World Trade Center Transportation Hub: A Greed Odyssey

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(J.C. Rice)

Neo-futuristic Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava designed the glimmering new, not-yet-completed train station at the World Trade Center. Its estimated cost, a mere $4 billion, twice the amount anticipated during the initial planning stages in 2004. The WTC station services about 40,000 commuters a day, in contrast with the Port Authority Bus Terminal (PABT) at 42nd Street, which averages 250,000 commuters a day.

The centerpiece of the WTC train station or “transportation hub” is called the Oculus and is larger than Grand Central Station’s main concourse. It has a roof with two movable wings that are meant to open to the sky, like a “bird taking flight,” says Calatrava. At first glance, it looks more like a stegosaurus to me.

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(Kordite)

“The hub is a project driven by institutional ambition, and once begun, the decisions that have made it so costly became irreversible,” said Lynne Sagalyn, director of the Paul Milstein Center for Real Estate at the Columbia Business School. She is, funnily enough, writing a book about the WTC redevelopment. Ah, to have endless streams of money for boondoggle projects . . .  Patrick Foye, PA’s executive director, envisions the hub as a “world-class transit gateway” that would “help transform Lower Manhattan into a thriving 24/7 neighborhood.”

interior of WTC transit hub

(skyscraperpage.com) Brave New World?

In June, my husband and I attended a public forum regarding the state of New Jersey Transit (NJT) bus service and the state of PABT. Senator Loretta Weinberg (D-NJ) and officials from PA and NJT were on hand. Senator Weinberg seemed in full support of the commuters’ plight, but it was more of a pep rally for the PA and NJT officials, who, judging by their statements, must never ride the buses. PA “has set aside just 0.002 percent of its $27 billion, 10-year capital budget for improvements at the bus terminal.”

PABT was last renovated in 1979, when it was a hot-bed of prostitution, drug dealing and general sleaziness. Honestly, not much has changed: I see a whole cast of characters lined up every night outside the sliding glass doors who are clearly not living the Dream.

Ralph Kramden statue at rush hour (evening) (Erica Herd)

(E. Herd)

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Terminal, it is cramped and filthy; the buses often do not run on time; the gates service up to 5 or 6 different bus lines, making overcrowding commonplace. However, I must give credit where credit is due. Since the District 37 bus forum with Senator Weinberg in June 2014, the bus lines have been shorter and the wait more bearable–due to the installation of “starters” (dispatchers) at the gates.

Gate 224 (2)  9-3-14

(E. Herd)

The ceilings are leaking and damaged, covered with makeshift tarp-like material from which garden hoses spring and empty into filthy yellow trash cans.

trash can

(E. Herd) Trash can at gate catching drippings from light fixture, 12/3/14

Sometimes you’re fortunate enough to get dripped on while waiting for your bus to arrive. The escalators leading up to the gates are caked with grime, food and other unidentifiable filth and generally non-functioning. AC is non-existent, although industrial sized stand up fans have recently been installed. The inside of the buses are filthy too–but that’s another story. There is no garage-type facility to house the buses, so they must wait in New Jersey, and circle around Manhattan streets (they are not permitted to “stand”), or drivers risk being fined by the police. Not an efficient system, to say the least.

PA has spent $7.7 billion to rebuild the World Trade Center (that includes the train hub), and was then sued by a citizens watch group because they refused to disclose financial information regarding the re-building. The $7.7 billion is borrowed money. Due to their enormous debts, PA lacks funds for much needed infrastructure and transportation projects in NY. It was prepared to give Silverstein Properties a $1.2 billion loan guarantee for construction of the 72-story 3 WTC, but that deal fell through.

In July, former NJ attorney general John Degnan was appointed new PA Chairman and immediately pushed through funding of $90 million for “emergency” repairs of the bus terminal. A drop in the bucket compared to what’s been spent on the WTC and deals with Silverstein.

I have nothing against progress, but I wonder who is truly benefiting from this monstrosity, I mean train hub. I don’t imagine that commuters using the WTC station will be frequenting the high-end underground shops, but hey, you never know.

Selfishly, I might not mind so much if some of that money were being spent on the 42nd Street bus terminal. After all, the working slobs’ (me included) bus fare and tolls (yes, we drive sometimes) keep Port Authority alive and kicking.  Hey, and the tolls just went sky high.  Where is our “bird in flight”? I want a giant, winged airy structure / stegosaurus to amble through morning and night, and expensive store windows to press my runny nose up against, Oliver Twist-like. Throw us a bone, if not a bird in flight!

The next Bus Rider Forum with Senator Weinberg and officials from Port Authority and NJ Transit is scheduled for December 11 at the Rodda Community Center in Teaneck on December 11. I’ll let you know how it goes.

 

Why Does He Sit Next to Me?

commuter on bus

(photo: Mo Riza, flickr)

The man in a trench coat
who smells like pencil shavings
makes the sign of the cross
three times during the trip to NYC
I wish he wouldn’t sit next to me

He fidgets and clears his throat
loudly,
never reads
I know he wants to talk
but I don’t
Why does he sit next to me?

He used to have a bus buddy
they chatted the entire way
never see her anymore
now he drifts from seat to seat,
hoping for camaraderie (I think)
I want to read or listen to music,
clear my head for the work day
Why does he sit next to me?

He tells the bus driver to “Have a safe day.”

‘Twas All Hallows’ Eve

‘Twas All Hallows’ Eve and all through the bus
commuters were stirring, but no one threw up

A passenger clipping his nails behind me
another jerking and clearing his throat beside me

I put on my headphones to block out the sound
until in Port Authority we were safely aground

The bus driver said, “Have a good weekend;” we wished her the same
“Thank God it’s Friday” was our refrain

On the streets of Manhattan, a bracing autumn day
a man spat right in front of me and blithely went on his way

I look forward to tonight with the trick or treaters—
costumes and candies and toilet paper streamers
I welcome hobgoblins, zombies, Spiderman and ghosts,
witches, Frozen, Miley Cyrus with a big foam finger and other weird folks

What I won’t abide are the Rude Ones, you know who you are–
elbowers, seat jerkers, nail clippers, hummers, near and far
people whose seats drop in your lap, those who shove you with mighty thighs
open-mouth coughers, loud cell phone talkers, you who play videos without earphones– fie!

No candy for you, this is my decree
a pox on you Rude Ones—begone with thee!

Rush Hour

Transcript of announcement (female voice):  Please be advised that the Port Authority Bus Terminal is experiencing both inbound and outbound delays due to heavy volume. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused. (I recorded this at PABT)

The reasons for delays are always one of three:
(1) heavy volume,
(2) inclement weather (even when it’s sunny) or
(3) police activity in the Lincoln Tunnel.

PA 9-3-14photo

Gate 224 9-3-14Gate 224 (2)  9-3-14

(above photos: Erica Herd)

The National Guard is often on duty, but, unfortunately, they are unable to speed the passage of buses into the terminal.

National Guard at PA

(photo credit: http://www.army.mil)

For more info on the Port Authority Bus Terminal (if you dare),  check out this article.

And here’s comedian John Oliver’s take on PABT.