The Port Authority Bus Terminal: Myth, Mystery, Mess

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The Port Authority Bus Terminal: Myth, Mystery, Mess

The Port Authority Bus Terminal: Myth, Mystery, Mess

A sordid history full of egos, sabotage and reputation issues made New York’s main entry point the city’s most intensely used as well as its most hated building.

For many coming to New York City, the available entry is the Port Authority Bus Terminal (PABT). However, if a traveler seeks the charm of a grand entrance, they will be greatly disappointed. The PABT is considered, colloquially, to be a hall of unfathomable nightmares. As one Yelp! reviewer put it:

“If I die and go to hell, I think it might resemble this.”

With another cryptically writing:

“Nothing makes sense. I will never be the same.”

Despite this general, frothy disdain there is no suggestion of tearing it down. In fact as of Summer 2014, it is slated approximately $90 million for improvement renovations. How then did a place so hated even come to be? The answer is a tale of necessity, ego and intention gone horribly awry.

A Dark and Stormy Night

In 1921 New York City had a problem (one of many): Hundreds of buses were navigating to different drop-off locations, causing commuter havoc. It was through this storm a cross-state agency called “The Port Authority” was formed.

23 years later (under the leadership of Frank Ferguson) the Port Authority announced their intent of creating “The World’s Largest Bus Terminal”. A project to be funded, designed, constructed and operated by the agency itself. No specific architect was highlighted in this planning, leading several to believe the structure would be designed by committee. It almost certainly was. However it would not be until 1946, that the stars would be aligned for construction. The delay came down to the famous and infamous commissioner, Robert Moses.

Moses had developed a deep hatred towards public transportation and made it his mission to eliminate it. Without a charismatic figure to oppose him, it seemed the Commissioner had no obstacle. Allied with the Greyhound Bus Company, he mounted a two-year counterattack against the proposed terminal but was eventually beaten. The PABT construction had been a rare defeat for Moses, but he was not done fighting.[…]

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