Home PANYNJ ‘How to Spend $10 Billion on a Bus Terminal,’ by the Port Authority

‘How to Spend $10 Billion on a Bus Terminal,’ by the Port Authority

by Benjamin Kabak
Renderings for a $10 billion bus terminal that will take 15 years to build. (Via Port Authority)

Renderings for a $10 billion bus terminal that will take 15 years to build. (Via Port Authority)

While discussing on Thursday the Port Authority’s apparently gold-plated plans to build the world’s most expensive bus terminal in the heart of Midtown, the bi-state agency’s board let slip a joke. Concerned with the $10 billion price tag, one Port Authority Board member suggested a design competition similar to the one Gov. Andrew Cuomo has hosted for the beleaguered LaGuardia Airport. John Degnan, PA chair, seemed amenable to the idea so long, as he said, as “maybe not a Spanish architect” emerge the winner.

This was, of course, a not-so-veiled jab at Santiago Calatrava and the World Trade Center PATH Hub’s ever-escalating costs. For the Bus Terminal though, the Port Authority doesn’t even need a Calatrava to drive up the costs. Their own engineering consultants were more than happy to oblige. Despite the shocking costs, though, the Port Authority’s overseers all seemed to agree that inaction isn’t an option, but moving forward on a $10 billion replacement plan is a tall order. Who will foot the bill? How? And why does this thing cost so much anyway?

As part of the master planning effort to replace the aging bus terminal, the Port Authority released an updated report [pdf] from its engineering team. In broad strokes, something has to give. The Port Authority Bus Terminal is essentially at capacity, and ridership models predict a continuing upward trend over the next 25 years. Currently, as the report notes, “peak demand exceeds capacity,” and the problem will only get worse over the next few decades.

To top things off, the current bus terminal is structural deficient and must be replaced. The report makes it very clear: “The structural slabs supporting bus operations will need to be replaced in 15-25 years,” and doing so requires replacing the terminal entirely. Additionally, the PABT “was not built for taller, longer, heavier modern buses.” It simply can’t withstand the physical pressure today’s coaches place on the building.

So what’s the $10 billion solution? To build a bus terminal that can, in the words of the PA, handle the seating capacity of Citi Field every peak hour. The devil is in the details on the various plans. The most expensive involves a rebuild of the current terminal and all of its supporting infrastructure at their current locations along with additional capacity to meet 2040 ridership projections. (Whether 2040 is too soon a horizon for an infrastructure project that will take 15 years to complete is an open-ended question that bears investigation.) This plan requires an interim bus terminal and contains only one tower above the terminal.

The other proposals are a little cheaper with potentially more development options, but each contain their drawbacks. One doesn’t include intercity buses; a few plans move the terminal to 9th Ave. — a long block away from the nearest subway station; the cheapest couldn’t even handle today’s crowds and would require additional facilities elsewhere to meet demand. The costs and locations of those aren’t baked into the proposal.

The cost breakdown though is alarming. According to the Port Authority’s engineers, the building would come with nearly $6 billion in hard costs and nearly $3 billion in soft costs — planning, engineering, legal, professional, financing and insurance. To me, that sounds like the costs of corruption in the construction industry in New York City and not really the actual cost of building something new. The $10.5 billion price tag also includes $1.9 billion in contingencies.

Streetsblog had more from the meeting on costs:

[Skanska’s Mark] Gladden compared the bus terminal replacement to the UPS Worldport in Louisville, Kentucky, which handles virtually all of the shipping company’s domestic air freight. Built 15 years ago, he said, it cost $850 million. Taking inflation and construction cost increases into account, the project would likely cost $1.7 billion today. Moving the project to New York, with its higher construction costs, would double the price tag to $3.4 billion. The UPS project didn’t have the steel requirements and logistical challenges posed by operating a bus terminal in Midtown Manhattan, Gladden said, which contribute to the additional costs.

Gladden added that East Side Access and the Second Avenue Subway, multi-billion dollar projects under the management of many of the same consultants working on the Port Authority Bus Terminal, serve fewer people than the bus terminal. The bus terminal, built for 150,000 daily passengers, now handles 232,000, about as many as Grand Central Terminal. That number will reach as high as 337,000 by 2040.

“We recognize that projects of this magnitude and this complexity right at the very beginning result in sticker shock,” Gladden said. “We have a high level of confidence that this estimate, at this point in the program development, reflects an accurate or reasonably accurate cost.”

Based on the Port Authority’s comments today, the agency — and thousands of bus commuters — are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Much like other New York City infrastructure, the PABT is literally collapsing. It’s not designed to handle the crowds, and it will outlive its useful and functional live soon. But the Port Authority will have to find $10 billion to fund a replacement building and soon. How they do that — without a Spanish architect — remains to be soon. Perhaps they should consult Spanish construction firms though; at least they know how to build on the cheap.

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vanshnookenraggen March 20, 2015 - 12:37 am

Build it underground. At least then you could have an excuse for the $10B price and allow even more development.

adirondacker12800 March 20, 2015 - 1:41 am

It’s a lot cheaper to make the building a few stories taller.

eo March 20, 2015 - 10:15 am

Maybe, maybe not. I am just not sure. As drawn these buildings appear to have 6 stories above ground. I am not sure how much taller they can go. Anyone wants to go to the 10th floor to catch a bus to NJ?

SEAN March 20, 2015 - 1:50 pm

I don’t think so, but if you could organize the levels by destination & provider – you might have a shot. Personally I wouldn’t do that.

@wjfarr March 20, 2015 - 12:43 am

>”$10 billion replacement plan is a toll order”

Just wondering if this is an amazing pun or a typo.

Quirk March 20, 2015 - 1:23 am

Why can’t they sell rights to build another tower on the other part of the bus terminal. Are a thousand parking spaces so important?

Quirk March 20, 2015 - 1:26 am

Also, oh look Shanksa is involved in another high priced project. Who would’ve guessed they would’ve have came running to this “availability”.
/roll eyes

Quirk March 20, 2015 - 1:28 am

They’re in the #7 subway extension, 2nd ave. subway, and Hudson Yards project. All $$$$$$$ in their eyes

Justin Samuels March 20, 2015 - 2:02 am

Honestly if the Port Authority is able to come up with 10 billion for replacing the bus terminal, what do we care?

No amount of complaining about the price will make the contractors, construction firms, engineers, designers, lawyers, architects, accountants, etc work for less than they are willing to work.

So the Port Authority finances this with debt (provided it can be backed by future revenues). Particularly if the bus terminal absolutely has to be replaced.

They may be able to get federal money, but the think is the federal government really cannot be counted on to fund projects like this. I think this is the core essence of the problem.

The national government spends how many trillions a year? The tens of billions needed to upgrades metro NYC infrastructure (full length Second Avenue Subway, PABT, Gateway with the Atlantic LIRR converted to subway use and a Bronx extension, Rockaway Beach LIRR connected to Queens Blvd line, and the Triboro RX line are all drops in the bucket of our federal government. If the feds would even commit a third to one half to these projects, at current pricing levels it would still tremendously alter the region.

So instead of people complaining about the cost of these projects, perhaps there should be more complaints on why the federal government won’t invest more in mass transit infrastructure.

Quirk March 20, 2015 - 2:21 am

We already know that and in addition with thefederal government willing to subsidize smaller communities so that they won’t “collapse”, but anyways back to NY politics.

Maggie March 20, 2015 - 8:21 am

I care! Aren’t Skanska the ones who need seven or eight YEARS to build a boardwalk at Rockaway Beach?

AG March 20, 2015 - 9:44 am

You are absolutely correct but the fact is the senate gives equal voice to every region – deserved or not. Most of the country doesn’t like this region. We are not London or Tokyo which have national political power.

Larry Littlefield March 20, 2015 - 9:54 am

“The national government spends how many trillions a year?”

On today’s seniors. To pay for benefits the promised themselves but were unwilling to pay for in taxes while working (Reagan tax cuts, Bush tax cuts). Thus also on debt service. And on the military, though not as much as in the past (and the “small government” Tea Party wants to spend more as a de facto welfare program for their crowd).


Scott March 20, 2015 - 4:01 am

why not build a new bus station at Secaucus and build the 7 line out to it?

lop March 20, 2015 - 4:32 am

PA has said half of bus passengers walk to their final destination. Any plan to put the bus terminal in NJ adds a transfer to the trip.

Phantom March 20, 2015 - 6:31 am

And some number of buses go to New England or points east of the Hudson? A NJ relocated terminal would not help them.

But a second NJ based bus terminal reached by subway could work very well for lots of people going to NJ and points west.

A NJ terminal that was coordinated with a NYC one would mitigate congestion in the tunnel and lessen the footprint of the NY location. Two terminals could be complementary – why does it have to be either / or?

App March 20, 2015 - 6:48 am

The buses already split between Wall Street/jersey city and midtown. Adding a third one will only increase complexity and transit times.

Phantom March 20, 2015 - 10:26 am


–Adding a third one will only increase complexity and transit times–

I disagree.

A NJ based bus satellite terminal that linked to the 7 train could be a great service to NJ ( or even some PA ) commuters and visitor who want to go to Hudson Yards / 42nd St, or beyond.

It would save money, and take pressure off the roads in NJ and the tunnel and the NY passenger Bus Terminal, which should be the main one, and the NY bus parking garage too.

I think that NJ /PA / NY drivers would get used to the arrangement in no time at all.

I almost get the feeling that there is very little strategic thinking at all going on at the PA. The ” all eggs in one basket in NY Bus Terminal to be built twice” is maybe the worst idea that anyone has ever had.

I agree with what someone said before – the temporary terminal should be rejected out of hand.

Tear the old terminal down as quickly as possible, working as late as possible seven days a week

In the interim,
have temporary street arrangements and or
employ greatly expanded ferry service to the west side of Manhattan including to 14th Street, where the A /C / E / L are not far from the water.

Build the new terminal as quickly as possible.

Suffer more pain for a shorter time rather than suffer less pain and bloated budgets for 15 / 20 / 25 years.

Michael K March 20, 2015 - 10:35 am

I think the split between downtown and midtown is something like 90% midtown and 10% downtown.

Phantom March 20, 2015 - 4:06 pm

Michael K

Right but a 14th Street alternative will work for some. By subway, its only two local stops from 34th Street, and a whole lot of people get on the subway right at 34th now.

JEG March 20, 2015 - 10:23 am

When Bloomberg suggested extending the 7 line to New Jersey, it seem pointless, but in light of the costs to rebuild the PA, I agree that a subway extension to New Jersey should be considered in connection with a bus terminal in New Jersey.

While a certain number of buses do travel north and east of the city, the vast majority of buses are arriving through New Jersey. If not eliminating the need for a massive bus terminal in Midtown, it could permit the construction of something substantially smaller. Moreover, this would reduce the number of vehicles entering the city. And there may be opportunities to route buses from N.E. to other points outside Midtown. While half of all passengers are walking to their final destination, half are already using the subway system (this assumes these figures are accurate).

Larry Littlefield March 20, 2015 - 8:58 am

Big picture — this country is bankrupt, and getting more so by the minute. On the books. That is what we are being left with by Generation Greed.


Underfunded (and for older generations retroactively increased) public employee pensions, the fact that all the excess Social Security taxes younger Americans have paid over 30 years to “save Social Security” have already been spent, and the disinvestment in the infrastructure over 30 years, are off the books in addition to those cited above.

This is a symptom. The question isn’t “how can we get the “political will” (which would make money magically disappear without coming form anywhere else to spend $20 billion so the contractors can get everything they need to re-capitalize all the multi-employer construction pension funds. The question is how will the region work without a Port Authority Bus Terminal (schools, etc)?

Tim March 20, 2015 - 11:24 am

The eventual blowback against Boomers by the generation after them isn’t going to be pretty.

Larry Littlefield March 20, 2015 - 12:44 pm

Not as long as news is propaganda and older generations control it.

While everyone is ready to blame Cuomo, the “unaccountable MTA” or for some DeBlasio for what we are facing on MTA capital plan, how many bring up Pataki, Bruno, Silver, past TWU members, past Straphangers advocacy, past contractors, etc?

They just want to keep putting off the day of reckoning until they are gone and grandfathered. Open your eyes and you see the values at work on every single decision, deal and non-decision made.


Spendmor Wastemor March 20, 2015 - 9:06 am

By comparison to Fedex Worldport, this should cost 1.7B.
We’re being scare-quoted $10B, perhaps so the PA can reward itself for spending an actual 8.5. Compare 1.7 to either figure:

How much of this excess cost is due to organized crime?
How much if you add their affiliated politicians?

Michael K March 20, 2015 - 11:59 am

Is worldport in middle of midtown manhattan – also does it have to remain operational during construction/take the slack for rail outages planning in the next decades?

John Douglas March 20, 2015 - 10:06 am

Start with the premise that the point of the project is to deliver people into the city, not buses, and go from there. Only half have final destinations in the vicinity of the Bus Terminal, and the other half are going to get on the subway anyway. Look for options that help the subway portion, and that try to encourage others to switch to a more efficient mode of transit.

So I agree with several folks above. New Jersey options need to be considered. Here’s one: Build a couple modern terminals in New Jersey, and bring people in from there by rail (subway extensions), and build a smaller footprint new terminal in Manhattan for those that really want to sit on a bus. Off-load traffic from the overloaded Lincoln tunnel. Reduce transit times for passengers. Reduce diesel particulate and CO2 emissions. Terminals in NJ would be of a modern design for efficient transfer to minimize customer wait times where buses discharge across directly the platform from a waiting subway express train in the AM, and reverse in the PM. Yes, passengers would have to stand up to transfer. But that inconvenience would be made up for in other ways. Ideal locations coming from the south in NJ are Newark Airport and Secaucus Junction, picking sites convenient to NJTP and I-78. Coincidentally, they have land and NEC rail as well. I’m sure 2-4 other sites of similar convenience are identifiable for folks coming from other directions. The notion that all these people in the traffic projections will ONLY want to be delivered to the city by bus doesn’t seem to supportable – if they are given better options.

JAR March 20, 2015 - 11:08 am


That half of riders don’t need to further connect to get to where they need to be is a sign that PABT has a pretty valuable location for its riders. If half actually don’t need further transit upon PABT arrival, that is huge!

Costs aside (and I’m not intended to minimizing the conversation about costs here, just intending to talk location), don’t you think riders would find it a “better option” to have:
-LIRR to downtown, instead of a transfer to subway at Atlantic Terminal or Penn?
-LIRR to Penn rather than “change at Jamaica”?
-LIRR to the east side rather than a change to E train or 1/2/3+S?
-NJ Transit to downtown, instead of Hoboken then PATH, or Penn then subway?
-NJ Transit to Penn rather than via SEC (insert ARC commentary here…)?
-AirTrain or PATH or subway from the airport to Manhattan, instead of to Jamaica, Willets Point (!), or the EWR station?
-or, more broadly, any ride (be it by train, bus, or airplane) to take a single seat rather than two?

Why take something that is well located and place it further away?

g March 20, 2015 - 1:08 pm

The current situation is not sustainable and building a $10B bus station in Manhattan is an epic waste of resources that aren’t NJ’s alone to spend. NJT has utterly failed to plan for the future in any way whatsoever and the PA can’t afford to bail NJ out of the mess it’s made. Killing ARC, failure to actively advocate for Gateway or even just a 3rd tube to Penn, and ignoring the declining situation of the PABT are all going to put commuters in a tight spot. Loss of a one seat ride will pale in comparison to the problems the future promises to NJ-NYC commutes.

A combo solution that involves NJT/MTA/PA/Fed money for a 7 extension to a new replacement PABT terminal at Secaucus increasingly looks like the best available option that can be achieved. Providing backup capacity for Hudson crossings (albeit on different systems) is not a minor benefit also in view of the decaying north river tunnels. NYC would get the 10th ave station and much improved vertical circulation in the Manhattan stations.

Michael K March 20, 2015 - 1:46 pm

Perhaps, the answer is a rail tunnel from Atlantic Terminal to Hoboken, a full loop at secaucus to provide access to both midtown and downtown, a tunnel from penn to GCT (to access midtown east and last but not least, real commuter service on the Northern Branch and West Shore Lines – the two areas with the highest ridership to PABT by far.

JJJJ March 20, 2015 - 10:42 am

The giant post office across the street from Penn Station was build for hundreds of giant trucks. Presumably, if you can drive in a tractor trailer, you can drive in a 40 foot bus.

Its sitting there empty.

Why arent they reactivating that space as a bus terminal?

fjh March 20, 2015 - 10:54 am

Because its being converted into a train station: Moynihan Station

App March 20, 2015 - 11:14 am

Only the front. They’ve been trying to entice BMCC to occupy the back.
Huh. Build Gateway, convert the back into a bus terminal, could work.

SEAN March 20, 2015 - 2:21 pm

Interesting idea since you are still within spitting distance of the Lincoln Tunnel. However the main issue with such a plan is that you are one block further west of the A, C & E subway. Now if you could walk through the future Moynihan Station to reach those subway lines, you may have something. Keep in mind that for this to work, bus & rail passengers will need separate spaces.

JJJJJ March 20, 2015 - 1:07 pm

Thats a couple of escalators and a waiting room. Nothing about the giant potential bus terminal.

Alon Levy March 21, 2015 - 11:26 am

You know, if they colocated the bus and train station, the project might just ave positive transportation value.

eo March 20, 2015 - 2:04 pm

This is not a bad idea, but here are two issues: the post office is far from the Lincoln Tunnel, so that means you need to take traffic onto the Avenues and the space to drive the trailers is only on the ground floor.

JJJJ March 20, 2015 - 2:15 pm

Yes it would work for the interstate buses which currently use Penn as a destination anyways, your Boltbuses, Megabuses etc. You could work with greyhound and trailways to move out of PANY into Post ofice

lop March 20, 2015 - 3:53 pm

Not nearly as much room as PABT. If they need to locate some midtown commuters or intercity buses offsite maybe the post office could help with that.

tacony March 20, 2015 - 11:16 am

The highest ridership NJTransit buses, which run at very high frequencies, shouldn’t even be using the terminal. These are buses that operate every few minutes during rush hour and serve the dense spine of North Hudson County and Bergen County. These are also, incidentally, routes for which the concept of utilizing Secaucus Junction makes no sense. Check out a map– people shouldn’t have to travel west and/or further south of the Lincoln Tunnel to get into Manhattan. Most PABT NJTransit traffic comes from well north and/or east of Secaucus.

For these frequent commuter routes, it’d be beneficial to simply have them loop around Midtown, especially since they run frequently– commuters don’t need to camp out and use the bathroom in a terminal building while they wait — and it’d be beneficial to get them to East Side job centers. It’d be similar to the way the MTA’s Express Buses pick up in a bunch of Midtown locations on the streets.

Getting the high-frequency commuter buses out of the terminal opens up space for it to serve the interstate and longer distance buses. But even there I wonder. The ridership growth in long distance bus travel is in bare-bones, nimble “curbside” operators. Where Megabus and Boltbus do use terminals in other cities (e.g. in DC) they just want a garage with a concrete awning to shield people from extreme weather. We don’t need armies of ticket agents and rows of paper schedules anymore now that everything’s on your phone and you reserve your bus online and you can track its location with GPS. The “21st century bus terminal” shouldn’t just be a newer, bigger PABT.

Walt Gekko March 20, 2015 - 11:56 am

That would be great IF you can work on traffic issues in Midtown in particular, especially since then you can have them serve the east side like you said. Maybe have some go to lower Manhattan via the Holland Tunnel for those looking for that area to begin with. That might work.

JJJJJ March 20, 2015 - 1:10 pm

Agreed. Turn one of the cross streets into a bus only street, as was the plan for 34th. The riders will benefit from multiple drop offs (every avenue) and the capacity is there.

People dont realize that on the NJ side, these buses are local. They stop every 2 blocks. Just because they look like Gryehound buses doesnt mean the riders all boarded together for a 3 hour trip.

Of course SOME routes (into PA or South Jersey) are like that, so a terminal with bathrooms makes sense.

Matthew March 20, 2015 - 2:14 pm

You are absolutely right to focus on those regions of NJ as the source of the problem. Hudson/Bergen/Passaic counties account for 75% of cross-Hudson bus ridership despite making up just 35% of the NJ commuter population. And if busses could simply loop around midtown making periodic stops at commuter destinations, well, the problem would be solved. The issue though, like Walt Gekko says, is traffic. There are simply too many busses during rush hours for the streets to absorb all this traffic. If there were some dedicated cross-town bus lanes, like at 34/42/57 streets, perhaps this would alleviate some of the problem.

But the better way to address the cross-Hudson bus problem is not to increase supply at PABT, but rather to reduce demand for cross-Hudson busses into PABT by allowing Hudson/Bergen/Passaic commuters to terminate in Manhattan directly from existing rail lines. Any focus on regional bus service is missing the point. Trains are faster, more reliable, and more efficient in moving large numbers of people. HBLR ridership is increasing every year, but still terminates at Hoboken, which is just a transfer point for midtown Manhattan-bound commuters. If you work anywhere above 40th Street, getting to work via the 33rd Street PATH requires additional transfers. Same thing for Bergen and Passaic counties, whose three NJT lines terminate at Hoboken. For those transferring at Secaucus instead, trips could require three or even four transfer points. This is why busses are more attractive for midtown commuters in those counties.

Extend the existing Hoboken rail stubs to NY and connect to the 7-Line subway at a new transit hub in Manhattan–problem solved. If we are throwing around numbers like $10 to $15 billion for a bus terminal overhaul, it’s time to look at the bigger picture and the reasons why the PABT is so overrun to begin with.

JJJJ March 20, 2015 - 2:25 pm

Yes, agreed. The reason tens of thousands of people are taking buses into Manhattan is because there are very limited train options. Look at how many subway routes go to Brooklyn via bridge and tunnel. If the subway system was mirrored into jersey the Port Authority bus station would be half empty, serving only long distance commuters (ie, Scranton, Allentown, Toms River, Atlantic City)

Michael K March 20, 2015 - 2:32 pm


SEAN March 20, 2015 - 3:15 pm

Hmmm, how would you do that. Not being critical mind you, just trying to picture it in my mind.

Joey K March 20, 2015 - 3:45 pm

Check out the Hudson Terminal Plan.

Alon Levy March 20, 2015 - 5:56 pm

It is a truly awful plan. It’s not even a secondary business center in Manhattan. It involves digging a huge station in Manhattan, where real estate is expensive. It assumes trains have to have a huge station to terminate at in order to idle for a long time. It requires additional subway connections that shouldn’t really be built otherwise, so the overall tunnel length is more than that of ARC Alt G. And a future phase calls for splitting the 7 to an 8 train running under 11th Avenue, ensuring there’s only half as much capacity for trains from Flushing to Times Square.

adirondacker12800 March 20, 2015 - 6:41 pm

And it’s on the riverfront, cutting the places people could walk to, in half!

Joh Douglas March 21, 2015 - 6:51 am

It does appear this plan assumes that all those new trains converging on 14th street disappear into a tiny black hole and take up no space beyond a station footprint.

While it does contain a LOT of good points and conclusions, it also misses the mark on addressing needs of many of the folks currently on buses to PABT. That is, it assume that the current commuter and rail service points of origin in NJ are not an issue in solving this problem with a rail-only solution. A good solution would look at the current travel demand by points of origin of the travelers, and an analysis of the car, bus, and rail gathering systems all together.

Rock March 22, 2015 - 11:59 pm

I think you’re looking at this the wrong way. I read this “plan” while back when support for the 7 to secaucus was high. Look at it as an alternative to that. Instead of bringing one subway line to the middle of nowhere, bring ten NJT lines and Amtrak to a new Manhattan station, connect the 7 there. The “real estate” you talk about is old pier landfill and the current NY department of sanitation, hardly what it would cost to build a comparable station in midtown somewhere.

adirondacker12800 March 23, 2015 - 3:40 am

So instead of going to the middle of nowhere in the swamps of New Jersey it would go to the middle of nowhere on the far west side. Whoopeee!

wise infrastructure March 23, 2015 - 8:33 am

#7 trains running one every two minutes (average 1 minute wait time for a train!) to a combined Secaucus or Hoboken train and bus terminal/station would provide would dependable predictable faster service for most of riders while saving billions on Midtown construction allowing the real estate involved to be on the tax rolls. You could view the trains as a horizontal elevator between modes transportation.

Rock March 23, 2015 - 11:15 am

Ha — middle of nowhere in Manhattan’s far west side — good one — nothing like someone who is looking towards the past, let alone the present, instead of the future — the greatest construction boom in the past half-century is occurring on Manhattan’s far west side below 42nd street — take a walk up and down the high line, you’ll see, it’s really happening! 😉

adirondacker12800 March 23, 2015 - 12:40 pm

If it so happenin’ why are they changing to the subway?

John Douglas March 20, 2015 - 2:54 pm

I completely agree with extending the Hoboken stubs. Take it all the way across to Atlantic Yards, and you have London’s Crossrail – which they seems able to afford in both east-west and north-south directions. Just build enough tubes simultaneously to eventually allow multiple modes of rail, since they probably can’t all be built at once. Commuter rail, LR, subway would all have a place satisfying the “single seat” crowd.

John Douglas March 21, 2015 - 6:54 am

Having now seen the published plan, I’m less enthusiastic with what is out there on the table. However, a Crossrail type plan might be worth study for NYC. Is there one out there?

SEAN March 20, 2015 - 3:01 pm

Who here remembers the proposed Secaucus loop track from the Main Line to the NEC? If constructed, it would have reduced the need for several NJT bus lines in to the PABT. However this would have required increased capacity at Penn station. I should also note several NJT bus lines such as the 163, 164 & 168 don’t travel through communities with rail service except for Ridgewood.

In the case of the 165 & Coach USA’s 11 they operate a joint service to Spring Valley along the PVL. However even there bus service dominates do to the fact that the PVL is a single track line & the number of trains is limited.

Matthew March 20, 2015 - 3:39 pm

You bring up some important points:

1 — The Pascack Valley Line is a disaster, I take it often from Hoboken. Restoration of the second track throughout the line would do wonders for scheduling, speed, and reliability.

2 — The problem with the Secaucus Loop or Gateway Project is the lack of capacity within Penn Station. Even with NJT’s introduction of dual-mode locomotives along the Raritan Valley Line that can terminate in Penn, rush hour commuters still have to transfer at Newark because of a lack of Penn capacity.

3 — There are some bus routes that don’t travel through communities with current rail service, but tracks exist in those areas and there are proposals to expand service there. These proposals should be taken seriously and be a priority over expanded express bus service. However, these proposals would all terminate at Hoboken, which still leaves a critical gap in service to Manhattan. With next-gen HBLR cars looking to hold at least 300 people per train, it’s time to seriously consider bringing HBLR to a new Manhattan terminal along with existing Hoboken-bound NJT lines.

4 — Some bus routes cover areas without access (either now or in the future) to rail. This is why busses are important and this is how they should be chiefly used for express commuter service–as a gap filler when other options are exhausted. Just as cars fill the gaps where busses are missing. For long distances — trains > busses > cars.

SEAN March 20, 2015 - 6:04 pm

I’m going to illustrate NJ bus routes to the PABT & what stations on the rail network they serve. Note – not all routes are NJT lines.

If I miss any, my bad.

107 – South Orange
108 – Newark Penn
114 – South Plainfield
115 – Rahway
116 – Woodbridge
126 – Hoboken
129 – Secaucus Junction
161 – Paterson
163 – Ridgewood
164 – Ridgewood
165 – PVL Westwood & points south
190 – Paterson
191 – Montclair Heights (selected trips)
192 – Clifton
198 – Wayne TC
324 – Wayne TC

Rt 9 shore service to Red Bank & Asbury Park

Coach USA
11 – PVL Westwood & points north
20 – Nanuet
45 – Spring Valley express
77 – Morristown
100 – New Brunswick

24 – Morristown & summit


66 – Bay Street Montclair

adirondacker12800 March 20, 2015 - 4:22 pm

If terminating on 33rd is bad for commuters above 40th Street 14th Street is even worse.

Matthew March 20, 2015 - 5:00 pm

HBLR lines and NJT lines from Bergen/Passaic/Rockland terminate at Hoboken, not 33rd Street. The PATH to 33rd or Secaucus connection to Penn make up the second leg of the three-leg journey for most NJT commuters from Hudson/Bergen/Passaic/Rockland counties to their midtown Manhattan destinations. Terminating at 14th Street in Manhattan cuts out that second leg and provides alternative connections to midtown west and east via the crosstown 7-Line (Hudson Yards, Times Square, Bryant Park, Grand Central). Getting to the Hudson Yards or Grand Central areas from NJT’s HBLR or commuter lines in Bergen County would require, today, four or even five legs. This is why commuter bus use is very high in those areas. But NYC and the PABT cannot absorb current bus service levels, let alone additional bus service. Hence the proposal to bridge the gap from Hoboken to Manhattan and cut the high demand for bus service in these areas.

adirondacker12800 March 20, 2015 - 6:32 pm

Terminating in Midtown gives many of them one seat rides and for the ones who transfer to the subway, shorter subway rides. And more subway lines to chose from.

Eric March 22, 2015 - 6:52 am

“Hudson/Bergen/Passaic counties account for 75% of cross-Hudson bus ridership despite making up just 35% of the NJ commuter population.”

If that’s the case, the best option is to extend the C subway over the George Washington Bridge, then in the median of I-95/I-80 as far as at least Hackensack. The GWB already has provisions for rail, and there is plenty of space in the I-95/I-80 ROW if you turn the express lanes into regular lanes (you gain the equivalent of 2 road shoulders in each direction), so construction would be really cheap (essentially all at grade on preexisting ROW).

Alon Levy March 24, 2015 - 1:28 pm

Route 4, not I-80. Route 4 hits more population centers and can also be used for reverse-commuting to some of the Paramus malls. It’s still wide enough that trains can use it as an ROW and has space at several locations for park-and-rides as well as more walkable stations (e.g. in Fort Lee and Paterson).

adirondacker12800 March 24, 2015 - 2:47 pm

The second car deck used up the capacity the trains could use.
There’s perfectly good railroad ROW that goes to Hoboken which is much closer to where people want to go – south of 59th Street. Relatively cheap loop in Secaucus gets the trains to Gateway and relatively cheap tunnel gets the trains to Wall Street and Brooklyn.

wise infrastructure March 25, 2015 - 12:16 am

……..and maybe 2 of those 6 car lanes need to be given back to trains and given how many users will switch to the train, car users may actually gain by the loss of a third of their lanes.

To take the pressure off of Penn Station and allow for a more modest bus terminal, perhaps we need both the 8th Ave IND to go over the GWB and for the #7 to go to a Hoboken bus and train terminal.

wise infrastructure March 25, 2015 - 12:10 am

Yes Route 4 would have more utility but the road can not even maintain 3 lanes in each direction. Even as a highway it maintains a green beauty that would be destroyed.
Running a two track down on the ground would reduce an already crowd road to a one lane crawl – out of the question. An elevated structure (either for the train or the lanes that it would displace) is an expensive long structure which would destroy the beauty and would be killed by local opposition.

I-95/80 is an open land scape wound. Maybe 2 tracks could be squeezed in ground level or there would little opposition to an elevated structure here.

orulz March 20, 2015 - 11:34 am

Lose the bus parking garage and instead build a fourth Lincoln Tunnel tube. Make it a bi-directional, 24 hour XBL. Instead of parking buses in Manhattan all day (what a waste) send them back out the new XBL, perhaps some of them as off-peak revenue buses. When you’re talking $10 billion the cost has to be on the same order of magnitude of the bus garage, plus you get actual improved transit service to boot.

adirondacker12800 March 20, 2015 - 4:23 pm

If there are so many buses that they need a dedicated bus tunnel it makes more sense to have those people get on a train out in their suburbs and take a train into Manhattan.

Peter March 20, 2015 - 2:07 pm

Any plan that moves the terminal further west should be a non-starter. The PA can mitigate its costs by placing more private development on 8th Ave, but what about the long-term costs to millions of future commuters who will endure slower, more laborious connections to the subways.

Why is every major NYC transit project a lavish giveaway to private interests? Both the WTC hub and the Fulton Center create more retail space than transit improvements. The 7 line was extended to enable Related Co’s profitable development at Hudson Yards. I am unconvinced that the meager improvements to Grand Central offered by the developers of the Vanderbilt tower reflect the value of the zoning variances they’re being awarded.

The government needs to drive a harder bargain with private developers on these projects. And private interests should never be allowed to compromise the utility of the transit component. I understand the PA is in a financial crunch, but building a less-convenient terminal in order to secure more private funding is not a worthwhile compromise.

Matthew March 20, 2015 - 2:16 pm

Wouldn’t that be a joke–$10 billion on a bus station in between 9th and 10th Avenues. That’s what the best and brightest have proposed.

lop March 20, 2015 - 4:07 pm

During the board meeting one estimate was the development rights for the towers on 8th avenue would bring in ~1.5-2 billion. They suggested an airport style moving walkway to help ferry people over to 8th avenue.

Rob March 20, 2015 - 2:14 pm

‘Whether 2040 is too soon a horizon for an infrastructure project that will take 15 years to complete is an open-ended question that bears investigation.’ — to put it mildly. Put another way, it would take at least 15 years to build something that will have capacity for only 10.

Jeremy March 20, 2015 - 3:32 pm

My improvements is they should look at the 26 uncompleted gates on the 4th Floor of the North Wing that haven’t been used since the terminal was expanded in 1981.

I read about this in the Bergen Record back in October 2001 about the 26 uncompleted gates.

Thomas Graves March 20, 2015 - 3:45 pm

Insanity, NY-style. No matter what excuses you make for how tough it is to build in Manhattan, compared to comparable infrastructure projects anywhere in the developed world, this thing is at least $5B too expensive. But that’s why it’s so very, very attractive to the mafia-controlled unions, construction companies and developers: 15 years of gravy-train and no questions asked. Hell, it will probably cost MORE than $10B, just like the Calatrava eyesore is way over the original budget. But the more, the merrier if you’re one of the well-connected parties whose palms are being crossed with silver. Of course, sane people would suggest that there are far more innovative ideas for how the very real problem of replacing/upgrading the PABT can be solved, many of which have been articulated in these comments. But they will never happen, because the Port Authority is primarily a vehicle for corruption, not improving transportation.

Jimmy Snoogans March 20, 2015 - 4:44 pm

If you extend the 7 train to NJ and have two locations, one on each side of the Hudson, you could reduce the size/cost/crowding of a Midtown PABT. However, the costs for extending the 7 to Seacaucus has been quoted at about $10Billion. So you aren’t really saving much there. Plus, the 7 is already overcrowded and with future housing growth in Queens will continue to be even once the 7 line gets outfitted with CBTC. A 7 Extension to Seacaucus is a great idea on its own, but I don’t know if it has to be connected with this project.

Mike March 21, 2015 - 11:17 am

Can someone explain to me why some of the plans for a new midtown PABT leave some very valuable land right around the terminal completely empty? If funding is such a big concern (though COST seems to be the real problem), why is the PA not maximizing development revenue from the huge swaths of land around the terminal.

For example, in the concept #1 plan, why are they not selling development rights above the terminal itself? And why are the blocks south of 39th st left completely empty (there are trenches there, but the later concepts show that those can be built over)?

wise infrastructure March 21, 2015 - 9:32 pm

*Ease the pressure on Penn Station
*Allow for a less costly Midtown terminal
*Provide improved downtown and east side access from NJ and SI
*Provide downtown access from Jamaica and LI
*Provide an alternate/emergency route for the NE corridor

all for about the same cost as replacing the bus terminal/penn station

1—The #7 line/path should become 1 system with Flushing trains trains extended to the path tubes and replacing 33rd Street lineto NJ. This would:
*allow that tunnel to run more trains per hour
*provide better midtown east side access to NJ users as opposed to 33rd Street which is just a block from NJ trains at Penn Station
*would relieve pressure on the bus terminal

2—Dual level (subway and rail) tunnels should be built linking NJ rail to the Flatbush terminal

The Hudson subway level could serve Bayonne and Staten Island while the East River would give the 4 track Fulton IND full trackage into downtown allow more service to points east.

The rail level would provide through running service to Jamaica via Atlantic Avenue.

*This gives an alternate/emergency route on the NE corridor
*Through running reduces platforms needed so that fewer tracks/platforms could serve this terminal

adirondacker12800 March 21, 2015 - 11:10 pm

Extending the platforms on the PATH system to accommodate 11 car trains that run on the Flushing line would cost a lot of money. It would make the frequency to Hudson Yards very low.

wise infrastructure March 22, 2015 - 8:25 am

“Extending the platforms on the PATH system to accommodate 11 car trains that run on the Flushing line would cost a lot of money. It would make the frequency to Hudson Yards very low.”

Run this # 7 only to the Hoboken terminal. Only that terminal would need a platform extension. A dual track loop there would ensure maximum through put as well with one train departing as the next arrives.

adirondacker12800 March 22, 2015 - 12:08 pm

All the people who use the local stations along 6th Avenue should just get new jobs that don’t need access to the PATH system? At peak there’s 20 trains an hour in the uptown tubes.

wise infrastructure March 22, 2015 - 12:40 pm

“All the people who use the local stations along 6th Avenue should just get new jobs that don’t need access to the PATH system? At peak there’s 20 trains an hour in the uptown tubes”

yes and the possible 33 #7 trains per hour of 11 car trains = 363 cars per hour – >2.5x the current 20 trains of 7 cars each per hours (140 cars per hour)make this a smart trade off.

Given that many (most?) of the current users are either shifting to other subway lines, going to 33rds street which is just on block from NJ Transit train at Penn Station or walking north from 33rd street, the number inconvenienced will be small compared to those benefiting from the greatly increased service and destinations (Times Square, 5th Ave (6th ave IND transfer), Grand Central and Queens).

To achieve the 33 trains per hour, some trains may have to be turned/terminated at citified (or G-d forbid at LGA via branch over the Grand central Parkway) due to Flushing terminal capacity issues.

Of course an option would be for the northern tubes to feed both the #7 and 33rd Street. Some #7 trains would have to terminate short of or at the merge or continuing downtown via new trackage. The problem is that this would then require a merging of the #7 and the Path system which would not be required under a full transfer of the line in my original concept. The politics of a merger is most likely too great to happen.

wise infrastructure March 24, 2015 - 12:57 am

Consider a #7 extension to a combined bus terminal/NJT rail terminal in Hoboken and then down through Bayonne (over or alongside 78/440)over the Bayonne Bridge down to a split at the Staten Island Expressway with one branch continuing down Richmond Ave/Richmond Parkway to the SIRR and the other branch taking over the SI Expressway bus lane to the SIRR and then southwest along the SIRR.

* The SIRR would have to be converted to IRT loading gauge (cheap)
*SIRR would have 3 services:
-Tottenville to Flushing via Hoboken/42nd Street
-Tottenville to the ferry terminal
-Huguenot to the Staten Island expressway to Flushing via Hoboken/42nd Street

-Staten Island gets linked to both Manhattan and Newark (via a Hoboken path transfer)
-Hoboken becomes a major transportation hub
-East side access is provided for all
-Hundreds of buses are removed from Manhattan streets
-Penn Station can survive with cosmetic improvements without a rebuild
-a bus terminal rebuild become more modest

adirondacker12800 March 24, 2015 - 3:53 pm

It would be faster for Staten Islanders to take the ferry. Hoboken already is a major transportation hub.

wise infrastructure March 24, 2015 - 11:46 pm

It is hard to believe that from mid and southern staten island that a 3 transfer ride – SIRR to a transfer to the ferry which runs every 15 -30 minutes and then another transfer to subway with the east side IRT a 4 block walk would be faster to times square and grand central that one one seat train ride.

Even if the timing is close, the comfort would certainly shift the balance.

We should also factor in the saving on express buses and the value of what amounts to an expansion of the Staten Island Expressway, BQE and Battery Tunnel as hundreds of car and users shifted to the rail line.

I also note that a line would link (via transfers to Path and the light rail) most of staten island to Newark, the Jersey water front and all rail lines coming into Hoboken

adirondacker12800 March 25, 2015 - 12:34 am

It’s hard to believe that… no nevermind you are drawing lines on a map that look good to you instead of actually trying to think about how long it would take for a train to get from St. George through all of Bayonne to get to Exchange Place.

wise infrastructure March 25, 2015 - 1:47 am

express buses from staten island travel the same distance on the east side of NY Harbor before crossing back to Manhattan.

I recognize that there would be a few stops between the Bayonne Bridge and Hoboken (as a form of payment to NJ for the right, to generate revenue, and to make the line politically feasible) but this more than equals:
*the time lost by express buses in local traffic after exiting the Battery Tunnel
*the transfer times, waits and intermediate subway stops by those traveling SIRR>Ferry>Manhattan subway.

AG March 24, 2015 - 4:13 pm

If money were no object your idea would be great… Sadly – there are no plans to link Staten Island.. It will take a great heave to get the 7 extended to Jersey also.


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