Update after April 9 vote: Council unanimously voted to move forward with the site selection study.
by Lisa Wilbourne
The City of Greenville has been slowly working its way toward the creation of an Intermodal Transportation Center. Last year, just as the city staff was ready to begin making offers to the landowners of the site chosen for the project, city council determined it best to revisit the site selection. What Mayor Allen Thomas refers to as a “communication breakdown with ECU,” Marsha Wyly, Chair of the Public Transportation and Parking Commission, clarifies, saying “…ECU completed their master plan. As a result, they no longer supported the location of the ITC being adjacent to their campus.” She adds, “two private landowners, whose parcels were unavailable when the original site selection occurred, were now interested in selling their land to the City for the ITC.”
At the most basic level, the transportation center is a bus-transfer center with indoor facilities. Wyly says, “the concept behind the Intermodal Transportation Center is a place where multiple transportation systems can come together allowing passengers to transfer, embark and disembark in a safe, weather controlled facility.” It doesn’t stop with providing shelter while waiting for a bus. Wyly continues, “The project enhances the economic viability of the downtown. People may stop to shop, eat, run an errand. It will enhance the aesthetics of downtown. The building will be of the quality to match City Hall and the Police Station. It will be safe. A police substation will be in the facility. It will be multi-purpose. There will be offices for GREAT [Greenville Area Transit System], Greyhound, restrooms, a waiting room, snack bar, conference room, and offices on the second floor. The site amenities include covered areas for bus access, taxi stands, bicycle lockers, parking for staff and short term, and sidewalks. This is not the bus station of old.”
Councilmember Marion Blackburn who advocates for environmental protection has an even greater vision – that the center would be a “start” and that the focus must be on buses in the beginning, but that the dependency on fossil fuels would be reduced, even keeping “cars out of center city altogether, incorporating a park and ride.” She, like Wyly, sees “Greenville Station,” the name she has adopted for the transportation center, as a destination in itself with cafes, stores, and meeting rooms.
Described by Wyly as “financially very feasible,” 80% of the funding for this center will come from the federal government, 10% from the NC DOT, leaving 10% for the city. Councilmember Calvin Mercer understands this promise of money from federal and state levels as money that we, as taxpayers, have put into the system and now have a chance to make use of in a very tangible way for our community: “This means that citizens of Greenville will benefit from some of our federal taxes as well as state taxes coming back to our city for a much needed project. That federal money is also the tax money coming from you and me.”
When asked if she saw Greenville as having a need for such a project, long-serving Councilmember Rose Glover says she “saw the need for it when [she] worked in healthcare.”
Currently one outdoor transfer point serves the city’s GREAT bus system, the ECU buses, and PATS (Pitt Area Transit System). Including Vidant’s bus service, we have 3.64 million bus rides per year. On the question of Greenville’s need, Public Transportation and Parking Commission chair Wyly says, “This is a worthy project for the City of Greenville. If you have ever had to stand out in the cold, wind, rain, heat and snow waiting for a bus, as I used to, you would appreciate such a facility. People who use public transportation have to walk to and from the bus and then wait. Those who transfer buses have to wait then again. These are folks who are going to work, school, doctors’ appointments., and shopping.”
City Council will vote on Monday, April 9 to award the second site selection study for the Intermodal Center. Mayor Thomas, Council members Glover, Blackburn, and Mercer spoke to The Greenville Guardian in support of bringing an intermodal transportation center to Greenville. Council members Smith, Joyner, and Mitchell were contacted, but did not return calls or emails. Contact your council members and let them know what you think about Greenville’s need for an Intermodal Transportation Center.