a series of goals in addition to expanding, repairing or even replacing the terminal building. The study, to be conducted by Kohn Pedersen Fox and Parsons Brinckerhoff, will look to integrate the bus terminal into the development to the west. Right now, Port Authority is very focused on sending its customers east, but with the growth in Hell’s Kitchen and Hudson Yards, the west demands attention. “Modernizing the bus terminal will keep it apace with other public investments in the area and enable it to accommodate increases in customers and commerce,” the PA said.

Unlike with Penn Station, doing something with the Port Authority Bus Terminal doesn’t involve upsetting entrenched interests and city institutions. Even a recent effort to improve the facade of the building has done little to lessen its hulking ugliness. As one traveler said to The Times when told of plans to remake the terminal, “They could start with the floors and the ceilings. The walls, I guess, are not very homey either.”

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166 comments

Vince June 28, 2013 - 2:31 am

I got to say the worst thing about the Port Authority Bus Terminal is definitely it’s location. Taking buses all through Manhattan is awful and many times when I’d take the bus in I’d wish it was somewhere in Harlem or the Bronx, since the traffic was going to be way longer than a train ride. I’d say most times traffic would add at least a half hour to my trip, but it could easily become a hour or so.

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Kai B June 28, 2013 - 10:25 am

Well, there is the GWB Bus Terminal. Several attempts were made over the years to offer long-distance service from there but I guess the demand never showed up.

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Ben July 4, 2013 - 9:59 am

Most of the buses that come into PABT are commuter buses from NJ. So, while it’s a problem for some long-distance bus companies, the location is pretty ideal for most of the buses that use it every day.

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aestrivex July 6, 2013 - 1:52 pm

By golly, all buses should terminate in the same place, of course! Never mind that PABT is convenient for New Jersey Transit buses and incredibly inconvenient for buses coming in from New England. We can’t build a bus terminal near Pelham Bay Park right off of I-95 for these commuters — that would leave them at the end of the 6 train and in the Bronx *gasp*, when they obviously all want to go right into Times Square in the heart of the city.

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AG July 6, 2013 - 2:39 pm

Not sure if you are being sarcastic or not… but that area of Pelham Bay is very residential (where they 6 ends)…. and the park… it’s the biggest in the city because of where it is… too many rare animals there – so doubtful any of that land would be ceded. Technically there might be space on Waters Place near Westchester Square… but there is already a lot of traffic with all the commercial development going on in that area.

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MassTransitRdr July 24, 2014 - 5:03 am

Sounds good in concept, but the # 6 train (local) from Pelham to Times Sq is a very l-o-n-g ride. No way you could expect people arriving from wherever by bus to be subjected to a marathon ride on the # 6.

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vanshnookenraggen June 28, 2013 - 3:17 am

Build a massive new facility underground and a soaring tower above.

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Anon256 June 29, 2013 - 7:50 pm

It worked so well at Penn Station!

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Henry July 3, 2013 - 10:09 am

The difference is that anything, really, is better than the current PABT.

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Eric June 30, 2013 - 9:41 am

Build a small facility (say, on half the site). Sell off the rest. Use the proceeds to build a new rail tunnel to New Jersey. Extend the 7 through that tunnel, to Secaucus or wherever, and have most bus riders transfer there.

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SEAN June 30, 2013 - 11:09 am

I’m so dumbfounded by your last statement, that there’s no way to refute it without going into boring detail. You really think 200,000 bus riders are going to transfer to another mode every day just to get into Manhattan? It would make better ecconomic sence just to ban passenger cars from the Lincoln Tunnel & reserve it for trucks & busses. Of course that will never happen.

I don’t think there’s a perfect solution to fix the PABT since it wasn’t designed to handle the traffic levels that it currently does, but the astetics & passenger movement most certently can be improved including ADA features. This is most apparent in the 200 series gates where no elevators exist.

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Eric July 3, 2013 - 7:17 am

They already have to transfer to another mode if they don’t work right next to PABT. Transferring in Secaucus or Hoboken would save them a lot of waiting in traffic in tunnels, and save them time overall.

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Henry July 3, 2013 - 8:11 am

As previously discussed on the other articles on the topic, a 7 to Secaucus is never happening, primarily because the 7’s Midtown stations are poorly equipped to handle transferring passengers from both the east and west, and the extension might cause overcrowding to reach unsafe levels. And who the hell wants to do bus > commuter rail > train?

marv July 3, 2013 - 8:42 am

Regarding the claimed inability of of the #7 to handle predominate inbound or out bound traffic from two directions at once (which most other lines seem to have no problem with):

*it is hard to imagine that one or two side platforms can not be built at each of the midtown station.

or alternately

*As the line does not merge with others, one can easily control the cars used on it, and lock into exact door locations. Given this, rather than build platforms, build 11 foot diameter “pipes perpendicular to the tracks at each door location. (11 cars/train * 3 doors per car * 2 both sides of the station). Have these tunnel/hallways/portals connected away from the tracks and make them exit only.

*use the center platform for boarding passengers only with all escalators running down to platform. People will learn, and in case of error will just have to walk through the next arriving train (from either direction) to the outer exits portals. Platform doors (more easily done given the control over the cars used) should also be installed at these high volume center platform stations.

*This idea requires both sets of doors being opened at once, but will reduce dwell time in the stations by removing the conflict between entering and exiting passengers. As exiting passengers do not keep doors open, the outer doors could be controlled remotely by a station manager.

*These side exits would only need to operate at peak times.

By solving this problem, you are able to maximize usage of a train line that serves two of the most important stations (grand central and times square) in the city. This would enable (if there is in fact a real problem now) the #7 to be extended to NJ for connections to to NJT and maybe even on to Staten Island.

Henry July 3, 2013 - 11:01 am

Obviously you have not ridden the 7, because this only solves one of two problems with the 7 stations.

5th Av and Grand Central have both relatively small, overcrowded platforms given the crowds they handle, and extremely poor means of egress. Even Times Square lacks enough escalators (necessary because with the exception of the connections to the (E), most people transferring have to go up to the mezzanine serving the 7th Av Line, Broadway Line, and exits.) Even disregarding the situation regarding platforms, this would be an extremely expensive endeavor that would cause major disruption and might require the temporary closure of vital transfer passages or stations.

Meanwhile, you want to blast out two additional side platforms under a street that is constantly congested with pedestrian, cyclist, and motor vehicle traffic, and that is home to some of the world’s most famous landmarks and most expensive retail. It will be disruptive and the cost will be eye-popping. Heck, the (L) is a better candidate for this sort of folly, because it will redistribute passengers better.

No comment on the 7 to Staten Island proposal.

MassTransitRdr July 24, 2014 - 5:36 am

Will never happen. NYS already subsidizes PATH — a train line that provides virtually no benefit to NY residents or tax payers. Extending the # 7 (which has local service, only) across the Hudson would create a volume flood of NJ riders on the line, rendering the # 7 in Manhattan virtually unusable to NYers. All this, as the # 7 is being designated as the ONLY subway line to service Hudson Yards.

This idea sounds good to those who choose to view NYC as some “regional resource”, but bottom line — the NYS-run MTA will never permit the # 7 into NJ. NJ has to get over the idea of accessing NYC, on the cheap. After killing ARC, over-dependence on buses (cheap option) and ridiculously expecting NYS to forever subsidizing PATH, NJ (w/ Fed $$) needs to finance and build its own tunnels into NYC. Further subsidized service would only serve to assist NJ residents and businesses, only. As for “benefit” to NYers, the option of firms relocating to cheaper biz locales in Secaucus (only a subway ride away) — NY residents and taxpayers emphatically say “No, thanks !!!” to that, reverse commute.

Please — Someone explain WHY NYS would ever be motivated to extend MTA service to NJ ?? NJ riders already pay subway fares when they de-bus at Port Authority, so that’s not a motivator. Even if such were 100% funded by Fed $$, extending the #7 to Secaucus would not happen. It’s all about jobs and business / residential tax bases — where NY and NJ are very much in competition.

Spencer K June 28, 2013 - 6:34 am

As an NJ commuter hub (probably most of the traffic, certainly during rush hour), it’s ideally placed next to the Lincoln Tunnel.

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Eric F June 28, 2013 - 10:08 am

Ideal assuming the tunnel is key.

If a separate tube were built, the terminal could be anywhere. Moreover, access from the PABT to points east in Manhattan is arduous, involving a squalid, crowded walk across an entire city block to get to the 7.

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geoffc June 28, 2013 - 2:34 pm

Eric: The A/C/E run right under the terminal. An E uptown takes you across 53rd and out to Queens if needed. If you are headed downtown, the A/C are good options. If you need to get to Grand Central, this is not really much different than Penn.

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SEAN June 30, 2013 - 8:39 pm

7 anyone? It’s so easy to reach the terminal, that it makes walking crosstown unnessessary. The shuttle does the same with a slightly longer walk around & under the 1, 2, 3. Infact I did this Friday & it works out great for catching busses to NJ.

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Henry June 30, 2013 - 8:47 pm

The only thing I dislike about that passageway is the excessively depressing poem in the rafters. That’s a great way to start your morning…

j.b. diGriz February 19, 2016 - 12:16 pm

I love that poem. Primarily because my first love would religiously recite it every time we walked through the passageway.

It speaks to the NJ/commuter life. 🙂

Jerrold June 28, 2013 - 9:01 pm

Where’ve you been?
That “squalid” block is Walt Disney country now.

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Michael June 29, 2013 - 8:29 pm

I think he meant the underground urine tunnel between the 7 and the ACE with the depressing poetry.

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SEAN June 30, 2013 - 11:12 am

He did say block.

Henry June 30, 2013 - 11:16 am

Not to say that it’s squalid, but Walt Disney country isn’t exactly “pleasant”, what with all the crowds of confused tourists and whatnot.

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SEAN June 30, 2013 - 8:44 pm

Read my above post to avoid the confused tourests, it’s not all that difficult.

llqbtt July 1, 2013 - 11:43 am

I think that squalid would have applied 20 or so years ago.

Anyway, the 7 terminus is somewhere in the middle of the block, so at worst it’s a half block squalid walk.

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SEAN July 1, 2013 - 8:41 pm

I’m not the biggest fan of that passageway, but is it really a big deal? Perhaps I’m missing something.

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llqbtt July 1, 2013 - 11:46 am

Just how many bazillions of dollars are you allocating to (i) scope out and build a new tunnel, (ii) select a new location (where by the way?) and (iii) buy the needed parties out with eminent domain acquisitions?

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marv June 28, 2013 - 7:04 am

“For all the talk about Penn Station and all the grief it gets, just a few blocks north sits a far worse transit hub.”

They are in many ways one transit hub and for the purposes of redevelopment they should be viewed as one since for a large part of the users they are tradeoffs for each other both for local NJ commuters and long distance travelers. The convenience, cost, schedule, and esthetic of each are compared (usually without realizing it) when deciding whether to take a bus or a train.) Expand capacity at Penn Station and the frequency of trains, less users will pour into the PA Bus Terminal. As Penn becomes less tolerable there is more demand for buses.

The real solution is to leave the terminal as is (perhaps build a tower above to maximize the revenue) but deal with the real problem of getting NJ commuters into the Westside and beyond.

My solution (yes back to it) a 3 part Hudson Tunnel:
*Heavy rail into Penn
*Subway (#7) into NJ then down to Staten Island
*Light rail

The light rail portion should then split (the possible frequency of the tunnel with no cross traffic would be lost if feeding on to just one surface street)into branches across 34th Street, 42nd Street and 49/50th Streets.

In NJ the light rail would tie into the existing light rail and possibly take over some heavy rail branches (full time or rush hour only with FRA waivers) as well.

The eastern termini of the branches would need to be determined with future expansions possible.

The benefits of having light rail and a subway line solve bus problem include: direct access to the east side, vehicles with large capacity, non-poluting vehiciles.

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MetroDerp June 28, 2013 - 7:20 am

Hear hear.

When my (then long-distance) girlfriend was living in New York, trips from Union Station in DC to New York were all too frequent. But oddly enough, I kept riding Greyhound Express mostly because it stopped at the PABT. Granted, she was living in Hell’s Kitchen/Columbus Circle so it was especially convenient, but I would still take that over any curbside drop-off (and is there any way that overhauling PABT would create significantly more space and/or lower fees for the low-cost bus services?).

On the other hand, trips in from points north (and which cannot use the tunnel) need an alternative. The hours of my life I’ve been on a Boston-NYC bus trapped in midtown surface traffic are just… either a proper dedicated bus line is required, or a northern terminal with good connections to multiple subway lines.

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Bolwerk June 28, 2013 - 7:56 am

Points north and east have decent rail access, and for the most part don’t need a bus terminal. The bus terminal is for those in northern Jersey who live too far away from a train.

There is a case to be made for the terminal (maybe at a smaller scale) for long-distance traffic, but it seems a bit redundant for NJ Transit, where the bulk of the traffic is probably walking to work or diffusing to the subway to get to work that way.

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Eric F June 28, 2013 - 10:06 am

“The bus terminal is for those in northern Jersey who live too far away from a train.”

The buses are big in Bergen, but also in Monmouth and Hudson. There’s even a big bus park and ride at Turnpike Exit 8A! They come from all over. If the system functioned properly, you’d have in effect a continuous 60 mph express ride from town to terminal. There is a lot of promise here.

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Bolwerk June 28, 2013 - 10:13 am

Pretty sure 8A would still be northern NJ.

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Eric F June 28, 2013 - 10:20 am

I wouldn’t say that out loud over there, they consider themselves to be Central NJ.

One of the amazing things you’ll see in the PABT are those Martz buses people use to commute from Pennsylvania every day. That is one long ride.

llqbtt July 1, 2013 - 11:51 am

Depending on 1’s orientation, to a NYer, north Jersey is 80 and above, central 78 and above and everything else is ‘south’ Jersey.

However, north Jersey starts more at 287, and south…hmmm south of 37?

Bolwerk July 1, 2013 - 12:09 pm

Heh.

I would say that north Jersey is the parts of New Jersey that feed significant commuters into NYC. Central New Jersey is roughly at Philadelphia’s latitude, and south NJ is pokes into the same latitude as DC or northern Virginia, and is populated by strange redneck lizards who keep the Mason-Dixon line immediately north of wherever they’re standing.

SEAN July 1, 2013 - 8:49 pm

Heh.

Actually Southern NJ is area code 609& down,central are area codes 732 & 908 & area codes 201 & 973 are the north.

Eitan July 1, 2013 - 10:08 pm

This – I have been using these distinctions for years, from when it was just 201/908/609…

Ben July 4, 2013 - 10:04 am

I grew up north of 80 in NJ, and this was definitely my perspective. “Oh, you live in Montclair? What’s it like living in Central Jersey?”

But, really, the lines are pretty easy to draw by county. Morris/Union/Warren and north are North Jersey, Somerset/Middlesex/Monmouth/Hunterdon/Mercer form Central Jersey, and everything to the south is South Jersey.

Kai B June 28, 2013 - 10:28 am

Don’t discount its long-distance use though either. There are a lot of cities in the Northeast that don’t have rail access or have rail access that doesn’t satisfy demand.

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Eric F June 28, 2013 - 10:44 am

Buses are also way cheaper. A lot of Northeast trips are undertaken by bus for cost savings reasons. I would imagine that buses move many more people than Amtrak.

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Benjamin Kabak June 28, 2013 - 10:46 am

Are you talking long-haul trips (Boston-NY, NY-DC, etc.) or commuting trips?

Eric F June 28, 2013 - 12:03 pm

Both. The cost differential is a huge incentive.

JJJJ June 28, 2013 - 12:06 pm

Yup, New Brunswick to NYC. $13 by train, under $10 by bus. That adds up. On weekends, the time for the trip is identical….but the bus seats recline.

llqbtt July 1, 2013 - 11:53 am

The Mega Bus is way cheaper than Amtrak. Not even close if you book in advance.

Kai B June 28, 2013 - 11:33 am

True. And that’s just sad. Rail should be able to transport more people at a cheaper cost. But almost all Northeast Corridor rail trips are at capacity, driving the cost way up.

Bolwerk June 28, 2013 - 12:55 pm

Price is also driven up by the costs inflicted on Amtrak. Aren’t they still paying out for pensions for railroaders who never even worked for Amtrak?

There are other things too. Amtrak is less energy-efficient than buses, though presumably part of that has to do with speed. I suspect part of it has to do with the FRA buff strength rules too though.

Kai B June 28, 2013 - 1:28 pm

At the end of the day, what allows Amtrak to sell $200 tickets to DC is demand. People are buying them at that cost, so they’re not going to sell them for less.

aestrivex July 6, 2013 - 2:12 pm

Indeed, for the Northeast corridor that type of demand is managed. However, the Amtrak lines that run through Utah and Oklahoma — which politicians from Utah and Oklahoma push for with a vengeance — could never sustain that demand and come close to breaking even.

Alon Levy June 28, 2013 - 5:20 pm

The number of seats per Acela train is about 300, vs. 1,300 on Shinkansen and 1,100 on bilevel TGVs.

Bolwerk July 1, 2013 - 12:11 pm

I get that for the business/first class, but the problem I guess is Acela is all business class or above.

Then, maybe that model is working for them.

Alon Levy July 1, 2013 - 10:12 pm

The Acela business class is just brand. The seat pitch is 42″, which is a hair more than the seat pitch in standard class on the Shinkansen and in 2nd class on Chinese HSR. The seats are wider because the Shinkansen and the Chinese HSR trains have 5-abreast seating, but even with 4-abreast seating we’re talking about 1,100 passengers per train. The tricks are a) 16-car trains rather than 8-car trains, b) EMUs with all cars occupied rather than dedicated power cars, c) no restaurant car, and d) using more of each car’s length for seating.

Bolwerk July 1, 2013 - 10:19 pm

What I was thinking is, a lot of the space is just taken up by conference tables. Literally a lot in every car.

Alon Levy July 2, 2013 - 1:15 am

What conference tables? You mean the ones between pairs of seats that face each other? Those also exist on the TGVs (not on the Shinkansen because Shinkansen trains have rotatable seats, with seats facing forward by default).

Bolwerk July 5, 2013 - 1:52 pm

Been three years since I was on TGV, but the Acela tables seem bigger. As I remember it, the second class TGV (which I usually took) had the occasional table, but the first class (which I sometimes splurged on) had more of them.

Also, on Acela, there are even more of them, and I think some in every car (except maybe the quiet car?). Four tables probably cost eight seats. With tables and space for disability riders, the loss might be around 16 to 20 seats per car.

Alon Levy July 1, 2013 - 10:08 pm

This is probably true for the big city markets, like New York-Philadelphia, but not for the small ones, like New York-Providence. Train passengers get to piggyback on the much higher volume of New York-Boston passengers, since trains can make intermediate stops. Express buses can’t without losing too much time, so Megabus offers low frequency, and Bolt doesn’t even serve the secondary cities.

If you believe Randall O’Toole – and I don’t – the total bus mode share in the Northeast is 8-9%, vs. 5-6% for Amtrak.

aestrivex July 6, 2013 - 2:15 pm

As someone who regularly shuttled from New York to Providence, I invariably select the $25 local bus that took five (max six) hours instead of the $100 local train that took three.

JJJJ June 28, 2013 - 10:03 am

There is a bus terminal in the north, also run by the port authority….GW.

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Larry Littlefield June 28, 2013 - 7:38 am

Ben, I realize this is not your job, but I wonder if someone could look into the finances of the terminal.

Back in the mid-1990s, the Department of City Planning found that the terminal was a net financial loser, and one reason why (for example) the Port Authority drastically scaled back a promised Airport Access program in New York despite imposing a passenger facility charge on air travelers.

The problem was the bus terminal had become FAR BELOW CAPACITY as a result of the DECLINE of the intercity bus industry. To help New Jersey, the Port Authority charged New Jersey Transit relatively little to use the terminal, and made it up by charging more to intercity buses. So when the intercity bus industry shrank (Greyhound went bankrupt, for example) due to the cheap airfare era, the PA had to make the money from elsewhere.

Now the intercity bus industry is booming again. Doesn’t that mean the terminal is profitable? And isn’t the free on street vs. charged at the terminal difference one reason the bus companies want to be on the street?

Otherwise, this is sort of like Penn Station all over again. What is really needed is new, separate lanes for buses from Route 3 and the Turnpike which tunnel under the Palisades and emerge right at the mouth of the Lincoln Tunnel, skipping all the back-ups between the tunnel and the Route 3/Turnpike interchange in both directions. But the Port Authority has no money to build anything, because after years of keeping tolls and PATH fares below MTA levels and the huge (excess) cost of 9/11 rebuilding, it is deep in debt.

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lawhawk June 28, 2013 - 9:04 am

The existing bus-only contra-lanes are at max capacity during rush hour, and the building itself is maxed out with capacity.

But the amenities within the station are atrocious. Platforms are exceptionally narrow especially for the NJ Transit areas. Which makes for unsafe conditions when there are accidents or congestion that backs up traffic in the tunnel or prevents buses from even getting to the PABT.

Something has to give. The PANY had attempted to build a bus garage near the PABT to deal with the empty buses that would have to idle or return to NJ awaiting the evening rush. That got shelved because of a lack of funds – and the need to do even more pressing work on the SI Bridges and GWB, plus building out the PANY responsibilities at WTC.

Things that would make sense to improve bus flow and commuter flow through the PABT need to be seriously considered, including taking a second lane for exclusive bus traffic during the rush hour. While that increases the number of buses that can get into Manhattan, it still leaves figuring out where to put them once they’re in the City.

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Spencer K June 28, 2013 - 9:47 am

“While that increases the number of buses that can get into Manhattan, it still leaves figuring out where to put them once they’re in the City.”

Isn’t there a garage on the NJ side of the tunnel? If so, wouldn’t it make sense to have a bus only lane in the tunnel inbound during the evening rush? I thought part of the problem was that after a certain time, NYC-queued buses have already finished boarding and other buses were waiting to get into the city in the tunnel. The inbound traffic is a nightmare past 3p, so it’s ridiculous to have those evntual outbound buses sitting in inbound traffic.

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SEAN June 29, 2013 - 10:15 am

Not all the commuter busses use RT 3 when accessing the Lincoln Tunnel. NJT’s 126 Hoboken line takes the first Weehawken exit & avoids that mess. The 159 Fort Lee Line has it’s own issues traveling through the hart of Union City on the Bergenline Avenue/ New York Avenue pair & getting stuck in traffic. Rode that bus Yesterday & I’m going to stick to the 158 River Road line since it never semes to have issues with traffic & you get to fort Lee in 35 minutes.

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Eric F June 28, 2013 - 10:26 am

“What is really needed is new, separate lanes for buses from Route 3 and the Turnpike which tunnel under the Palisades and emerge right at the mouth of the Lincoln Tunnel, skipping all the back-ups between the tunnel and the Route 3/Turnpike interchange in both directions.”

You are a man after my own heart! Yes. And dedicated lanes leading to it on 280, GSP, TPK, (even the shoulder during rush hours would do).

“But the Port Authority has no money to build anything, because after years of keeping tolls and PATH fares below MTA levels and the huge (excess) cost of 9/11 rebuilding, it is deep in debt.”

Yup. NJ is about to add to the ballot an “open space” slush fund sales tax slice, that is to raise $6 billion over 30 years. If someone has the stones, they could do the same for transport dedicated to ARC and/or something like this.

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Scott E June 28, 2013 - 8:06 am

The Port Authority Bus Terminal sure has a lot of room for improvement, but rather than rebuild it and turn it into a fiasco like the much less-crowded transit “hub” under construction downtown, there are ways to make it better.

First, some good wayfinding signs would go a long way. Between the north and south wings, the dated and vague signage you can literally be directed to travel in circles. Electronic signs would help, especially at the commuter-bus gates where one gate serves multiple routes.

Second, give it a cheery facelift. The brown color palate has got to go.

Third, do something about the queuing. Right now, long lines from the gate doors extend and collide into the middle of a wide open space (especially on the 300 level), and nobody knows for sure which line is for which bus. Something as insignificant as railings could help tremendously.

There are bigger improvements that could be made: reconfiguring entrances, elevators, and escalators, for instance, but some small changes would make a big difference.

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lawhawk June 28, 2013 - 9:06 am

The lines for buses at some of the gates is incomprehensible. I’ve taken the 163 or 164 buses on occasion, and there are times when it’s impossible to move, let alone figure out which person is standing on what line. The signage at the mezzanine level isn’t helpful, especially when it doesn’t match signage on the platform levels in any meaningful way.

And the platform levels are simply too narrow for safety or comfort.

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Eric F June 28, 2013 - 10:04 am

It is amazing that people have even come to figure out which line leads to which bus because the lines end so far from the gates that they bear no relation to the gates to any casual observer.

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DC20009 July 3, 2013 - 11:25 am

I recently completed a Grayhound trip (DC – Binghamton, RT) that required bus changes in PABT. You have captured everything I would suggest based on that experience – improvements to the signage, the queueing, and overall appearance could make the experience much much better.

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John-2 June 28, 2013 - 8:23 am

The problem for PABT is for the service it offers, it’s pretty much locked into the area between 30th and 42nd streets west of Eighth Avenue, because that’s where the portals and access ramps to the Lincoln Tunnel are, and for those leaving or accessing the terminal, that’s where the mass transit is located.

Hypothetically, once the 7 station at Hudson Yards is completed, you could move the terminal further west and access the portals from the west instead of from the east, as is done now. But that would require blowing up a large part of what Hudson Yards is supposed to be zoned for, and having only the Flushing Line as your subway option would be less handy than it is today, with the 7 train plus the IND, IRT and BMT trunk routes in the Times Square complex.

It might actually be better to junk the original Robert Moses concept and go to two bus terminals — either one for commuter and one for inter-city, or one for the Trans-Hudson buses and one for service to New England and the northern suburbs, plus Long Island and the JFK/LaGuardia airport buses. The difficulty there is the Manhattan real estate market has changed to the point a second terminal location would be prohibitively costly and spark the mother of all NIMBY battles, and there’s just no good way for buses to access the northern suburbs and New England from the midtown area without using local streets (had Moses’ old East Side Airlines Terminal not been torn down, you could have sent the buses north in a similar way Amtrak trains get to New England from Penn Station — via the QMT, LIE, BQE and the RFK/Triborogh or Whitestone bridges, but the terminal failed in large part because it was isolated from all mass transit save the M15 and M34 buses, because the Second Avenue Subway was never built, and would have the same problem were it around today).

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Eric F June 28, 2013 - 10:10 am

“It might actually be better to junk the original Robert Moses concept and go to two bus terminals — either one for commuter and one for inter-city”

I like it. Keep the PABT for the private companies, and have a new terminal for NJT. Nice idea.

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Bolwerk July 1, 2013 - 12:12 pm

NJT should loop around the streets.

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History Buff June 29, 2013 - 11:36 pm

The Port Authority Bus Terminal was not a “Robert Moses concept.” In fact, Robert Moses was in favor of distributing bus terminals (there was some speculation he had been paid off by Greyhound…). Doig’s Empire on the Hudson covers the confrontation between Moses and the Port Authority in some depth.

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g June 28, 2013 - 8:39 am

NJT/MTA/PA co-fund the 7 extension to Secaucus and build out the large bus terminal that has been proposed. Re-route a portion of the Manhattan bound NJT bus traffic to the new terminal freeing up space for intercity bus service at the PABT. When new Hudson tunnels are bored to Penn and the head house redeveloped move all practical NJT bus services to the Secaucus terminal.

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Eric F June 28, 2013 - 9:59 am

The trains are also at capacity, so you are just putting the pig in a different part of the python.

Both need expanding.

If the PABT functioned properly, and had a true advantage in speed of getting traffic out of Manhattan over using surface streets, you’d see the Bolts of the world paying a decent toll to the PA to use it.

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g June 28, 2013 - 10:23 am

My suggestion is predicated on both the extension of MTA heavy rail and the later addition of both two more additional trans-hudson bores into Penn and the total reconfiguration of the head house/platform/track layout.

There is no real reason all those NJT bus routes have to end at the PABT if they can terminate at a Secacus Junction that is served by vastly increased levels of train capacity.

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Eric F June 28, 2013 - 10:30 am

I’d say
(1) It’s cheaper to build a bus tube than a train tube, so if you had to do only one, do the bus tube.

(2) Why are we making commuters transfer all over the place? I get using Secaucus as an overflow stop gap, but this makes for a lousy commuting experience. You now have to get on the bus in your town, shuffle off single file at Secaucus, surmount the steps to the train platform and wait over there, and then switch to a subway in NY. This is for a daily commute, in January, in the dark, not for a college kid’s annual trip to see the tree at Rockefeller Center. It’s a grim way to get to work.

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Tower18 June 28, 2013 - 11:29 am

To your #1, is it really cheaper to build a bus tube? I thought in tunneling construction, the cost of the actual tunneling represents the majority of the spend, whether it’s train or auto/bus. So once you’ve built a tunnel, you should probably run trains through it, due to the higher capacity per space allotted.

Kai B June 28, 2013 - 11:36 am

I would also think that ventilation and resurfacing costs would be higher in a vehicular tube.

Eric F June 28, 2013 - 12:06 pm

Buses can run at steep grades and in sharp curves. Think about the grade in the Lincoln Tunnel vs. the grade the LIRR takes. The LIRR garde is almost imperceptible. The LIRR descends at Sunnyside, far from the river, whereas the Midtown Tunnel moyth is almost smack on the river bank. Much easier engineering for a motor vehicle tunnel.

Eric June 30, 2013 - 9:51 am

I found at least one person who thinks the Lincoln Tunnel grade is fine for rail. (Although extending the 7 would be a much better idea than building new light rail, for capacity reasons.)

http://www.streetsblog.org/201.....ln-tunnel/

Mike K June 28, 2013 - 12:02 pm

I think he is proposing that they transfer to the 7 at Sec (no NJT rail at all)

Eric F June 28, 2013 - 12:24 pm

If you are building a tunnel to ease bus congestion, allow me to make the obvious point that said tunnel may as well be an actual bus tunnel.

Eric June 30, 2013 - 9:54 am

Except for the lower capacity of bus tunnels, and the need for a gigantic terminal in Manhattan.

g June 28, 2013 - 12:47 pm

Bus commuters arriving at Secaucus would eventually have two options:

1) Transfer to MTA heavy rail (7 extension)

2) Transfer to expanded NJT service into a rebuilt Penn

At rush periods I’m strongly inclined to think that the time savings versus taking a bus all the way into the PABT in peak traffic would be substantial. Also eliminated would be the need to dead head buses back out of Manhattan or store them somewhere during the day.

Adding the rail tunnels also eliminates the worst bottleneck on the NEC which a bus only tunnel would not.

BruceNY June 28, 2013 - 1:16 pm

Time savings? After you clamber off the bus, and then “surmount the steps” to the train platform, and then wait for the train to arrive. . . I tend to doubt that one would save all that much time. Personally, I think I would prefer a one-seat bus ride that took a couple of minuntes longer than deal with all that.

And regarding that Secaucus Junction Station, am I the only one who wonders why they didn’t just add stair cases that go directly from the main line platform down to the Hoboken bound platform rather than make everyone go up the mezzanine and back down again?

g June 28, 2013 - 1:41 pm

Given the delays common even on the XBL route, inside the PABT, and the general need of people to transfer to NYCT service to reach their final destination….yea. The reverse in the evenings is even worse.

It’s not like you’ll be standing on the train platforms for 10 minutes during peak frequency at AM or PM rush.

Eric F June 28, 2013 - 1:51 pm

“It’s not like you’ll be standing on the train platforms for 10 minutes during peak frequency at AM or PM rush.”

Yes you will. Transfers kill transit trips.

g June 28, 2013 - 1:58 pm

So headways on both the NEC services and a 7 train would be in the double digit range during rush…something that isn’t even true now.

I see no value in further conversation with you if you’re just going to ignore reality.

Eric F June 28, 2013 - 2:04 pm

Headways now at Secaucus are more than 10 minutes. Not every NJT train stops at Secaucus.

g June 28, 2013 - 2:18 pm

It’s 3-6 minutes during rush now. A 7 train extension would operate under 2.5 minute headways.

Mike K June 28, 2013 - 2:56 pm

Considering that it may take 6-7 minutes just to arrive on the NY bound platform from your bus seat, a 6 minute wait on top of that is a 13 minute transfer time. Unacceptable.

g June 28, 2013 - 3:43 pm

6 minutes on the platform is worst case scenario if you were to try this today which isn’t what I have suggested. It only works if the 7 is extended and eventually the NEC expands into two more bores to Penn (which is already a long term goal). Xfers would take more like 5-7 minutes total.

More beneficially if riders are bound for the east side of midtown they get to skip the PABT and the hike/transfer across midtown all together.

Eric June 30, 2013 - 9:56 am

Walking across Manhattan to your job from the PABT typically takes more than 13 minutes.

Eric F June 28, 2013 - 1:50 pm

YES!!! What is up with that? And if you factor in the walk from the station to the park and ride lot, it’s like an Adirondack hike.

g June 28, 2013 - 2:08 pm

*sigh*

Look at the feasibility study done by PB for the EDC. It includes an indoor 60 bay bus terminal directly attached to an expanded main concourse with escalators. You would go up or down one more level from there depending if you want NJT service into Penn or 7 train service.

Mike K June 28, 2013 - 2:51 pm

He was referring to the unnecessarily long walks within the station and to the parking lot, not a future bus terminal.

Mike K June 28, 2013 - 2:53 pm

Yes. They will go on and on about fare collection, but it makes a 1 minute transfer into a 5-8 minute transfer, frequently causing us to miss the connecting train.

Andrew July 1, 2013 - 8:30 pm

NJT buses do stop at Secaucus Junction in emergencies where the Lincoln Tunnel is inoperable. I have seen it add at least 15 minutes to my commute, which doesn’t include traveling once in Manhattan.

Matthias June 28, 2013 - 8:54 am

How about making rail and bus the most reliable modes of transport? Proximity to Penn is an advantage for people who need to switch modes. And how about beefing up the GW Bridge Bus Terminal? That would be a better launch point for service to points north.

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Larry Littlefield June 28, 2013 - 9:15 am

“And how about beefing up the GW Bridge Bus Terminal? That would be a better launch point for service to points north.”

I’ve thought of that, but Google Maps says it does not work.

The travel time by transit from the PABT to the GWB Bus Terminal is 22 minutes. That’s how much time you’d have to save on the road.

The trip by motor vehicle from 42nd and 8th to Mahwah, NJ on the way upstate is 30 minutes, or 45 in traffic right now.

The trip by motor vehicle from the 175th and Bwy to Mahwah is 23 minutes or 36 in current traffic.

So by going to the GWB Bus Terminal you only save 7-11 minutes on the road after having taken an extra 22 minutes to get there.

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Mike K June 28, 2013 - 2:59 pm

Well, on a more practical note, the 11C Coach USA Express bus at 8:05 am takes about 55 minutes to arrive at the GWB terminal due to lack of dedicated bus lanes. Mid-day, it can take 7 minutes to make the same CoachUSA 11C trip….

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llqbtt July 1, 2013 - 12:19 pm

The minimum Mahwah travel times are realized early Saturday morning, Sunday most of the day (except any inbound wait at the GWB), and later at night assuming no road work anywhere on the route. All I am saying is that the times in traffic, and those times are generous, are the realistic times from which to compare and contrast the alternate terminal strategies.

I believe that average NJT trip from Penn to Mahwah is about an hour, maybe slightly longer.

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AK June 28, 2013 - 9:18 am

The Port Authority is completely rebuilding the GW Bridge Bus Terminal– a $180 million project (see: http://www.panynj.gov/bus-term.....ation.html).

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Lou June 28, 2013 - 9:38 am

I went on a tour of the PABT with people from NJT. It was depressing. If was built with the thinking that there would be a dwindling number of people enter Manhattan by PT.

1. The columns in the building cannot adequately support the very large buses that now use the terminal.
2. Greyhound was an original partner to the project so there space was tailored to their needs and still works quite well operationally.
3. NJT makes up half the passenger count at the terminal and their use was not operationally though out at the time of construction. Cramped quarters, poor access, poor signage, lots of confusion, too many buses, too many people.. many of the same problems as Penn Station.
4. Commuter buses that arrive early to pick up people have to circle the block (no easy task during rush hour)
5. Commuter buses often arrive to pick people up in the evening late (because they are parked during the day in NJ and have to fight the traffic in the Lincoln tunnel or circling the block)
6. PABT is the largest in the Western Hemisphere with over 200,000 trips a day.

Many of the problems have solutions like a Midtown bus garage, bus only lane during evening rush hour, rebuilding the NJT portion, adding train lines and capacity to redistribute bus ridership to more capacity trains.

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Larry Littlefield June 28, 2013 - 10:36 am

There was a report by the City Planning Commission in 1948 objecting to proposals for another rail tunnel across the Hudson. It claimed that the third Lincoln Tunnel tube and the PABT would be able to handle all the people likely to ever commute in from NJ.

That’s planning for you. The problem is, RM was wrong.

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Eric F June 28, 2013 - 12:33 pm

There were also quite a few things RM wanted to build that weren’t put up. Many of the scuttled projects would be very useful to a modern NY region, especially the cross-L.I. Sound bridge. But even taking that statement at face value, you can’t seriously fault someone for not accurately predicting 2013 in 1948.

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BruceNY June 28, 2013 - 1:21 pm

But RM also purposely designed his parkways so that busses would not fit through underpasses, and made sure that the Van Wyck Expressway have no provision for transit tracks down the median, leaving us without direct, one-seat rail access from Manhattan to JFK to this day.
He simply hated the notion of public transportation.

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Boris June 28, 2013 - 3:33 pm

Except that the Van Wyck now does have transit tracks down the median – the AirTrain.

Even without the Van Wyck there are enough abandoned tracks to make one-seat rail access from Manhattan to JFK possible.

What RM has done is changed peoples’ consciousness and expectations when it comes to cars vs. transit. But we need to stop blaming him, because now it is simply an excuse to do nothing.

Henry June 28, 2013 - 10:42 pm

They only fit because they’re elevated several stories over the highway. That sort of thing wouldn’t fly on say, a Horace Harding Line – way too many grade changes, and way too much visual obstruction.

We can’t deny that he made installing transit in highway rights of way as difficult as humanly possible.

BruceNY June 29, 2013 - 1:24 pm

The Airtrain. . . to Jamaica Station where you then must haul your luggage to make the transfer to the LIRR or subway. Not really ideal, is it?

I agree about the possibility of rebuilding abandoned rights of way to make the one-seat ride to JFK possible. The Rockaway Branch line is the most obvious choice. If that were re-connected to the LIRR at the northern end, and on the south end perhaps elevated over the A-train, and then extended through the parking lot to the central terminal area. . . well, the NIMBY’s are already killing that dream.

Henry June 30, 2013 - 12:03 am

Didn’t they do a feasibility study into this and shoot the thing down because it wouldn’t have garnered enough ridership?

The Rockaway Branch is one of those beaten horses that refuses to die.

Karm July 1, 2013 - 8:58 pm

They always make that excuse “wouldn’t be enough riders” when they can’t come up with money. This is NY – there would be demand if it existed.

Jerrold June 28, 2013 - 5:28 pm

Or more accurately, he was so prejudiced that if you were too poor to afford a car, your needs were not worth worrying about.

BrooklynBus June 29, 2013 - 10:40 am

It’s not true that buses won’t fit under underpasses of RM’s Parkways. They fit in the center lane but not in the side lanes where the clearance is lower because of the arches. I was on the Belt Parkway last week and watched an MTA express bus not in service go under one of the original arched underpasses in the center lane. It was clear to me that was the only lane with enough clearance. It then moved over to one of the side lanes and fit under one of the newer underpasses.

Bobby M's Ghost June 29, 2013 - 11:13 am

Defending Robert Moses. It makes so much sense. Can’t believe I didn’t see that one coming.

Henry June 30, 2013 - 12:10 am

It’s case-by-case – the DOT has a map of which parkways actually meet clearances (segments of the Belt and GCP do, for instance.)

Part of the restrictions isn’t that the bridge heights are too low, but that the lanes are so narrow that it wouldn’t be hard for a big bus to swipe someone after slightly drifting out of lane. That’s why buses are banned on segments of the FDR and on the Jackie Robinson, for instance.

tacony palmyra June 28, 2013 - 9:42 am

You could instantly improve the PABT by simply putting some electronic boards up that tell you what upcoming buses are leaving from which gates. If you’re not a regular commuter, PABT is really confusing because there’s no way to figure this out in the station. If you’re taking NJ Transit, knowing your destination isn’t enough– you have to know the bus number, AND the gate number, and to make things even more confusing, certain buses leave from different gates depending on what time of day. Throw in lines of customers that snake around and mix together and it’s as if they’re trying to make it as customer un-friendly as possible. And the other bus operators aren’t much better. The signs listing the destinations for the Academy buses for instance have always been blatantly wrong when I’ve taken them.

I get the feeling that, like Penn Station, nobody’s in charge of coordinating wayfinding among the different operators. That’s the first thing that’s needed. The PA needs to step in and tell each operator that they’ll require them to send them a feed of which buses are leaving from where, and provide it on terminal-wide electronic screens, maybe even a smartphone app.

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Eric F June 28, 2013 - 9:57 am

The terminal is ugly inside, but I think if that was it’s only problem, this would be a short study. The bus system, including terminal and routes, has severe capacity problems. This was a problem that should have been addressed 20 years ago, not 20 years from now.

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Mike K June 28, 2013 - 12:04 pm

Can you imagine how big that board would have to be?

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Eric F June 28, 2013 - 12:07 pm

Yes, and with the Internet, you can figure out where your bus gates without regard to a board. Buses use pre-selected gates, it’s not like a train where a track is called 10 minutes before departure.

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Kai B June 28, 2013 - 12:37 pm

Well sort of. The gates are subject to change. And arrivals is a complete free-for-all, at least for Greyhound busses. They can show up at almost any gate in the basement levels. Picking up people is pretty hard, especially since the basements don’t have cell service.

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Eric F June 28, 2013 - 1:47 pm

I don’t object to a board, in fact a comprehensive bus board would be amazing to see in action, I just don’t think it’s necessary. Bus gates can change, but NJT seems to have a very consistent gate system.

Eric June 30, 2013 - 9:59 am

Trains should use pre-determined “gates” (platforms) too.

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Eric F June 28, 2013 - 9:55 am

New or expanded terminal.

Nearby garage to stage buses, connected by sky bridge to terminal.

New tunnel starting from Secaucus, running under swamp and Palisades to terminal. Three lanes, middle reversible, 2 to for dominant flow 1 for reverse flow. Additional entrance point in Hudson Cty for Hudson buses and additional entry point on West Street so space can be sold on weekends for cars/buses to defray cost.

Ideally, one or two lane elevated road across Manhattan to allow east side access, terminating in a small terminal.

There you go PA, no charge.

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g June 28, 2013 - 10:29 am

You can’t be serious.

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Eric F June 28, 2013 - 10:32 am

They build something like this in China about every 20 minutes.

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g June 28, 2013 - 12:49 pm

I would pay real money to watch you try to sell property owners and residents in Manhattan on an elevated bus only viaduct cutting across the island and a multi-block property acquisition to build another huge bus terminal.

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Eric F June 28, 2013 - 1:45 pm

If building public works is dependent on “selling” urbanites on land acquisition, nothing will be built.

Building a bus terminal requires condemning one block. That’s a lot, but that’s how the NYTimes got its new headquarters, it’s how Fulton Center came to be under construction, etc. The viaduct would run through Class b/C space in garment district and terminate indoors at a relatively modest terminal. It’s a relatively modest idea that would speed travel across the island and remove surface street traffic for buses making cross island trips, including buses headed to the Hudson River ferries. It could also be used to enable Queen/Long Island buses to reach the west side to provide access to job sites on the west side and to inter-city bus routes.

g June 28, 2013 - 2:00 pm

You are deranged if you think those are at all comparable to what you propose. It’s an idea so bad that it’s never been contemplated by anyone as far as I know.

Eric F June 28, 2013 - 2:06 pm

Yes, even Dr. Evil in his wildest fantasies wouldn’t dream of matching bus terminal capacity with bus usage demand. It’s madness!

Bolwerk June 28, 2013 - 3:16 pm

I find it amazing that you, of all people here, take the side of the rent-seeking contractors and unions that hold sway over the political class. The point is to match transit demand with transit. Doing it with buses is the most expensive way to meet the demand we have, and it’s not like a typical rider would a bus ride to a train ride.

There is a place for buses, but it’s on low-traffic feeder services, not a core artery into Manhattan.

Bolwerk June 28, 2013 - 4:17 pm

would ^prefer a bus ride to a train ride

Mike K June 28, 2013 - 3:04 pm

Even freight trains have run through buildings- look at the high line-

Bolwerk June 28, 2013 - 3:13 pm

Almost all the projects you list are over-built and/or didn’t deserve to be built with the state’s eminent domain powers. The only new tunnel that should be built from New Jersey is a rail tunnel, preferably feeding a modest station (not a terminal) in Manhattan. It requires condemning far less, is cheaper to build, moves more people, and costs less to operate over time.

SEAN June 29, 2013 - 11:00 am

I figgured out the PABT gate system & it’s not that hard for commuter busses, but for longhall trips you need to go to an agent & ask when you purchase your ticket.

As for the gates them selves, with the exception of Academy & a service here or there gates are as follows…

1 – 56 are longdistance routes outside greyhound
60 – 85 greyhound
200 – 234 NJ Transit except 206, 207, 208 & 220 wich belong to Rockland Coaches.
301 – 326 mixed Coach USA & NJT’s special event service & 139 Lakewood line services including lines 130, 131, 132, 133 & 135.
401-425 various commuter services including Decamp, Lakeland & Coach USA’s Morristown, East Brunswick & New Brunswick lines.

Most gate departures are printed in the carriers schedules except long distance routes like greyhound. Also note that gates 200 – 234 can handle more than one bus at a time, so check the departure pannel on the printed schedule for the correct door to use.

Eric F June 28, 2013 - 1:58 pm

Also, note that the PBTA fronts 8th avenue. Having a thin viaduct run, say, 3-4 blocks to the site of a decrepit office block is not exactly akin to a massive intrusion on bucolic residential life.

Henry June 30, 2013 - 12:15 am

The real estate and corporate powers that be would never tolerate any ugly elevated viaduct over Manhattan. Not to mention, there are plenty of good sites on the West Side for a bus terminal (Javits has an insane amount of surface lots in its vicinity, and itself has a large sub-surface parking/loading area. Javits might actually be better as a bus terminal than a convention center, with conventions moving to the annex or whatever it is that they’re building. It’s not like they plan to have the same conventions in both the annex and the original building, right?)

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JJJJ June 28, 2013 - 10:09 am

1) Signs, signs sings. Unless youre a daily commuter, its impossible to know where to go without asking. The maps? Its like they were designed to be Sunday riddles. For one, they lack the “you are here” dot.

What gate? Who knows! You need to already know or ask. And then finding the gate is a challenge in itself.

Theres also no information. How do I pay if the ticket booths are closed? Why is the only way to buy a ticket on the coach usa buses via the ticket booth and not a machine? Can I pay on board? No signs to explain anything.

And good luck finding a route map.

2) Theres parking on the roof. If your BUS terminal is over capacity, why the hell are you using the roof for CAR parking?

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Anonymous June 28, 2013 - 10:58 am

I remember hearing that the parking levels are not tall enough to accommodate buses, so unfortunately they are going to stay parking.

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JJJJ June 28, 2013 - 12:07 pm

The top level could be used as additional waiting space. The roof obviously has no height issues for buses, if a direct ramp was added.

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Henry June 30, 2013 - 12:17 am

It could possibly be a structural deficiency. Buses were a lot smaller in the 50s, and PABT was designed with declining usage in mind, so the roof probably doesn’t have the support required for another level of buses.

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Larry Littlefield June 28, 2013 - 11:35 am

Good point.

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Zev June 28, 2013 - 11:28 am

PABT is the worst place in the world. Used it for 3.5 years until I got a 2nd car to drive to a train station. The stress of not knowing if my commute will be an hour and a quarter or an hour and forty five every day drove me crazy. Literally made me miserable each day to be there.

No concept of customer service at all. It’s already been mentioned by other posters.

Why not a simple panel when you arrive that matches bus numbers to terminal numbers based on the time of day? So simple to do.

I took the 167 / 167Q / 167T / 177. Who could understand this line? If it’s rush hour you need to know there are 3 different flavors of the line which will take you to completely different places. Time and again I see people who got on the bus and found out during the trip they are on the wrong bus. If it’s not rush hour there’s one bus for all the lines. That pamphlet for the bus line NJ transit gives you? You’d need to sit down for a half an hour to decipher it.

Where’s the map? No maps of the bus system? Just a cryptic map for each individual bus line on their separate pamphlets. Cryptic even to people who LIVE there. Has no correspondence to geography. You have to study your commute for hours with google maps to have any clue. But what about someone who only needs to make one trip, a one time traveler? They will likely get lost.

At least the subway map is complete albeit overwhelming. You can trace the lines and understand the routes in relation to geography. I just want that map to exist for buses in NJ.

The lines of people in the terminal…wow. Just go there and you’ll see.

Then there’s the announcements. “The PABT is experiencing both inbound and outbound delays. We apologize for any inconvenience they may have caused.” We hear this recording multiple times a WEEK and often per day. Who is actually apologizing? It’s like they just press a button to blurt this out at random intervals.

In the morning, if we’re lucky, we get to the city in decent time without a major backup through the tunnel. But then we sit on the bus and wait until there’s a spot on the unloading platform. We can be sitting there for 5, 10 minutes, or more. We are already in the city…I want to get out of the bus and go to work…but I’m on a line just to do that! The unloading platform needs to be several times bigger.

Buses today are bigger and wider than when the terminal was built…they can barely run past each other and that clogs the whole place.

They have a rooftop parking garage for cars? Huh? With a little modification this is the capacity so desperately needed for more buses. Yet we see ads IN the terminal speaking its praises…as if to say your bus commute is so awful…why not just drive and park at the PABT instead?

Not enough ticket machines…not only can you not buy a ticket on board (a necessary efficiency for better or worse) you cannot know how long it will take to buy a ticket. You can be on line for 20 mins and now you’ve missed your bus.

It’s simply horrible to explain to friends and family how to get to my house by the bus line. Often the explanation fails and I have to pick them up.

Whats with that police car sitting on the ramp as the bus enters the building? It’s blocking traffic. Buses can’t get past it and form 2 lanes. Why is it there, day after day after day! Making thousands of people late!

Who is in charge and accountable for all this? Nobody! PA has a monopoly on many cross-hudson services. No motivation to serve the customer. There have been no infrastructure improvements cross-hudson in many decades. They increase tolls and ticket prices with no results.

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Mike K June 28, 2013 - 12:08 pm

I took the 167 Q/T for a while and now bike over Old new Bridge Road pedestrian bridge to get to New Bridge Landing Train Station.

I hated every moment of the bus commute and love the clockwork of my commute from NBL to Hoboken now.

Night and Day.

Hopefully soon we will have the option of taking the Light Rail from Englewood (much cheaper than Pascack valley Line)

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BruceNY June 28, 2013 - 1:29 pm

And if the ARC tunnel had not been killed, and NJT Transit were able to increase train capacity into Penn Station, they would have also planned to rebuild that Englewood line into heavy rail with direct access to Penn, not Light Rail to Hoboken.

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Mike K June 28, 2013 - 2:46 pm

Where would it (northern branch) or the West Shore (CSX River Line) have connected with the NEC? A flying junction, wye or loop track connecting the North River Tunnel portal with the River Line?

That was and still is a problem…

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JJJJ June 28, 2013 - 12:12 pm

“Its easy to get here! Just got to either gate 417, 418 or 419. Which one? Im not really sure yes, it seems to rotate. How do you get there? Im not really sure, take all the escalators. All of them. Where do you pick up the ticket? Im not really sure, f the ticket booth is closed, hope for the best. How do you know when to get off? You better be able to recognize a place youve never been, because even though ADA passed 23 years ago, and the buses are only 10 years old, theres no stop announcements. Who needs federal law? This is new jersey. Oh, and dont use the bathroom. Really.

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SEAN June 29, 2013 - 1:00 pm

I guess you havent noticed, NJT busses now have AVS audio visual systems from Clever Devices http://www.cleverdevices.com. They started using them late last year & the older busses & private NJ carriers were retrofitted rather recently at a cost of $26 Million.

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Zev June 28, 2013 - 12:19 pm

Forgot to mention…the PABT is the only place in the world where a broken escalator does not become a usable staircase.

When it’s out of order (a frequent occurrence) they block it off! Some day they will get around to fixing it. But until then, they just block it off. Is it unsafe to walk up an escalator that’s not on? Is it safer to have people crowd on the inadequate number of escalators and stairs in the building as it is?

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Jerrold June 28, 2013 - 1:43 pm

And I thought that the only distinctive feature of those escalators was that it’s called a MOTORSTAIR, as in “Motorstair – Hold Handrail”.

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Phantom June 28, 2013 - 12:22 pm

If the 7 train ran to NJ, you could build a bus terminal in NJ that it would connect to. A new bus terminal that could take an awful lot of pressure off the NY PABT, and take a lot of pressure off the Lincoln Tunnel also.

It could also handle intra NJ bus transfers, etc.

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g June 28, 2013 - 12:56 pm

Which is why PB included provisions for a 60 bay bus terminal in the 7 train extension to Secaucus feasibility study.

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Jerrold June 28, 2013 - 1:12 pm

I remember when they began running buses to all three airports from the Port Authority Bus Terminal.
A ticketing and waiting area was set up, toward the back of the “new”
building along 42nd St. An elevator went right from there up to the
Newark Airport bus.
For LaGuardia or Kennedy, you went out to that driveway that goes from 41st to 42nd St.

And I remember some transportation official saying about it, “Bravo for common sense”.

Well, it sure did not last.
Maybe something to do with how much rent was being charged to those bus companies.

It looks like common sense does not count for much when it comes to transportation issues in this town.

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Larry Littlefield June 28, 2013 - 1:49 pm

If the GWB Bus Terminal is being renovated, maybe the solution is to tell the low cost buses they have to get off the street and go up there if they are going north.

Another terminal would have to be built somewhere else for those going south, perhaps in Harrison NJ or Jersey City off the PATH.

You’d get a longer transit ride to your cheaper bus at a cheaper terminal.

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JJJJ June 28, 2013 - 2:12 pm

Boltbus has limited service to Newark Penn from DC. It makes sense. I took it once and the bus was sold out. They have a large bus station under the train area there.

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Henry June 28, 2013 - 9:56 pm

We have a big parking lot with a giant, largely column free building next to the Lincoln Tunnel. Wanna know what it’s called? The Javits Center.

Javits is very rarely used at full capacity, and in any case, what serves as the loading docks for these conventions could conceivably host a bus terminal. Plus, bonus points for 7 access and being three blocks from Penn.

Bus garage? There are lots of lots around that the PA could conceivably eminent domain.

The only thing I can think of is possibly a security concern for having a giant bus terminal right next to Javits. But you could build a reasonably sized multiple level bus terminal next to Javits.

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Henry June 30, 2013 - 12:20 am

You could also probably rebuild Javits and place an underground bus terminal, since the entire site is already four or so stories below the ground for some reason.

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Karm July 1, 2013 - 9:03 pm

for a convention center – the Javits is considered busy.

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Lady Feliz June 28, 2013 - 10:53 pm

All this stupid talk of demolishing MSG, how about getting rid of the PA Bus Terminal and replacing it with a new train station and cross-Hudson rail tunnel? Let all those huge, polluting buses terminate on the NJ side and riders can catch trains to 42nd and 8th. Imagine Midtown with another train station to supplement Penn, and 1000 less buses on the streets?

And for you dolts who say “what about the Lincoln Tunnel?” the new rail tunnel can run a few blocks south of the Lincoln Tunnel. Tunnels don’t have to run under and parallel to the street. You can angle a tunnel under the river and Manhattan bedrock. The Queens-Midtown Tunnel does exactly that, entering Manhattan at 42nd Street and then curves southward to the portal entrance at 37th Street. The Queens-Midtown Tunnel does that because it’s sandwiched right between TWO cross-river tunnels (IRT #7 Steinway Tube and the Amtrak/LIRR tunnel leading to/from Penn Station).

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marv June 30, 2013 - 12:37 am

A general traffic bridge across the hudson was not viable due to land needed for ramps. Since the buses to the bus terminal do not to access city streets, why not build a bus only bridge from the top of the helix into the bus terminal. The free flowing access would allow buses to park in NJ before cycling back into the bus terminal.

Add on walking and biking lanes and you may actually make a dent in congestion between NY and NJ.

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Ian MacAllen July 9, 2013 - 10:45 am

I much rather take the less convenient commuter rail anywhere than even think about bus travel in and out of Port Authority. The main problem with buses as a service in and out of Manhattan is that buses need a greater priority for traffic signals, lanes, and on bridges and tunnels. The worst experiences tend to be arriving at the north end of the city and then crawling along for 100+ blocks in traffic to get to the terminal. The dedicated bus lanes on the Lincoln are a cute attempt to speed up rush hour bus traffic, but its never going to be competitive with rail options, even with the crowding there. The bottom line is that no matter how fancy and pretty the terminal is, until the underlying failures of buses are addressed, they are always going to be the second class citizens’ mode of transportation into the city.

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Howard August 12, 2013 - 4:38 pm

I know I am super late to this conversation. But i think A; They need to build more track. People prefer to ride the train over the bus. Add more rail to other parts of NJ and this will eliminate a lot of busses. B; Force townships that have parking to allow ‘non residents’ to obtain monthly parking permits at reasonable rates. If there isnt enough parking, build more lots. I say NJT should get people on the trains closer to their homes and away from the city, where traffic is more congested.

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George Nater November 6, 2015 - 3:10 pm

THe solution to the PABT is forgetting politics and doing what is best for 100 years.

There is no viable space in the city that will allow expansion as technology changes.
The best scenario is build a large transportation hub in the Meadowlands.
From there a captive rail can tunnel under the river to the site of the existing terminal.
The existing terminal can be used as an inner city bus and taxi terminal. It already has access to the subway.
This will reduce street traffic as well.
This will also reduce the tunnel traffic with all the buses gone.
It will cost, but it will last a very long time.Future dollars are costlier than today’s.

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adirondacker12800 November 6, 2015 - 4:42 pm

Send the trains out to where the buses originate. The passengers don’t change in the Meadows, they don’t need a terminal and they don’t clog the highways.

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WISEINFRASTRUCTURE February 19, 2016 - 1:59 pm

Other have state that a problem having the # 7 run to NJ is the lack of capacity of the Manhattan #7 stations.

Would it be possible to hook the existing Flushing line from Queens into the existing GC/TS shuttle tracks (as was originally planned) and then terminate the #7 at times square). The Manhattan #7 tracks could then be used for NJ service. The connection from Queens to shuttle tracks could be just east of grand central or via a link running from Queensboro Plaza over the Koch (Queenboro) bridge and the under then under an avenue to the shuttle tracks.

In the latter case, the Steinway tubes could then be used for service over the LIE to both eastern Queens and to JFK via the abandoned Rockaway line.

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