By Kevin J. O’Toole, Chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey
The opinions expressed in this section are those of the submitting authors and do not necessarily represent the views of and may not be attributed as opinions of the Meadowlands Chamber or Meadowlands Media.
The economies of New Jersey and New York were connected long before there even was a United States. But it would take centuries before the political will and technological advances would literally connect the people of North Jersey to the metropolis to its east.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has been a key player in that figurative and literal bridge building for 100 years. The infrastructure that connects two great states – and transformed North Jersey into a global economic powerhouse, a major sports-entertainment destination and an incomparable place to raise families – was either built by or improved by the Port Authority.
In recent years, the Port Authority committed to rebuilding its three major airports. Notable progress on this ambitious goal is visible at Newark Liberty International, where a new terminal and a new car rental facility is taking shape, and at LaGuardia, where the once-vilified airport has become a stunning example of how the Port Authority can deliver massive complicated projects on time.
But there was one significant facility left out; a facility that – despite more than $100 million in recent quality-of-life improvements – is not delivering 21st century service to commuters. That is not surprising because it is a symbol not of this century, but of the previous one. I am, of course, referring to the Midtown Bus Terminal.
Labeled by comedian John Oliver as “the single worst place on Planet Earth,” the bus terminal, which opened in 1950, is outdated and insufficient in size to meet the needs of today.
I am happy to state the infamous bus terminal’s days are numbered.
In January, the Port Authority announced it had settled on a single, transformative plan for a new Midtown Bus Terminal. This is momentous.
Political leaders and community stakeholders agree this is the right plan. This is extraordinary.
The plan, the vision and the timing are all aligned. And this is in great part because of Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, D-Teaneck.
Senator Weinberg advocated for a new bus terminal even when few would listen. She has tirelessly focused on ensuring that the 260,000 New Jersey passengers who move through the bus terminal on a typical day will literally move through the bus terminal quickly, efficiently through modern concourses, and in commuter buses that will better navigate the terminal and surrounding streets.
- New Jersey commuters need a bus terminal designed for current and future capacity.
- Bus operators need a terminal designed to handle growing volume, facilitate the swift turnaround of buses inside the terminal, and that can accommodate future all-electric fleets with a 21st century charging structure.
- Local residents need a terminal that is part of their community, designed to welcome not only commuters and shoppers, but also the people who live around the facility with street-side storefronts and new public green space.
The plan unveiled by the Port Authority in January addresses these needs.
The new Midtown Bus Terminal will be built on its existing footprint, providing for a nearly 40% increase in capacity, removing congestion from local streets with the addition of a storage and staging facility, and because it will be built on the terminal’s existing footprint, will still offer commuters easy connections to 12 subway lines.
The terminal will expand west on Port Authority-owned property to include a facility for bus staging and for inter-city buses, with new ramps to the terminal. Supporting the Port Authority’s commitment to the tenets of the Paris Climate Agreement, the facility will also have a charging structure to support future all-electric fleets and create 3.5 acres of new green space in the surrounding neighborhood.
Multiple community meetings were held to listen to residents, businesses, public leaders and other stakeholders – many of whom pointed out the importance of getting idling buses and their emissions off local streets. Their combined input resulted in a better proposal – one that will yield a bus terminal that will both grow with and respect the community it serves.
As our region remains in the grips of a once-in-a-hundred-year pandemic, it may be hard to visualize life returning to the way it was before the coronavirus. History informs our present and guides us into the future.
In the years following the influenza pandemic of 1918, the nation did not go backwards, but forward. It “roared” into the next decade. And the Port Authority, created on April 30, 1921, was there at that transformational moment.
I cannot predict the future, but I know New Jerseyans.
We move forward. We innovate. We create the technologies of tomorrow today.
That unique Jersey spirit will drive a regional economic recovery. And when it comes to understanding “driving,” the Port Authority has and will take the lead.
We will build a new Midtown Bus Terminal to serve the needs of a region on the move. The Port Authority did it in 1950. It will do now. This new world-class, 21st facility may still be called a terminal, but it will be the beginning of something new.