About the Bus that Used to Run to the City

About the Bus that Used to Run to the City

Journeys into Closter

Recently the 178th Street GW Bridge Bus Station completed a makeover.

It seems like only yesterday that the place was a spanking new state of the art bus terminus into New York.

The building was designed by noted Italian engineer Pier Luigi Nervi and is one of only a few buildings he designed outside of Italy. The building is constructed of huge steel-reinforced concrete trusses, fourteen of which are cantilevered from supports in the median of the Trans-Manhattan Expressway, which it straddles. The building contains murals as well as busts of George Washington and Othmar Amman, the civil engineer who designed the bridge. The building received the 1963 Concrete Industry Board’s Award.

The building's roof trusses have been described as resembling butterflies, though this butterfly-like doubled-triangle view can be seen only if the trusses are viewed or photographed from above, an angle only available to aircraft passengers or to maintenance workers atop the New York tower of the nearby George Washington Bridge.

It opened January 13, 1963 as a replacement for a series of sidewalk bus loading areas that existed between 166th and 167th streets further south.

The prior bus terminals were a unique eclectic place - situated at subway stops for both the IND and IRT lines, and just across the street from Columbia Presbyterian Hospital and the Audubon Ballroom.

There were two buildings - one housing separate waiting areas for Inter City and Red and Tan passengers - the other for Public Service lines.

Back then the carrier was the Red and Tan lines (replaced by Saddle River Tours; USA Coach travels to 41st Street). Service was more frequent. Fares were more reasonably priced. Though air conditioning was a rare luxury the ride was a bit more civilized. The facilities and the buses were clean, and the service was reliable.

Work and commutation patterns are very different today.

The GW Bridge Bus Station may never be the destination envisioned when it was constructed in the early 1960's. Architecturally, the building will never be embraced by some - it is cited as an example of 1960s urban renewal, described as a blight on its surrounding environment and "a brutal assault on the senses". Its upper-level bus ramps block light, as well as the view of the George Washington Bridge, from an entire block of Fort Washington Avenue.

Meanwhile, the bus stations at 167-165th Street, places that served their commuters well in a quiet fashion, are but forgotten, except by a very few still here who remember them.

The picture above reflects a view of the Public Service terminal, circa 1954-55.