Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Bus Station

In NYC, there is one main bus station located centrally at 42nd street called Port Authority Bus Station. The bus station is pretty gross as many bus stations are throughout the country. The clientele are also of a specific strand of sketchy people who still take buses to get places rather than other modes of transportation. Then there are the people that live in the bus station or just choose to hang out there. One perk of Port Authority is that the station is huge and also has a bowling alley in it. Yes, I do realize it is strange but it is the cheapest bowling alley in the city even if it is a little on the ghetto side (but what bowling alley isn't just a little bit nasty?)

There are buses that leave from the Port Authority and go to New Jersey and most people think that is the only place to get buses to NJ. I learned that there is another exciting bus station in Manhattan. This one is in Washington Heights. The word "Heights" makes the area sound delightful like the top of a mountain looking down on a valley. Yet it is just another seedy section of Upper Manhattan.

This bus station doesn't have an arrival/ departure board. Good luck trying to find the piece of paper on a pillar that has the schedule on it.

Buying tickets is an experience. There is a row of ticket windows yet I have never seen them open except for the one where you can purchase day tickets to Atlantic City. There are also two "high tech" ticket machines that are the slowest pieces of technology ever. The options for buying a ticket to your destination in New Jersey are:

a) purchase the ticket with cash on the bus. Make sure you bring exact change ($2.30 each way) or the bus driver will growl in your direction and not have the correct change for you.

b) find a time to buy the tickets are the aforementioned indefinitely
closed ticket window.

c) figure out what bus number and what route number you are and punch the numbers into the automated ticket machine. Then you can chose the daily, ten trip or monthly pass.

I used to purchase the 10 trip from the machine before I figured out that the monthly was actually going to save me a whopping $4.00. Thanks New Jersey! Well, the ten trip is printed painfully slowly on 10 different tickets that fall out the machine one at a time. Very efficient.

Wouldn't it be smarter to have a Metrocard system installed in the buses like NYC? It could replace the old-fashioned change dispenser that the bus drivers use. Just an idea, Jerse my new pal!

So, back to the bus station aesthetics. The actual station is ugly but then again it is a bus station so I can overlook that. When you walk in to the station you have either a big flight of stairs to climb or an escalator, that works sporadically, at best. The station smells like an old sock soaked in oil and sprayed with exhaust. So yummy before 9:30 in the morning.

The bus actually arrive upstairs to the station so the NJT decided it would be a good idea to have security camera images displayed on TV’s that show when the buses arrive so you can stay inside and wait. This seems like a good idea in theory but the cameras break often and are always hazy so you have to squint to try and see if the bus is there. Then there is another escalator (which is usually broken) to get to the bus.

Humans are not the only species (that are visible) in the station. There are about 5-10 pigeons that fly around. Remember this is an INDOOR bus station. The pigeons are not afraid of people and come thisclose to you and try to steal anything you are eating. They also fly at low altitudes and I have had to duck on many an occasion to not get hit in the head by the nasty flying rats.

There are three places to get food in the bus station. But I will not describe them because I would not dare eat unpackaged food from them. I am not a snob I just don’t want the pigeon germs. Ewww.

There is an OTB in the bus station. Spelled out is Off-Track Betting. Let me rephrase that so you can absorb it. You can bet on an obscure horse race while waiting for your bus. OTB’s attract some interesting people and by interesting I mean sketchy. Luckily the OTB is not open at 9am. However, this doesn’t deter the homeless and drunks from staggering around the door waiting for the time when they can bet away their money they panhandled in the subway station. (There is a guy who does this daily.)

I try to spend as little time as possible in the bus station. I usually don’t have to wait long for a bus in the morning. At night, I am in the station for all of two minutes.

Thank you to New Jersey for not maintaining the bus station. It provided me with a topic for my readers.

1 comment:

Your biggest fan said...

You should win a medal just for surviving the commute!!!