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NYPD emergency service and FDNY personnel examine the inside of a building in Brooklyn after a steel beam fell on the hand of a construction worker on Wednesday. Boarding an intercity bus today doesn't often resemble what riders experienced before the late 20th century decline of Greyhound. If you're unfortunate enough to be one of the 65 million annual bus riders who arrive in New York City via the Port Authority Bus Terminal, you will not be greeted by the grandeur that Frank Sinatra promised.
The light in the cavernous bus station is a strained, pee-stained yellow, free of natural inflections.
This growth in intercity bus travel is coming overwhelmingly from shorter trips, between 150 and 300 miles.
What terminals do exist are often unclean, uncomfortable and unequipped to handle new volumes of travelers. While it's true that there are a number of intriguing new intercity rail lines in the works in a handful of regions around the country, it's important to remember that this is a big, big country: in many more places, reliable rail connections are just not feasible. Blytheville, Arkansas' Greyhound Bus Station, built in 1937, is one of the few stylish Art Deco stations left in the country. The civic opening ceremonies that welcomed bus terminals throughout much of the twentieth century, whether in small and large urban centers, were not simply gestures of public relations towards business or voters.
These terminals were stocked with amenities: restaurants and quicker food options, clean restrooms, newsstands, telephones, information desks, and well-lit waiting areas. Bus service fell nearly two percent between 1960 and 1980, and then another 4 percent between 1980 and 2002. On the other end of the spectrum, some cities forbid curbside operators from using the street as a terminus at all. Internal BoltBus research also found that 70 percent of its ridership uses public transportation to travel to or away from a bus terminus, meaning that a stop’s proximity to mass transit is a big priority as well. The curbside bus model often precludes unscheduled inspections, meaning that inspectors have fewer opportunities to discover safety violations.Additionally, fixed bus terminals make using intercity buses themselves easier for passengers, who no longer have to deal with the changing permitting whims of city officials who decide where buses are allowed to load and unload.
The entrance to Union Station's newly redesigned garage-turned -bus terminal, including an information booth (front right), a convenience store (back right) and a sheltered waiting area (center, behind the escalator). In Minneapolis, business owners complained riders waiting at a Megabus stop on 3rd Street and Chicago Avenue South were taking refuge from the cold in their shops. Dolan visits the Bronx, construction takes over Times Square and children enjoy the Atlantic Antic street festival. Its halls are labyrinthine and too hot, its signage confusing, and its smells (I’ll spare you the adjectives) are very, very bad. After four consecutive decades of decline, the industry shot up an average 9 percent between 2006 and 2008, according to DePaul University’s Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development.


In the Northeast corridor, where intercity buses have been particularly successful, rides partially insulate customers from proposed congestion pricing and rising tolls.
And yet despite all this, the country’s intercity bus infrastructure has fallen into disrepair. Large, new and modern stations suffered when populations shifted to the suburbs, leaving bus managers with sunk costs that prevented them from following potential riders to the edges of the crabgrass frontier. In the first decade of this century, a network of intercity buses sprang up to service the highly mobile Chinese immigrant community. City authorities gave Boston’s South Station Bus Terminal new life when they prohibited curbside pickup in 2004, moving intercity buses back into the terminal. For Harry Blunt, the owner of New Hampshire-based Concord Coach Lines (which only occasionally operates as a curbside company), attractive and welcoming bus terminals are a top-line priority.
A 2011 National Transportation Safety Board report found that the curbside bus model often precludes unscheduled inspections, meaning that inspectors have fewer opportunities to discover safety violations.
Permanent residents include Greyhound, Bolt Bus, Megabus and local bus service Washington Deluxe. Megabus paid nothing in renovations, says spokesman Mike Alvich, and shells out a modest fee to rent the garage. Francis of Assisi School at the opening of The Catherine Corry Early Childhood Academy in the Bronx on Monday. Given such "ambiance," it's perhaps not surprising that the local NBC affiliate produced an investigative piece last summer on whether or not the terminal is a safe place to be. Still, this is just a drop in the bucket for the joint agency, which budgeted [PDF] $4.4 billion in capital investment in 2014 alone. Sixty-seven percent of discount curbside operator BoltBus’s ridership falls in the 18-34 demographic, according to the company.
And despite some bus lines' reputations as poorly regulated death traps, research from the National Transportation Safety Board shows that travel by bus is actually much safer than riding in a car. While the changing shape of the industry means that bus stations are no longer the necessary staging grounds they once were, what terminals do exist are often unclean, uncomfortable and unequipped to handle new volumes of travelers. The intercity bus industry brought travelers and trade to the area and stylish terminals were at the core of that enterprise. With one-way fares between Boston and New York City as low as $15, these services benefited from deregulation, which permitted them to operate without having to rent slots in bus terminals. Megabus, owned by British company Stagecoach Group, began offering Chicago-based service in 2006, while BoltBus, operated by Greyhound and Peter Pan, launched in the Northeast in 2008. Though curbside bus companies must still pay for various permits to arrive and depart from city streets, many of them still save money by staying out of terminals. Without inspections, the agency concluded, a carrier’s safety performance cannot be properly evaluated.


Indeed, there are numerous examples of curbside operators and municipal authorities re-purposing less-than-appealing spaces to create safer, warmer and even amenity-filled places for people to wait for their rides. The move spelled the end for the city’s dilapidated, isolated and unpleasant Greyhound bus station, which sat uncomfortably between two Metro stations.
BoltBus, which has raised ticket prices moderately to compensate for the increased overheard, says customers haven’t shied away from the uptick.
Bus travel in this country may never be glamorous, but it could definitely be more pleasant than what many U.S.
Chaddick announced last month that city-to-city carriers saw a 2.1 percent increase in daily scheduled operations in 2014, which means that nationwide, express bus carriers have doubled their offerings from just four years ago. Those riders come, says BoltBus General Manager David Hall, because they’re attracted to cheap tickets, in-seat outlets and (sometimes spotty) Wi-Fi connections.
Newer curbside bus services, which exist thanks to deregulation that came to the bus industry in the 1980s, often stay in the black because their business models avoid the costs associated with renting space in terminals. In the interbellum bus boom, Art Deco stations in the central business districts of America's biggest cities were points of civic pride. Meanwhile, the rise of the personal automobile and air travel made the bus seem unsophisticated.
And these companies quickly found that travelers were willing to pay a bit more for better amenities and more reliable service. After access to public transit, BoltBus needs “a nice, safe area to load and unload that is well-lit and has facilities," he says.
It also got curbside buses off the street, after years of being forced to hop around the city in search of stops that appeased policymakers and didn't disrupt local traffic. While the space has a roof, protecting riders from sun and rain, it’s still open and subject to extreme heat and cold. And Union Station is winning, too: A BoltBus company survey found that a third of customers are buying something in the transportation complex.
But operating on the street at unlabeled, ad-hoc bus stops also means that bus operators are subject to the whims of city planners, who can constantly force companies to change their drop-off and pick-up spots to accommodate local traffic and businesses. The price tag , $7.5 million, may seem substantial, but it's a pittance for a major transportation renovation project, particularly one that also includes the cost of constructing off-site parking lots.
But the 1,000 square-foot space has clear signage that makes it easy for customers to tell where they should wait for which  buses. Most crucially, the terminal is just steps away from an Amtrak hub, the commuter train out to Maryland, and the D.C.



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