Friday, October 7, 2016

The new Baltimore Greyhound Station: Still in the diaspora

When the Trailways/ Greyhound station was evicted from Fayette Street in favor of the land disposition for the now failed Superblock, the departure meant that the Westside had lost another use and another group of people coming to the area. That, of course, was the whole purpose of those who are convinced that the interurban bus riders are group one can do without. That intercity bus patrons had to trek down to a piece of land between the Middle Branch and the trash incinerator that initially even lacked basic transit, didn't bother anybody but the riders themselves.   Even after the City installed left turns on Russell Street so MTA buses can serve the area, access is poor, certainly for walking, a natural way to access an urban bus station.

Add caption
Greyhound wasn't happy with the transit diaspora either and their quickly thrown together station there had all the charm of a relief shelter. Maybe the bus operator had hopes to return to a more central location.

A lot has happened since: intercity bus travel has taken off as a serious mode far beyond those who used to take it as a last resort. The forgotten area near the incinerator got a lift and has become much more visible after the Horseshoe Casino settled there. As a result the bleak Greyhound facility would no longer do.

Actually, a new bus station had been part of the plans for the site where the casino now sits before Horseshoe took over. Somehow nobody asked the casino developers to pick up that tab.  Finally, Congressman Cummings brought in a $4.14 million dollar federal transportation grant and Greyhound agreed to chip in the rest of the over $8 million total budget.
The new Greyhound Terminal
(photo: ArchPlan)

The new station looks pretty much like the rendering had envisioned it. It sits on the waterfront but it doesnt take any advantage of it as if the architects had never visited the site.
A tall and well lit waiting hall with ticket sales on one hand, a seating area similar to airport gate waiting area and a generous queuing area were passengers get sorted by boarding zones just like for an airplane. When I visited Thursday morning almost all seats in the waiting area were taken and the station was bustling with activity.  The new facility offers more than 60 daily routes to cities near and far — including Washington, Virginia Beach and New York. Bolt buses, a subsidiary of Greyhound will not serve this station and continue curbside service at Penn Station.

The new station was opened behind schedule and the grounds are not yet completed. Eventually buses will enter the rear area of the building, which is facing the water, counter-clockwise, pulling in perpendicular to the rear facade, head-first, a strange arrangement which forces buses to back out of their slots. There are no curbs and little step-stools make up for the lack of elevated curbed boarding areas.

The station doesn't have the signature design and urbanity of the 1942 Art Deco Greyhound facility on Howard Street which had become the seat of the Baltimore Metropolitan Council after Greyhound and Trailways merged their operations in the early 1990s and operated from Fayette Street. Today the 1942 building is owned by the Maryland Historic Society but doesn't appear to be actively used. The Fayette Street Depot turned into dust, the area is now a seeded grass lot waiting for development.

Ticket area in the new station: Photography prohibited
(photo: ArchPlan)
How interurban transit should be integrated into a truly multi-modal facility can be seen in DC where a bus facility sits on a deck atop Union stations's rail tracks. There Greyhound, Bolt, the DC Circulator and other services pull up alongside a slew of platforms with connections to Metro, Amtrak and MARC only a few feet away.

The large Amtrak lot on Lanvale Street across from Penn Station in Baltimore would allow a similar arrangement here as well, but don't hold your breath. The idea was rejected early on, even before Greyhound finally wound up where it is now. Amtrak is currently looking for a master developer for that and adjacent sites. A bus terminal is not part of the request for proposals.

Travelers arriving in Baltimore by bus will continue to see the incinerator first and the casino second as their first impressions.

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA



Baltimore SUN, Nov 5, 2014




The original 1942 Greyhound Terminal at Howard  and Centre Streets
The old Trailways Depot on Fayette Street

The provisional Greyhound Terminal near Warner Street now demolished
(photo: The Brew)