The underground passageway where an alleged terrorist exploded a pipe bomb during the Monday morning rush hour is a key component of one of the transportation nerve centers of New York City, a spot where hundreds of thousands of people converge every day as they hustle to work.
Right upstairs, the Port Authority bus terminal on Eighth Avenue between 40th and 42nd streets is the largest in the nation and one of the busiest bus terminals in the world, according to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
The passageway, running along 41st Street between Eighth Avenue and Times Square, feeds commuters from New Jersey into the city’s web of subway lines. It’s also a transfer point between two of the city’s main subway systems.
Bombing suspect Akayed Ullah, 27, of Brooklyn, “picked his spot well” if his goal was creating mass mayhem and terror, said Martin Robins of the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center at Rutgers University. “Happily he didn’t cause the kind of damage that he could have done potentially.”
John Raskin of the Riders Alliance, a grassroots organization of subway and bus riders in New York, said, “This is probably one of the corridors in the city with the most foot traffic, just because it is a key part of so many people’s commutes.”
The non-descript passageway, a drab tile and concrete corridor with no stores, connects the bus station and its nearby subway A, C and E lines on Eighth Avenue with the Times Square subway station on Seventh Avenue.
The Times Square station has stops for the 1, 2 and 3 subway lines, while the Queens-bound No. 7 train is nearby. Also there is the subway shuttle connecting Times Square with Grand Central Station. Not far away are the N, Q, R and W trains.
“The Times Square-42nd Street subway station is one of the busiest transit spots in the Western Hemisphere, right up there with Penn Station and Grand Central,” Raskin said.
The Port Authority estimates there are about 220,000 passenger trips and more than 7,000 bus movements in the aging terminal each day.
“People can come out of the Port Authority bus terminal and get into the web of passageways and stay out of the rain and the snow and the cold and get into the subway system,” Robins said.
William Henderson, head of the MTA’s Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee, said the attack “is something that everybody can relate to. It’s scary. You could be on your normal commute on the way in and be a target.”