Making Cities Less Hostile to Transit Riders

Joel Epstein
4 min readJan 16, 2024


By: Joel Epstein

The George Washington Bridge Bus Station. The easier way for Upper Manhattan residents to get to Boston and other cities.

Cities should do everything they can to make transit more inviting to travelers and commuters. So why are New York and so many other cities hostile to transit riders? Yes, hostile, not just indifferent, throwing up barriers that discourage riders from using the fair to good transit that already exists? Whether it’s unsafe and dingy subway stations and trains littered with trash or bus stations and stops that wouldn’t pass for the same in the poorest Southern Hemisphere countries.

I love transit. When I am not able to ride a Citi Bike to my destination, I rely on my feet and the MTA daily to get wherever I need to go. But let’s be honest about New York and many other cities’ big fail when it comes to the lowest hanging fruit of city service delivery — keeping the streets and subways and bus stops safe and clean for riders. And in the case of intercity buses, let’s challenge the City to provide riders of FlixBus and other private bus companies a proper bus station.

For over 15 years I lived in Los Angeles where the sun beats down on pedestrians for much of the day. And yet it wasn’t until fairly recently that LA Metro and other local bus service providers made a concerted, if flawed, effort to offer passengers some shade while they are out on the sidewalk waiting for the bus.

Last year I started advocating for the creation of a second midtown bus terminal. Yes, New York needs one and it’s possible. In June, I wrote in Crain’s New York Business:

“With New York transformed by remote work, the City should use eminent domain to create a second, no-frills bus terminal with dedicated bus lanes to the tunnel. Or better yet, Vornado should gift the city a couple of the decrepit buildings south of the Moynihan Train Hall that it has already taken out of service.”

I have even pitched the proposal to The David Prize which is considering the idea’s merits. That’s the concept. Now it’s my job and the job of the New York City Department of Transportation and the Mayor’s Office to work with Midtown West property owners to find a location and the resources to make it happen.

I was beaming when I opened Sunday’s New York Times, to find that the country’s paper of record was taking up the mantle of treating intercity bus riders with the respect they deserve.

“There has been a lot of confusion in Philly since they closed the bus terminal. The bus stop is now in the middle of nowhere. There’s a waiting area, but it’s not where the buses arrive, so you have to stand on the sidewalk or in the parking lot of a business or in a vacant lot. When it’s raining, it’s just puddles and mud and there’s nowhere to put your luggage down. This just makes the whole experience very unpleasant, to be honest.” — Jose Bueno, Philadelphia

Of course the article would have been even better if it had profiled a New York bus rider being mistreated by New York which continues to prioritize private cars over transit and intercity transportation.

Over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, I celebrated the visionary civil rights leader’s life and work by taking the bus from the George Washington Bridge Bus Station in Upper Manhattan to Boston where King studied, and back again. As someone who usually has to take the A Train to midtown to catch the bus to Boston, the DMV or Philadelphia, it was great to be able to walk to the bus station and Citi Bike home upon my return.

We are a city on a budget facing myriad costly challenges. There are of course competing priorities. But keeping our trains and buses safe and clean has to be an investment the City makes if it doesn’t want more of us to give up on transit and intercity buses. The first rule of city governance has to be that the customer comes first. It’s time transit and intercity transportation riders were treated with the same respect the City has for too long shown to drivers.

Yours in transit,


Joel Epstein is a New Yorker and an advocate for public transit, livable cities and public space.

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