If you are one of the 17,000 passengers coming into the George Washington Bridge Bus Station every day, your destination is about to see a facelift. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey recently announced an additional $3.2 million to upgrade the nearly half-century old bus facility in Washington Heights with 21 more bus gates, better subway connections, and more shopping choices. This should jump start the 2008 agreement to redevelop the facility and add more retail space; the past three years haven’t brought visible progress, but the Port Authority now says the $183 million project will be finished by 2013.
Though the GWB Bus Station is not as widely known, or used, as its infamous sister terminal on 42nd Street, it still accommodates approximately 950 buses each day, all of which are coming across the GWB. Overall, nearly five million buses each year come into the bus station. But the bus station is stuck in a 1960s time warp, with outdated infrastructure, few technological amenities, and inadequate transit connections, issues that were pointed out in a 2009 TSTC report.
Bus commuting across the Hudson River comprises a significant share of all transit use between NY and NJ. More people cross the Hudson River on a bus every weekday (315,000) than on NJ Transit trains (165,000). However, the tight economy and poor transportation decisions have led to the postponement of many key bus service improvements such as a long-discussed new bus garage on Manhattan’s West Side, the expansion of the Port Authority Bus Terminal, and the complete renovation of the Lincoln Tunnel Helix. This announcement is welcome news for the 5% of cross-Hudson bus passengers making their way into the George Washington Bridge Bus Station. Perhaps these improvements will help capture a larger share of commuters by incentivizing more drivers to leave their cars at home.
The recent announcement highlights a public/private agreement to pay for the renovation. In total, the Authority would contribute $83 million; while the developer has agreed to contribute $100 million. Such arrangements are becoming more commonplace given the growing transportation needs around the country, dwindling revenue sources and government aid for transportation infrastructure, and the interest of the private sector in transportation. Additionally, the renovations will help create 746 new jobs in Northern Manhattan, proving yet again that investment in transit infrastructure also yields significant employment and economic benefits.