Dec 7, 2011

So, You've Arrived by Bus: Short Walks to NYC Attractions from the Port Authority Bus Terminal

Due to its proximity to many of the city's well-known attractions and transit stations, the Port Authority Bus Terminal, located just a long block west of Times Square, is also one of the most convenient points of entry to the city. In addition to the Theater District, many popular destinations are within easy walking distance, including Bryant Park, Madison Square Garden, Herald Square, Rockefeller Center, and more. Even MoMA or the top of the High Line are only about a mile away, making for a pleasant walk on fair weather days. With 200,000 people making use of the facility every day, the equivalent of the population of a large city, the Port Authority Bus Terminal is not surprisingly the largest bus terminal in the world.

Port Authority holidays
Interior, Port Authority Bus Terminal, decorated for the holidays.




View Arriving by Bus in NYC: Short Walks from the Port Authority in a larger map

The Port Authority Bus Terminal opened December 15, 1950, amidst New York's postwar boom, largely to consolidate the chaos of multiple bus lines congesting the streets at various locations. Ralph Kramden, Jackie Gleason's character in The Honeymooners, drove a bus for the fictional Gotham Bus Company, a business operating out of 225 River Street. A weighty bronze statue of Kramden by artist Lawrence J. Nowlan, Jr. and unveiled in 2000, a commission by Viacom's TV Land (part of a series that includes a Bewitched statue in Salem, Massachusetts), stands just outside one of the front doors of the Port Authority on 8th Avenue.

Port Authority (Ralph Kramden statue)
Statue of Ralph Kramden, bus driver for the Gotham Bus Company,
personified by Brooklyn native, Jackie Gleason in The Honeymooners.
In front of the Port Authority Bus Terminal, 8th Avenue.

After its opening, the Port Authority could barely keep up with increasing demand at the location. Ten years later, in 1960, the terminal underwent a major expansion, adding three levels of parking spaces for commuters arriving by car. A decade later, the terminal allocated a bus-only two-mile lane to alleviate bus congestion entering the city from New Jersey. In the decades that followed, the terminal added a north wing, many more dozens of mall-type stores, and a structural girded facade that modernized its appearance. (Source: Port Authority website)

Over time, both the bus terminal and nearby Times Square cleaned up their acts. Yet, once again, the Port Authority is showing some wear, especially in context of recent construction. The Renzo Piano-designed high-tech glass and steel tower for The New York Times faces the terminal on the 8th Avenue side, making the terminal look outdated. In addition, many of the buses are now far removed from their dingier past, especially the swank new types outfitted with free WiFi and ample leg room, and they, too, seem much fancier than the Port Authority building.

Port Authority
Port Authority Bus Terminal, exterior. 8th Avenue and W. 41st Street.

The Port Authority Bus Terminal is situated on increasingly valuable West Side real estate. In recent developments, a major city developer tried to construct a large tower, designed by Richard Rogers, over the terminal, along with renovations to the facility below. (see story in The New York Times.) Although those plans seem to have been dropped, another idea may come along soon.

Port Authority
an entrance to Port Authority, 8th Avenue.

In the meantime, the Port Authority area seems to have no shortage of beer. Heartland Brewery has opened a location in the building, and a new place called the Beer Authority will be unveiled soon across from the terminal on the southwest corner of W. 40th Street and 8th Avenue, complete with advertised home cooking and a rooftop garden. While waiting for the bus, be sure to also check out the very nice Frames (formerly Leisure Time Bowl), a modern entertainment facility with a bistro, a bar, and bowling lanes, toward the 9th Avenue side of the building. If there's no time for a walk to MoMA, enjoy the 1980 George Segal sculpture, The Commuters, inside the terminal.

Beer Authority/Port Authority
The Beer Authority, opening soon across the street from the Port Authority on W. 40th St.

Port Authority bowling and lounge
Frames, an entertainment venue with bowling lanes, inside the Port Authority.

Port Authority: George Segal's "The Commuters" (1980)
Sculpture by George Segal titled The Commuters (1980). Port Authority.

* See the official website for the Port Authority Bus Terminal for more history and information.

Images by Walking Off the Big Apple from a rainy afternoon, December 6, 2011.

See also these related posts:
Ten Shorts Walks From Grand Central Terminal
From Penn Station to New York Landmarks: Measuring Walking Distance and Time in Manhattan

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