Lou Venech



My fondest agency recollections center on my favorite facility: the Port Authority Bus Terminal – an affection that began as a youngster.

Born and raised in Perth Amboy (with extended family in Brooklyn), the “Port Authority” was my portal to Manhattan’s many attractions. I would take a Transport of New Jersey bus, and with each trip widen my walking radius from the PABT to visit bookstores, hobby shops, and movie theaters. Later, attending college in Manhattan, I made weekend bus trips home and back at all hours.

I was proud as a new employee to be part of the team that labored in the late Eighties and beyond to turn around conditions at the PABT, including development of facility rules-and-regulations signage we pioneered for transportation facilities. This provided a legal basis to control loitering and last-resort sheltering by homeless individuals there, reflecting the notorious conditions around Times Square.

Other PARA stalwarts also will recall our Executive Directors’ assertive support for the campaign to “save” the PABT – Steve Berger’s, “This is for the people who rely on public transit and can’t just roll up their windows,” and Stan Brezenoff’s on-site video message supporting the effort. It made a difference.

Shortly thereafter, I joined then-PABT manager Ken Philmus and colleagues to review a consultant’s report detailing 99 recommendations to improve the terminal. We successfully pushed back against user-unfriendly ideas like eliminating all but one restroom for each gender. Planning, TB&T, and Traffic Engineering staff fought many battles to mitigate impacts on the PABT (and Lincoln Tunnel) operations and structures from development plans and traffic and transit schemes advanced with little regard for the importance and delicacy of our operations.

Finally, I had the honor in 2017 of managing a fast-turnaround planning study commissioned by the Board hoping for a menu of alternative trans-Hudson transit enhancements that would allow scaling down the size (and cost) of a replacement terminal. Working as an interdepartmental team, we delivered timely findings to our Commissioners: even best-case ridership estimates for other near-and-long-term options would not obviate the long-term need for a more capacious PABT. We also showed that operational and physical upgrades on the tunnel approaches could add throughput capacity to support expanded peak-hour bus operations.

Having known the PABT as a grateful young customer, joining agency colleagues as one of its stewards and advocates was a labor of love. It is heartening that PANYNJ leadership has affirmed plans for a modern new bus terminal. Let the public equate “Port Authority” with the PABT. Every employee I knew who spent time there understood that it embodies PANYNJ’s mission to serve diverse travelers in their daily lives and the pursuit of their aspirations. That mission endures. There are generations to come of commuters, day-trippers, intercity travelers, fresh-air-camp kids, and others. May it be there for all of them.



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Last modified: Tuesday, May 11, 2021 04:08:53 PM