The 66-year-old Port Authority Bus Terminal in midtown Manhattan is showing its age.

Engineers in the city estimate that, due to structural concerns, the building will need to be torn down in about 20 years.

  • Last year, Port Authority commissioners from New York and New Jersey met to decide on a design for a new terminal, but were unable to reach a consensus.
  • Now they’re inviting anyone with an interest in architecture, engineering or transportation to come up with a viable plan for a new bus terminal. The winner of the competition will win a cool $1 million.

While many people in the city are applauding this democratic initiative, others are concerned that it’s a case of putting the cart before the horse. The reason Port Authority was unable to agree on a design last year was because they hadn’t really decided what they wanted, or where they wanted to build it.

Whereas commissioners from New York were partial to a new, larger terminal in midtown, commissioners from New Jersey argued for two smaller terminals – one in New York, and one in New Jersey.

  • Port Authority is currently conducting a trans-Hudson commuter study to determine what course of action will best serve the area.

In the meantime, Port Authority is asking the designers participating in their competition to come up with plans that are “modular” and “scalable.” This way, they hope to be able to adapt the plans to whatever location they choose once they finally do reach a consensus.

The agency is conducting the transit study and design competition at the same time in an effort to expedite the rebuild process, but many people feel that conducting the study before the competition would result in better, more useful designs.

Participants in the competition won’t be expected to submit final designs until the study is completed in June. It’s an optimistic timeframe, but designers now have 1 million reasons to get to work.