No one expected the rush hours to hum with precision around the George Washington Bridge Bus Station yesterday -- the first day the building was shuttered for a year of renovations.
And sure enough, no one was surprised.
More than a few commuters were spotted wandering outside the structure trying to figure out how to reach the bus platform -- which is still in operation on the terminal's third level. Some wondered why more people weren't on hand to help guide passengers.
The terminal, one of the nation's busiest bus stations, handles about 5 million riders a year.
The Port Authority, which owns the place, says it put up signs and posted workers around the building to help commuters find their buses and their way to the street and the subway. It says the first day went relatively well and it's still adjusting its strategy.
But now -- and for the next 12 months -- the authority must go the extra mile and make sure the new commute across the GWB is not worse than the old one.
Because the old station was about as bad as it gets.
Opened in 1963, the terminal in its later years gave off a relentless grungy-rundown vibe. It seemed to shout decrepitude, with empty stores and suffocating heat.
The new station will be air-conditioned after the $183-million renovation is complete. The old one was not. The new station will offer roughly 122,000 square feet of retail space and have brand-new boarding areas.
But here's the catch.
In looking at ancient Port Authority promotional materials recently, we discovered this description of the old GWB terminal: "A bus station to serve the needs of commuters with an award-winning design that delights the eye." The lesson is that even the best designs are short-lived if maintenance and renovation aren't part of a steady process.
While it's great that the authority is renovating the GWB station, we're hoping it doesn't forget to keep it in top shape.
Its commuters have suffered enough.