After several months of debate about how to fund and where to locate a replacement for the aging Port Authority Bus Terminal, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, along with local elected officials and representatives from the Port Authority, unveiled sweeping plans this week for a new facility.
Today, the Port Authority Bus Terminal serves 66 million yearly trips, or approximately 230,000 cross-Hudson passengers per weekday. It has been over capacity since the late 1960s. In 2015, after years of inaction, the Port Authority board resolved to solicit designs for a new terminal through an International Design & Deliverability Competition. The designs that came out of that process all had something of value to add to the planning process, but no one proposal was a clear favorite. All the while, Governor Cuomo — who has struggled in recent months to have his voice heard at the Port Authority — had been putting together a proposal of his own.
Given the agency’s bi-state nature, Cuomo fittingly unveiled his proposal at Pier 84 on Manhattan’s West Side with the Hudson River and New Jersey as his backdrop. Here’s a snippet from the governor’s remarks:
There’s nothing we can’t do. We built three new subway stations on the Upper East Side in less than a decade. Some believed it was outrageous. You can’t build three stations in under 10 years, they said. But we did it. We extended the 7 train to Hudson Yards. We took this subway line to the middle of nowhere on the belief that if we built it, you would see the growth. Sixty years ago we built a bridge across one of the widest points in the Hudson and today, we’re building another one. And nobody knows how we’re going to pay for it. Some people call that attitude “New York arrogance,” some people call it an “indomitable spirit,” some call it “chutzpah.” It’s that attitude and it’s that boldness that makes us who we are.
Now, other regions around the globe have caught on and you see developments we haven’t even thought of here in New York. So we have to recapture that ambition, that drive. That’s why we’re proposing a $100 billion plan to build a new Port Authority Bus Terminal right here, in the middle of the Hudson River. The Port Authority Bus Terminal gets 230,000 passengers per day. That’s more people than Newark and LaGuardia Airports combined. It is over the capacity that the facility was designed for and it is not representative of New York. It is dirty, it is dingy, it is dark and that is not what New York is all about. It is decrepit and it’s an affront to riders to use it.
The new bus terminal will be magnificent and will be world-class, and New York will not have seen anything like it in decades and decades. In size, it is massive. Fifty percent larger than the existing Port Authority Bus Terminal. There will be a skylight. It will become a destination in and of itself, state-of-the-art amenities. This will all be high-end. This will be the best of the best.
The new terminal would be the first of its kind, not just in the United States, but in the entire world. Located halfway between the shores of New York and New Jersey, the terminal would be comprised of a subterranean structure containing “hundreds and hundreds” of bus gates, according to the proposal [PDF], and an enormous “floating” main hall at the water’s surface. Buses would access the gates via an underground portal connected to the Lincoln Tunnel, and passengers would travel between the gates and the main hall in glass elevators. From the main hall, passengers would board ferries to their destinations, a component of the plan which drew praise from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
While unconventional, the decision to locate the terminal in the middle of the river has some advantages over building on land. It eliminates the challenges that come with locating a new terminal in Manhattan’s densely-populated Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood, brings commuters closer to Manhattan’s central business district than the proposal to place the new terminal in Secaucus, and since it is linked to ferry service, offers the flexibility to connect to job centers not only in New York, but also in Hoboken or Jersey City’s booming Newport district. A ferry ride would add an extra leg to the commutes of those who currently enjoy a one-seat ride from New Jersey to midtown Manhattan, but those commuters make up a minority of cross-Hudson travelers. Most who disembark at the PABT today must connect to the subway — and sometimes make an additional transfer — before they arrive at work each morning.
The new bus terminal will also be adorned in LED lighting, which, like the installations planned for several bridges in the city, can be programmed to blink in sync with musical cues. “Nothing like this has been done on the planet. Imagine New York Harbor, and all of it choreographed,” Cuomo said.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who has been indifferent to the needs of cross-Hudson commuters and who hasn’t spoken publicly since two of his former colleagues were handed prison terms for their roles in closing George Washington Bridge access lanes in Fort Lee, NJ as a form of political retribution, was not in attendance.
Also, if the block quote attributed to Governor Cuomo looks familiar, it’s because it has been adapted from an actual statement the governor made when he unveiled a new proposal for the Penn Station/Farley Post Office complex in 2016.