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
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.