July 23 (Bloomberg) -- The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey’s Manhattan bus terminal, the world’s busiest, is getting some attention after decades of neglect.
Commissioners today recommended spending an additional $90 million to improve on-time service, fix leaky ceilings and even create a response team for heating and air conditioning repairs at the 64-year-old Times Square behemoth.
“This is a terminal and facility that’s really in bad shape,” said Vice Chairman Scott Rechler at a meeting of the agency’s committee on capital planning. “Longer term, we really need a new bus terminal.”
About $170 million, or less than 1 percent, of the Port Authority’s $27.6 billion 10-year capital plan is allocated to the station. By contrast, the PATH train system, which carries about half as many people into the city from New Jersey, will get $3.3 billion, or 12 percent.
Critics of the current allocation, including Kenneth Lipper, a commissioner appointed by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, and New Jersey state Senator Loretta Weinberg have said the funds are insufficient given the needs of the facility, which serves more than 200,000 commuters daily.
The depot, which is operating beyond capacity, loses almost $100 million annually even as the number of people crossing the Hudson on a typical workday has grown by 500,000 since the 1950s.
The transportation agency plans to reallocate the $90 million from the existing capital plan to improve the daily commute. It plans to rearrange gates and monitor escalators to alleviate crowding, install a bus-tracking system, renovate the second-floor restrooms and step up cleaning and repairs.
The Port Authority has also applied for a $230 million federal grant to help finance a new bus parking area over the north tube of the Lincoln Tunnel. A comprehensive improvement plan will be presented to the board in September, said Executive Director Patrick Foye.
Weinberg, who represents Bergen County and thousands of bus commuters, said she was delighted with the Port Authority’s movement.
“This is about what people should expect on a normal commute,” she said at a board meeting that followed the committee session.
While a consensus has formed among commissioners to replace the the terminal, newly appointed Chairman John Degnan estimated building a new one would take as long as 15 years. A plan to fund a new depot by selling air rights to a developer for a skyscraper over the current terminal fell apart in 2011 because of a slowdown in the real estate market.
Selling air rights, which could generate “hundreds of millions of dollars,” will probably be a key component in financing a new terminal, Foye said.
“Real estate investment on that part of the West Side of Manhattan continues to be significant opportunity,” he said.
Degnan, an ex-New Jersey attorney general and former chief operating officer of Chubb Corp., was nominated by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to replace David Samson. Samson resigned amid investigations by state lawmakers and the U.S. Attorney’s office into intentional traffic jams at the George Washington Bridge and scrutiny of contracts awarded to clients of his law firm.
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