Home Asides GWB Bus Terminal revamp set to start this month

GWB Bus Terminal revamp set to start this month

by Benjamin Kabak

Lost amidst the clean-up efforts after Sandy was a bit of good news for Upper Manhattan. As The Daily News reported last week, the planned $180 million revamp of the Port Authority’s bus terminal at the George Washington Bridge is set to start this month. The renovation is set to overhaul the building’s ugly facade and bring approximately 100,000 square feet of retail space to the underused terminal.

The former tenants of the space moved out over a year ago, and work on this project was set to launch last January. It was, however, delayed due to issues with funding and the various developers chosen for the project. Now, with a start date nearing, community leaders are pleased the project is moving forward. “We don’t see this just as getting the eyesore out of the community,” Maria Lizardo, an official with the Northern Manhattan Development Corp., said to The News. “We must make sure that it’s a hub for local employment.”

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Kai B November 15, 2012 - 5:03 pm

Also, the B44 SBS project got some funding: http://brooklyneagle.com/artic.....9-brooklyn

Nathanael November 15, 2012 - 6:36 pm

Will this make the terminal wheelchair accessible? Last I checked, the official word was “none of the bus bays in the George Washington Bridge Bus Terminal are wheelchair accessible”.

SEAN November 15, 2012 - 8:20 pm

Neither PA terminal at this point have bus bays that are wheelchair accessable, wich in this day & age is rediculous. The most cridical areas are gates 200 – 234 at the PABT & all gates at GWB since there are no elevators that reach them. There are elevators in the PABT building serving the other gate sections, but the doors that leed to the boarding platforms aren’t designed for wheelchair users as the handles are much to high for easy grabbing or pushing.

Kevin November 16, 2012 - 10:24 am

The 300 and 400 level gates all have buttons to open the doors at the gates, and the basement has fully automatic doors. The 200 level gates are still a problem, but I can’t picture a solution that doesn’t invovle a massively disruptive renovation.

CComMack November 15, 2012 - 9:37 pm

Question to anyone who uses GWBBT on a regular basis: given the long post-Sandy recovery in NJ, and the c******f*** of congestion that is PABT, has there been an uptick in ridership on GWB bus routes? Have any Bergen/Passaic-PABT routes been diverted to avoid the PABT crush, or to save scarce buses and drivers?

Good to hear that PANYNJ is finally moving forward with sprucing up the terminal, but it would be a shame if the timing meant that trans-Hudson transit capacity was lost when it was needed most.

Phantom November 15, 2012 - 9:49 pm

I think that most New Yorkers don’t even know that this terminal even exists.

You might think that it could be used more than it is, for northbound trips or to Pennsylvania on Route 80.

Theorem Ox November 15, 2012 - 10:51 pm

And for those who do know of the terminal’s existence, the location is hardly ideal.

Perhaps it might change in the future, but Washington Heights is not yet the “go-to” destination of Manhattan. The immediate neighborhood surrounding the terminal is mostly residential and small businesses (generally run down looking ones at that).

Unless you’re visiting somebody living there, working at small retail or possibly at Columbia University Medical Center, there’s basically nothing to do or stick around for. It’s a long local bus or subway ride to your final destination elsewhere.

And a few years ago, the crime rates (whether real or perceived) and the demographics of the surrounding neighborhood would make GWB Terminal an all around very scary proposition for some people. They’ll happily pay the fare differential to ride into PABT.

As for me, I don’t mind travelling out of GWB when going to Bergen County by bus. Fairly quiet, lower fares and the option of enjoying a walk across the bridge if the mood strikes me. Only wish that NJT/CUSA would better stagger departure times – which sucks when you just want to get to Fort Lee and you see three buses scheduled to depart at the same time. Next round of buses won’t leave for another 20-30 minutes during the day.

PaulRomaine November 16, 2012 - 12:18 am

Theorem Ox: The Cloisters Museum (part of the Metropolitan) is nearby (190s). And for those so-inclined the under-visited Hispanic Society (158th Street). I’d agree in some respects with your other comments about Washington Heights, although I think crime definitely declined by the late 1990s–it was no longer “Crack Central”–mostly due to the aggressive drug arrest sweeps under mayors Dinkens and Giuliani.

The current state of the GWB Terminal is disappointing: almost all retail is shut, and pigeons fly inside the main terminal, sometimes swooping near your head or strutting over to a garbage can to inspect. It has been under-utilized for many years, but the north-Jersey/Rockland route through the GWB was an old one that my grandmother and later mother used from the 1930s (GWB opened in 1932) through the 1950s when bus service from Rockland County went there, rather than 40th Street–the A express train went from 175th Street to midtown. In fact, Rockland Coaches only started direct service from the west bank Hudson River towns (Piermont, Grandview, Nyack) to the midtown PABT only about 5 years ago.

Larry Littlefield November 16, 2012 - 9:47 am

One thing they need to do: make it clearer how to take the fastest route to the A train IND. Is there even a connection within the terminal, without going outside? I couldn’t find it.

For those heading north, northeast or northwest, a ride on the A train and over the GW may indeed be faster than a ride through the Lincoln Tunnel and then north.

Bolwerk November 16, 2012 - 9:57 am

Yes, Larry, there is. Or at least was. If memory serves, it’s simply a matter of being near the front of the A, going up the stairs, and then walking in the direction of the train through some turnstiles, and then following signs for the terminal. It’s a long passageway, but it’s entirely indoors.

Kevin November 16, 2012 - 10:33 am

This man speaks the truth, and it’s still there (as of last month).

TP November 16, 2012 - 10:00 am

As an Upper Manhattanite, the crazy thing is that the dozen times I’ve had a reason to go to Bergen County, I’ve gone via PABT, not the GWBBT. The sheer number of buses that go through the PABT make it more convenient, even if you have to go all the way downtown to get them, vs the small number that go into GWBBT.

NJTransit runs the vast majority of its North Jersey-NYC bus routes through the Lincoln Tunnel so unless they change that I don’t think the GW terminal is going to be incredibly useful.

Bolwerk November 16, 2012 - 10:02 am

It’s a crap deal for midtown access no matter how you spin it. Nobody wants to spend 2+ hours riding a bus from PA to then have to drag themselves and likely some baggage onto an A Train that probably won’t take them anywhere near where they want to go anyway. And it’s not much better if you commute for work; the best deal to midtown is getting the B or D somewhere, and that’s if you’re lucky enough to not need to go to the east side.

DF November 16, 2012 - 11:31 am

For those who will need to take the subway anyway, having to take the subway from the GWB instead of the PABT shouldn’t be a big deal. From PA it’s not really any shorter to the GWB than the PABT but it might make sense from Boston.

From some people who live in Bergen County and work in midtown, the GWB provides a perfectly reasonable commute. The A train is pretty fast from 175 St-59 St (17 minutes scheduled, only three intermediate stops) and the PABT leaves you at 8th Ave just as much as the A train does.

Bolwerk November 16, 2012 - 1:01 pm

My usual complaint about short stopping transit in periphery parts of the city: it’s rarely near the end of the journey. PABT42 is significantly closer than the GWB, and I think you’re seeing people who commute for work voting with their feet in agreement with me about it.

I think 17m is wildly optimistic. The lag time from the bus to the train could be 15m by itself with wait times. A Train frequency is low (there is no C to the GWB to supplement). The A Train is simply not a particularly useful line for getting to where most of those people would theoretically want to go, so throw in another transfer and probable wait time. I could go on.

Of course, it’s a good deal for some people (e.g., Fort Lee residents). But not many.

Scott E November 16, 2012 - 8:44 am

I went through the GWB terminal, once. There’s a coffee-shop, a closed Off-Track-Betting parlor, some storefront medical offices, and plenty of open space. But the efficient layout and quick bridge-access makes it look like it could have some real promise and real potential (the view of the bridge from the roof, where some buses load and unload, is quite remarkable).

That said, I was a bit disappointed to learn that the anchor retail establishment would be a discount store (Marshall’s, I think?). The current – and perhaps future – retail tenants seem to cater more towards local residents than bus rider, which does nothing to bolster the primary purpose of the facility. I feel they could do better; but of course, it needs to fit the neighborhood.

That said, with the damage done to PATH during Hurricane Sandy, I wonder if these funds might be diverted away from the bus terminal – again – to rebuild the Port Authority’s more popular rail system.

Larry Littlefield November 16, 2012 - 11:42 am

Well, according to Google Maps it takes 28 minutes to get from the Port Authority Bus Terminal to the GWB Bus Terminal by subway.

And it takes 18 minutes to get from the GWB Bus Terminal to Route 4 and Route 17 in Paramus, vs. 29 minutes to that spot from the Port Authority.

So that means leaving from the Port Authority and going north saves 17 minutes. With no traffic. With the tunnel backed up more than the bridge, however, the GWB bus station should be faster.

Jon November 16, 2012 - 7:24 pm

XBL, bitches.

Plus, who wants to be on a crowded train?

Bolwerk November 16, 2012 - 9:19 pm

I’d take it over a crowded bus, XBL or no. The ride is typically faster and standing is usually somewhat easier.

John-2 November 16, 2012 - 11:56 am

The Port Authority really tried to promote the GWB Terminal as an alternative to the PABT in the 1960s. They let people know about the alternative options, but as noted above, it’s neither a go-to neighborhood for workers, nor is the nearby train service handy for people heading downtown (the same A train that serves the uptown terminal serves 42nd St., so the nearest line is Eighth Ave. in both locations).

Other than giving the Chinatown buses a sweetheart deal to move their Manhattan operations to the GWB Terminal or swapping the uptown terminals of the A and D so you can get direct service to Sixth Avenue from upper Washington Heights, I’m not sure what the PA or MTA can do to get people into the habit of traveling all the way uptown to use the thing

Tower18 November 16, 2012 - 12:16 pm

There’s an easy transfer to 6th Av trains at either of 125th or 59th. Wanting 6th Av access is actually an argument FOR using GWB terminal, because one can easily transfer to the B or D, instead of having to walk across town or take the 7.

Bolwerk November 16, 2012 - 1:25 pm

True, but the problem with Sixth Ave is it’s not that important here either. It’s kind of redundant to other services available from PABT42 (e.g., 1/2/3), and PABT42 is probably within walking distance of many more critical IND Sixth Ave locations.

John-2 November 16, 2012 - 1:31 pm

It the one-seat ride thing once you get off the bus — most people going to Manhattan business districts who are transferring from a bus (or commuter rail) only want to take one subway line to their destination. They don’t want to transfer after transferring, even if the transfer is on the same platform at 125th or 59th.

The A train’s been going to Washington Heights for 80 years and the D up the Grand Concourse almost as long, so that’s not changing just to possibly boost passenger counts at the GWB bus depot. But having the same subway line serving both the GWB Terminal and the PABT means for people who don’t want to change trains after changing from the bus, there’s no incentive not to take the bus to midtown instead of far northern Manhattan.

Tsuyoshi November 16, 2012 - 6:59 pm

The A should go over the bridge to Fort Lee.

Bolwerk November 16, 2012 - 9:22 pm

I dunno. They made accommodations for that, but there isn’t much in Fort Lee and no really great destinations for subway service beyond it either.

If they do rail on the GWB, I suspect LRVs would make more sense.

Phantom November 16, 2012 - 10:51 pm

I heard once that the GWB was made so sturdy that it could accomodate a third deck if it was ever needed.

One for light rail? 🙂

Bolwerk November 16, 2012 - 11:19 pm

I dunno. On the cheap, I don’t see why borrowing two lanes from the bottom deck would hurt. It can even be shared with buses. If you want to get really crazy, the Northern Branch extension could probably be tied in to bring HBLR across the GWB.

Phantom November 17, 2012 - 11:38 am

I think that having alternate routes from the choke points of Penn Station or PABT are very desirable.

It might have been a good idea to have put a bus terminal in lower Manhattan back in the day. You could have placed it close to the Holland and Battery tunnels, and the A / E trains.


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