What's driving McAllen's resurgence? A new bus terminal.
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Most cities showcase their airports as their transportation hubs to the world. McAllen is more grounded than that. It’s touting La Central/Central Station, the $5 million bus terminal that opened in January, as the shiny new centerpiece of a revitalized downtown. It is the first station in the U.S. to house both Mexican and American carriers under one roof. The steel-glass-brick-and-granite structure has the look of a modern airport—with vaulted ceilings and skylights, tropical landscaping, a spacious lobby, and even a Subway franchise—though it has even better connections than McAllen International, whose flights are limited to Dallas, Houston, and Austin. The buses are all about comfort; many of the Mexican lines, like Omnibus and Noreste, are more luxurious than their American counterparts, with perks like movies and a beverage service. La Central’s fourteen gates can handle one million passengers a year headed south of the border (to Monterrey, San Luis Potosí, or other cities with connecting service to Central America) or north (same-bus service to Dallas, Houston, and El Paso). All in all, it’s a refreshing change from the typical underclass look of most bus stations. When I visited La Central, it had already attracted an array of customers. Canadian backpackers were lingering in the lobby next to an extended family from Mexico headed into Texas. So how has it been received? A young woman from Reynosa pronounced it “mejor que la otra” (“better than the old terminal”), which was charitably described as a dump.