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A new beginning

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The city should thank Greyhound for keeping it out of the doghouse. Because of the deal inked Tuesday with the nationwide bus line, the city finally can point to at least one regular use for the $1 million-plus bus turnaround known as the Stockbridge Multi-Modal Transit Center.

Perhaps seeing cross-country travelers milling about the usually empty 150-space parking lot or being able to drop by the lobby to pick up a care package from Aunt Norma will ease the irritation many residents have expressed about the facility west of town. In the 2002 Community Survey, only the Steamboat Springs Airport ranked lower than the transit center in overall public satisfaction.

Forward-thinking proponents of the transit center -- mostly city staff as well as current and former City Council members -- argue the facility is an idea ahead of its time. Ten years from now, when congestion has increased and parking is impossible downtown, proponents say residents will be thanking the city for being so proactive.

The problem is, the transit center may be so far ahead of its time that, once it is actually needed, it will first have to be renovated and expanded.

But now Greyhound Lines Inc. has helped the city regain a few toes -- if not a whole foot -- to stand on in the matter.

Under the new deal, Greyhound will begin using the transit center as its drop-off and pick-up terminal for passengers and freight. It is an arrangement that helps the bus company, local residents and the city alike.

Greyhound has long worked deals with local businesses ranging from hotels to fast-food restaurants to manage its bus service on the side. The success of those arrangements has been questionable. No doubt the transit center -- which is, after all, a bus stop -- is a more practical local base of operations for Greyhound than Taco Bell.

With a more permanent staff and facility on site, the bus company will have the manpower to provide better customer service and the space to hold passengers and freight packages indoors.

And then there are the benefits to the city: Under the contract, the city will be paid a 15 percent commission on all ticket sales and freight charges out of the center and money to pay one full-time and one part-time employee to run the bus service, for a minimum payment of $45,000 a year.

Perhaps more importantly, Greyhound travelers coming and going from the transit center can supply passengers for the now-empty city buses turning around there.

The Greyhound deal provides the transit center's defenders with a chance to point at their beacon of things to come and say they told us so.

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