An alternate route to a new Port Authority bus terminal

Now that LaGuardia Airport will no longer need its label as New York’s “Third World” transportation facility, the fitting title should be awarded to the decrepit Port Authority Bus Terminal. It’s only a few chickens short.

While the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is doing well in modernizing the busy airport, its plans for another gateway to New York City are ill-conceived and too narrow. Right now, there is a design competition for its $10 billion plan to build a new terminal. The problem is that the competition only contemplates a single terminal on the west side of Manhattan, likely near the current one. Port Authority officials have eliminated other potential locations, including the idea of a terminal in New Jersey, perhaps partnered with a smaller Manhattan facility.

Port Authority chairman John Degnan, of New Jersey, has rejected requests from New York officials and advocates to reconsider, stop the process and start a better one. But that’s what should happen. Degnan is wrong to dismiss New York’s legitimate objections simply by saying that he thinks a bus terminal has to be in Manhattan, or that Port Authority staff already looked at other locations, or that the competition is two months from completion.

Politics is a blood sport at the Port Authority. Let’s not forget that Bridgegate has led to indictments and guilty pleas, and that the federal probe isn’t closed yet. But it’s time to keep an open mind to doing the right thing. City officials are rightly worried about where a terminal might go, what businesses it might replace, the environmental impact, and the failure to keep NYC in the communications loop. Last-minute efforts to hold briefings miss the point.

Degnan wants the Port Authority board to close the competition in October and vote for a winning location and design as early as November. That’s misguided. Start anew with a process open to all possibilities in both states. Involve the communities, begin new conversations with city officials and develop a plan that makes sense. Only then can we choose winning designs and locations, create pretty renderings, and start building a new bus terminal.