Port Authority Bus Terminal
8th Avenue and West 42nd Street and the world's largest LED mediamesh facade
|Location||625 8th Avenue
New York, NY
|Owned by||Port Authority of New York and New Jersey|
|Connections||New York City Subway:
1 2 3 7 <7> A C E N Q R S trains at Times Sq. – 42nd St./PABT
New York City Bus: M10, M20, M34A SBS, M42, M104
|Opened||December 15, 1950|
|Rebuilt||1963 (parking decks)
2007 (seismic retrofit)
The Port Authority Bus Terminal (PABT) is the main gateway for interstate buses into Manhattan in New York City. It is owned and operated by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ). Colloquially called the Port Authority, the bus terminal is located in Midtown at 625 Eighth Avenue between 40th Street and 42nd Street, one block east of the Lincoln Tunnel and one block west of Times Square.
PABT serves as a terminus and departure point for commuter routes, as well as for long-distance intercity routes, and is a major transit hub for New Jerseyans. The terminal is the largest in the United States and the busiest in the world by volume of traffic, serving about 8,000 buses and 225,000 people on an average weekday and more than 65 million people a year. It has 223 departure gates and 1,250 car parking spaces, as well as commercial and retail space. In 2011, there were more than 2.263 million bus departures from the terminal.
The PABT, opened in 1950 between 8th and 9th Avenues and 40th and 41st Streets, was built to consolidate the many different private terminals spread across Midtown Manhattan. A second wing extending to 42nd Street was added in 1979. It is one of three bus terminals operated by the PANYNJ, the others being the George Washington Bridge Bus Station in Upper Manhattan and the Journal Square Transportation Center in Jersey City.
The terminal has reached peak hour capacity, leading to congestion and overflow on local streets. As it does not allow for layover parking, buses are required to use local streets or lots, or return through the tunnel empty. The PANYNJ has been unsuccessful in its attempts to expand passenger facilities through public private partnership and in 2011 delayed construction of a bus depot annex citing budgetary constraints. In June 2013, it commissioned an 18-month study that would consider reconfiguration, expansion, and replacement options.
- 1 History
- 2 Art and advertising
- 3 Configuration
- 4 Companies
- 5 Connecting transport
- 6 Capacity and overflow
- 7 Notes
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Before construction of the PABT, there were several terminals scattered throughout Midtown Manhattan, some of which were part of hotels. The Federal Writers Project 1940 publication of New York: A Guide to the Empire State lists among them the All American Bus Depot (a ghost sign for which still existed in 2011) on West 42nd, the Consolidated Bus Terminal on West 41st, and the Hotel Astor Bus Terminal on West 45th.
The Dixie Bus Center on West 42nd, located on the ground floor of the hotel of the same name, opened in 1930 and operated until 1959. The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad had coach service aboard ferry to Communipaw Terminal in Jersey City that ran from an elegant bus terminal with a revolving bus platform in the Chanin Building at 42nd and Lexington. Greyhound Lines had its own facility adjacent to Pennsylvania Station and did not move into the PABT until 1963, by which time all long-distance bus service to the city was consolidated at the terminal.
Original construction and additions
The South Wing of the PABT, originally built in the International Style, occupies the block between 40th and 41st Streets and 8th and 9th Avenues and was opened on December 15, 1950. A vertical addition of three parking levels able to accommodate 1,000 cars was completed in 1963. Plans to expand the bus station to 42nd Street were floated as early as 1965. The North Wing was opened in 1979. This expansion increased capacity by 50 percent and created a new façade comprising 27 steel X-shaped trusses. Based on this façade design, Virtualtourist listed the PABT in 2008 as one of the "World's Top 10 Ugliest Buildings and Monuments". In 2007, the South Wing underwent a seismic retrofit in a $52 million building code-compliance project to reinforce and stabilize it against earthquakes.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the area in and around the PABT was considered dangerous by police, tourists, and commuters due to high crime, prostitution, vagrant behavior, and inadequate upkeep and law enforcement in the building and nearby Times Square, especially after dark, but this is no longer the case. During 1997, the terminal was the subject of a study, coordinated by Professor Marcus Felson of Rutgers University, which identified strategic changes to the building's design and area supervision with a view to reducing crime and other problems.
In 1999, a 35-story building, to be known as 7 Times Square, was proposed to be constructed over the North Wing and a golf driving range was to be constructed over the South Wing. However, the project was put on hold in 2001 due to a decline in the economy following the dot com bust.
Between 2000 and 2011, the PANYNJ worked with Vornado Realty Trust, who had partnered with the Lawrence Ruben Company. In November 2007, the PANYNJ announced the terms of an agreement in which it would receive nearly $500 million in a lease arrangement for a new office tower that would also provide funds for additional terminal facilities. It would include 1,300,000 square feet (120,000 m2) of commercial space in a new office tower, which was to use the vanity address 20 Times Square, the addition of 60,000 square feet (5,600 m2) of new retail space in the bus terminal, as well as 18 additional departure gates, accommodating 70 additional buses carrying up to 3,000 passengers per hour. New escalators would be installed to help move passengers more quickly between the gate area and the ground floor. Construction was expected to begin in 2009 or 2010 and take four years to complete. After an architectural competition, the PANYNJ selected the design by Pritzker Prize–winning architect Richard Rogers from Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners for a 45-story office tower with an overall height of 855 feet (261 m). The agreement expired in August 2009, and in May 2010, Vornado was given a retroactive extension on the deadline to August 2011. In July 2011, Vornado announced they had found a new partner to partially finance the tower, but in November 2011, the new backers pulled out of the project.
In June 2014 the PANYNJ received a higher price than anticipated for the sale of nearby property, $115 million versus $100 million. The value of air rights above the terminal would be higher than previously appraised, thanks to rising property values in the area surrounding the terminal and an indication of the rising value air rights above the terminal. The agency had intentions to release a request for proposals for air-rights development in 2014-2015.
West Side bus depot
The Port Authority allows for limited layovers of buses, thus requiring companies to make other arrangements during off-peak hours and between trips. Many park on local streets or parking lots during the day while others make a round-trip without passengers through the Lincoln Tunnel to use facilities in New Jersey. Bus layover parking on city streets is regulated by the NYDOT, which assigns locations throughout the city. In the vicinity of the PABT, these are concentrated on the side streets between 9th and 12th Avenues from 30th Street to 60th Street.
Various studies and news reports have concluded that there is a need for a new bus depot in Midtown. In a joint study by NYC and PANYNJ, it was determined a preferred location for a bus depot was at Gavin Plaza located on 39th to 40th Streets between 10th and 11th Avenues. However, this proposed location for commuter buses would not have capacity for charter buses and tour buses.
The PANYNJ announced considerable toll increases on its crossings between New York and New Jersey in August 2011, citing as one of their reasons the construction of an $800 million "new bus garage connected to the Port Authority Bus Terminal, which will serve as a traffic reliever to the Lincoln Tunnel and midtown Manhattan streets, saving two-thirds of the empty bus trips that must make two extra trips through the tunnel each day." Originally included in the PANYNJ 2007-2016 Capital Plan, construction of the garage was scrapped by the agency in October 2011 after citing budgetary constraints due to an arrangement whereby the toll increases would be incrementally implemented.
In April 2012, the director of the PANYNJ reported that a proposal had been made by developer Larry Silverstein, who has a memorandum of understanding to develop this property at 39th Street near the ramps between the tunnel and the terminal, to construct a bus garage with a residential tower above it. This parcel is not large enough to accommodate bus ramps and would require the use of elevators, which seemed to be a new type of application for bus storage. It has not progressed any further.
Midtown Bus Master Plan
In June 2013, the PANYNJ commissioned an 18-month study that will consider reconfiguration, expansion, and replacement options for the PABT and new bus staging and storage facilities on Manhattan's West Side. The $5.5 million contract awarded to Kohn Pedersen Fox and Parsons Brinkerhoff would look into potential public-private financing, including the sale of air rights and cost-sharing with private bus carriers.
Art and advertising
The Commuters, a sculpture of three weary bus passengers and a clock salvaged from original terminal by George Segal, was unveiled in the main ticket area in 1982. 42nd Street Ballroom, a rolling ball sculpture by George Rhoads on the main floor of the North Wing, was installed in 1983. A statue of Jackie Gleason in the guise of one of his most famous characters, the bus driver Ralph Kramden, stands in front of the main entrance to the original South Wing. The plaque reads, "Jackie Gleason as Ralph Kramden - Bus Driver - Raccoon Lodge Treasurer - Dreamer - Presented by the People of TV Land".
Triple Bridge Gateway is an art illumination installation completed in 2009 by Leni Schwendinger Light Projects underneath the ramps connecting the tunnel and the terminal that is part of the transformation of the 9th Avenue entrance of the South Wing.
In July 2011, the PABT became home to the world's largest mediamesh, a stainless fabric embedded with light-emitting diodes (LEDs) for various types of media, art, and advertising imagery. The LED imagery façade covers 6,000 square feet radiating from the corner of 42nd Street and 8th Avenue.
Information and ticketing
For many years there was no timetable board displaying departures at the PABT; passengers were required to inquire at information booths or ticket counters for schedules and departure gates. In 2015 both the Port Authority and NJ Transit installed screens listing upcoming scheduled departures, though buses are not tracked so delays are not communicated via this method.
Tickets can be purchased on the main level (ground floor) of the South Wing at the main ticket plaza; the former Greyhound, Trailways and ShortLine Bus ticket counters have been closed and their operations consolidated at the main ticket plaza.
New Jersey Transit (NJT) maintains a customer service counter at the terminal on the south wing main level (open weekdays). NJT has ticket vending machines (TVM) throughout the terminal. Effective in 2009, passengers boarding NJT buses are required to purchase a ticket before boarding In April 2012, NJT began re-equipping machines that would give change for those paying cash with bills rather than $1 coins. NJT also accepts contactless payment systems, (including since October 2011 Google Wallet) at TVMs and ticket windows.
There are 223 departure gates of either saw-tooth or pull-through island platforms design at PABT. At the Subway Level, or lower level of both wings, Gates 1-85 are predominantly used for long-distance travel and jitneys, and overnight hours (1am-6am) for commuter lines. During hours of normal operation, (6am to 1am) Gates 200-425, numbered to indicate the different boarding areas (100, 200, 300, etc.) within the complex are accessible from the 2nd Floor and serve short-haul commuter lines. Most NJ Transit routes and New Jersey private carrier commuter routes are on the 200, 300 and 400 levels.
Retail and entertainment
Like other transit hubs the PABT has undergone a series of renovations to create a mall-like sphere to promote its retail, food, entertainment, and services spaces. There are numerous franchise stores—such as Heartland Brewery, Au bon pain, Jamba Juice, Starbucks, Hudson News, Duane Reade, GNC, Bolton's, a United States Postal Service branch station, as well as a variety of restaurants and bars throughout the terminal. Frames, a bowling alley (long known as Leisure Time Bowling) occupies a large space on the 2nd floor.
Direct underground passageways connect the terminal with the 1 2 3 7 <7> A C E N Q R S trains in the New York City Subway at the Times Square – 42nd Street / 42nd Street – Port Authority Bus Terminal station complex.
In the last decade, numerous jitney routes serving Hudson, Bergen and Passaic counties in Northern New Jersey originate at or in the vicinity of the bus terminal. Dollar vans, many operated by Spanish Transportation, to Paterson tend to use platforms on the lower level. Routes to Bergenline Avenue/GWB Plaza, and Boulevard East depart from 42nd Street outside bus terminal's North Wing. 
In 2011, a controversy arose when Megabus, a long-distance carrier using double-decker buses, with the permission of the New York City Department of Transportation, began to use the streets and sidewalk at the terminal. The director of the PANYNJ, citing safety, as well as long-haul companies paying rent to use the terminal, citing unfair competitive advantage, were opposed to the permission to allow the company use of 41st Street directly under the connection between the two wings of the Port Authority. Despite these concerns and complaints, Megabus was initially permitted to stay. However, the permit was withdrawn later that year. Megabus now largely uses street-side stops near the Jacob Javits Convention Center (for pickup) and Penn Station (for drop-off), except for a limited number of routes which use the PABT
Capacity and overflow
The PABT is the gateway for most bus and jitney traffic entering Manhattan with more than 190,000 passengers on 6,000 bus trips made through the Lincoln Tunnel and terminal daily. The Lincoln Tunnel Approach and Helix (NJ 495) in Hudson County, New Jersey passes through a cut and descends the Hudson Palisades to the Lincoln Tunnel at the other end of which is the PABT. Starting in 1964, studies were conducted to address the feasibility of an exclusive bus lane (XBL) during the weekday morning peak period. The XBL, first implemented in 1970, serves weekday eastbound bus traffic between 6:00am–10:00am. The lane is fed by the New Jersey Turnpike at Exits 16E and 17 and New Jersey Route 3. The helix, tunnel, and terminal are owned and operated by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the bi-state agency that also implements the 2.5-mile (4.02 km) contra-flow express bus left lane in three westbound lanes. The XBL serves over 1,800 buses and 65,000 bus commuters on regular weekday mornings and is a major component of the morning "inbound" commutation crossing the Hudson River. Over 100 bus carriers utilize the Exclusive Bus Lane. As of 2013, New Jersey Transit operates fifty-seven interstate bus routes through the Lincoln Tunnel, as do numerous regional and long distance companies.
Despite the XBL to the tunnel, there are often long delays due to congestion caused by the limited capacity of bus lanes for deboarding passengers at the bus terminal, which has reached its capacity. leading to re-routing and overflow on local streets In December 2011, the New Jersey Assembly passed a resolution calling upon the PANYNJ to address the issue of congestion. Congestion contributed to a decline of the on-time performance of buses, which was 92% percent in 2012 and 85% percent in the first quarter of 2014. Thomas Duane, representing New York's 29th Senate District which includes the area around the PABT, has also called for reduced congestion in the neighborhood. A consortium of regional transportation advocates, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, have proposed a reconfiguration and expansion of the terminal, a PM west bound XBL, bus stops at other Manhattan locations, and a new bus storage depot. A proposed bus garage in Midtown, so that day-time turnover buses could avoid unnecessarily traveling through the tunnel without passengers, was scrapped by the agency in October 2011. In May 2012, the commissioner of NJDOT suggested that some NJ Transit routes could originate/terminate at other Manhattan locations, notably the East Side; an arrangement requiring approval of the NYC Department of Transportation (NYCDOT) to use bus stops.
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The Port Authority Bus Terminal (PABT), in midtown Manhattan, is the largest and busiest bus passenger facility in the world. Used by both public and private bus carriers, the terminal has 223 bus gates, 1,250 spaces of public parking, along with commercial and retail space.
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- Port Authority Bus Terminal Website
- Port Authority Bus Terminal History
- Guide to the Port Authority Bus Terminal
- Buses, The Lincoln Tunnel, and The Port Authority Bus Terminal
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