By Stan Paul
The Port Authority Bus Terminal of New York traces its roots back to the late 1930s, the days of Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, a skyline already filled with iconic skyscrapers such as the Empire State Building and city streets crowded with interstate bus traffic.
Since its opening in 1950, and expansion in 1979, demand for the aging icon’s services has continued to grow beyond its capacity.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has announced the selection of eight experts who will serve as the jury for a two-phase Port Authority Bus Terminal Design and Deliverability Competition. Helping the Port Authority realize its vision of transportation needs through 2040 — nearly a century after its founding — will be Martin Wachs, professor emeritus in the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs’ Department of Urban Planning.
“The opportunity to play a role in the development of one of the nation’s most important transportation terminals is enormously satisfying because I have always tried to relate teaching and research to current policy challenges,” said Wachs, who will chair the design jury. “This is a complex project, the jury is composed of wise and experienced people, and the entries are creative and varied.”
Today, the “gateway to New York,” located in midtown Manhattan near Times Square, serves more than 7,000 buses daily and more than 220,000 passengers on an average weekday. That is expected to increase to 270,000 daily peak hour passengers by 2020 and approximately 337,000 by 2040. It is linked to the Lincoln Tunnel, with access to more than 90,000 peak-period weekday bus commuters; 11 subway lines; five City transit bus lines; and pedestrian access to offices, theaters, shopping and entertainment in the surrounding city. It is the largest and busiest facility of its kind in the world, according to Port Authority history.
Wachs’ fellow jury members include experts in urban planning, transportation operations, architecture, construction management, engineering and other fields.
Wachs is expected to present the jury’s recommendations to Port Authority Board of Commissioners at their September meeting. The board will make the final decision.
“The jury will help inform the design of a bus terminal that will be scalable to meet future needs, and that the Port Authority can have confidence will be delivered on time and on budget using our limited capital resources, that maximizes the value of PA-owned air rights and real estate, and reduces the $100 million-plus annual operating loss at the existing facility while addressing concerns of the local community and City of New York,” Port Authority Executive Director Pat Foye said.
Wachs has served as a professor of civil and environmental engineering and professor of city and regional planning at the University of California, Berkeley, where he also served as director of the Institute of Transportation Studies. Prior to this, he spent 25 years at UCLA, where he served three terms as chairman of the Department of Urban Planning. He retired as senior principal researcher and director of the Transportation, Space and Technology Program at the RAND Corporation.
Wachs is the author of 160 articles and four books on subjects related to relationships between transportation, land use and air quality; transportation systems; and the use of performance measurement in transportation planning. His research addresses issues of equity in transportation policy, problems of crime in public transit systems and the response of transportation systems to natural disasters, including earthquakes. His most recent work focuses on transportation finance in relation to planning and policy.
He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, two Rockefeller Foundation Humanities Fellowships, a UCLA Alumni Association Distinguished Teaching Award, the Pyke Johnson Award for the best paper presented at an annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board (TRB) and the Carey Award for service to the TRB.
The entire Port Authority release and list of jury members may be found here.