For decades, commuters from Northeastern Pennsylvania to Midtown Manhattan have been third-class citizens.
The first-class citizens are those who take Metro-North Railroad into Grand Central Terminal, where trains are rarely delayed, track assignments are known way in advance, and a well-lit concourse welcomes you into the city.
The second-class citizens are those who take NJ Transit into Penn Station, where delays are frequent, tracks are assigned at the last minute – leading to a hurried, mad dash to your train – and dingy stairwells and escalators lead you above ground.
Yet for those who commute into the city from Wilkes-Barre, Scranton or the Poconos, even soul-crushing Penn Station is preferable to Port Authority Bus Terminal, which is filthy, chaotic and just generally awful.
On Thursday, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the bus terminal at Eighth Avenue and 42nd Street, finally took steps to change that dynamic. Its board members approved a plan to completely replace the terminal with a brand-new station a block away – between Ninth and 10th avenues.
And it’s about time.
An international design competition will be held to determine what the station will look like. Little is known beyond that other than the building presumably will be bigger; the current station handles 200,000 people per day, and the Port Authority believes that number of passengers will double by 2040.
That’s in no small part to the increasing number of us who commute into the city from as far away as our area. As recently as last year, Martz increased its buses from Wilkes-Barre and Scranton to Port Authority due to higher demand. Bus service is now so frequent that its downtown bus terminal in Wilkes-Barre operates nearly 24 hours per day. (The last bus from Port Authority leaves New York at 12:30 a.m. and arrives in Wilkes-Barre at 3:30 a.m.; the first bus from Wilkes-Barre for New York leaves at 4:05 a.m.)
Commuters from our area face some of the longest commutes in the four-state New York metro area. Having to enter and leave the city through the pit of despair that is Port Authority merely adds insult to injury. It’s great that those commutes someday will involve a terminal that’s clean, well-organized and functional.