New bus terminal overdue in a new century

Midtown Manhattan urgently needs a brand-new, world-class bus station, and until recently that has been the impossible dream.

But now some wheels are turning that could someday — cross your fingers — make the depressingly dingy Port Authority Bus Terminal a thing of the past.

When the terminal opened in 1950 at Eighth Avenue and 42nd Street, according to an authorized Port Authority history, commuters were “awed” by snazzy flourishes like an art deco design and mirror-like floors of polished stone.

Today’s commuters from New Jersey and Pennsylvania are more like gobsmacked by the scene. And furious.

Passengers arriving in the morning say the building’s air conditioning system rivals only the station’s escalators in terms of unreliability.

It’s not unusual, they complain, to arrive at the station late, huff down staircases with laptops and other gear in tow and then emerge into a building that feels hotter than West Texas in August.

Midtown employers also hate the system’s unreliability.

Meanwhile, residents of nearby neighborhoods like Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen and Clinton aren’t exactly living on easy street. They’re angry, too, because platform space is so scarce in the terminal, buses wind up circling local streets until slots open up.

The result is congestion, air pollution and noise.

The authority says it’s working on that mess.

For starters, it said last week it would spend $90 million to fix crumbling ceilings, exposed wires and the lousy air conditioning. But that’s the small stuff.

Here’s the big thing: The West Side construction boom has driven the value of air rights over the old terminal and other agency properties in the area heavenward.

This means that a new $600-million Port Authority Bus Terminal might be possible. This also means that a new $400-million bus garage in the area — to be used as a staging area — could help alleviate street congestion. So far, the idea is merely a suggestion by a few Port Authority commissioners. But it’s time to bring back the awe.