Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Kicking the Hound

The city is kicking Greyhound out of their familiar downtown terminal (right next to the RTA's Downtown Terminal) as of Jan 31, '09. Yes, I know, this isn't public transit, but for those of us trying to live car-free, it is important. The Hound offers an inexpensive (though a touch less pleasant) way to get around the country, cheaper than driving alone and less troublesome. For someone with a rather unreliable old car, it was a good option to have around.

The city government has complained that the bus terminal attracts criminals, drug addicts and dealers, and parolees returning home from the state's prison system. (See "Riders weigh options..." from Oct. 31's Press-Enterprise) However, the city's Chief of Police, Russ Leach, has stated that "the notion of someone jumping off a Greyhound on the way to see grandma and selling a dime bag is not happening." (See this story from the PE, towards the end of the article.) More interesting is the fact that the bus service occupies its current space for a $1/year lease from the City, an obvious subsidy for a service that the City must have deemed valuable at one time. City officials: Gas hasn't gotten cheaper since you signed that lease, people haven't moved closer to each other, highways haven't gotten less congested, the economy hasn't gotten better, and alternative travel arrangements have yet to spring spontaneously from the earth like daisies. The reasons you decided to subsidize this service in 1983 are, if anything, more relevant today.

Security is a legitimate issue, and I will be the first to admit that hanging around the bus terminal at night doesn't exactly give me the warm fuzzies. But RTA is dealing with the same problem- attentive riders noticed that the transit agency is now posting a security guard at the downtown transit terminal during bus operating hours. If RTA has security issues (as the presence of a guard openly admits) and you're not kicking THEM out of their subsidized transit center... why are you doing it to the Hound?

Surely this issue can come to some resolution without making 82,000 trips into the area disappear. (MANY OF THOSE ARE JOB-RELATED!) Perhaps Greyhound needs to hire some security folks. Perhaps they need to pay the RPD for an area patrol. Perhaps they need to improve their eerily-lit terminal, stay open a touch later and make other improvements that would lessen the building's image as a conduit for bums and criminals. But closing the station is NOT THE SOLUTION. It is the wrong thing to do in a time where bus service is an inexpensive fix for a wide variety of problems- economic, social, cultural- that plague our area and our nation. Please, use these coming months to negotiate a settlement with The Hound that satisfies both your constituents downtown, and your constituents who ride the bus.

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