"We're looking at a temporary relocation out of downtown," confirmed Assistant City Manager Karen Masbruch.
Greyhound hadn't been notified of this possibility until contacted by the Weekly, before the possibility became front-page news in the morning daily earlier this week. After Greyhound was informed, company spokesman Dustin Clark stated: "For the convenience of passengers, we like to be in city centers or on major thoroughfares."
The ongoing saga of the Greyhound station began in 1999. At that time, the City Council adopted a plan which recommended utilizing the Toole Avenue train station and surrounding area as an intermodal transportation hub. The idea was to accommodate trains, Sun Tran buses (at the adjacent Ronstadt Transit Center), future light-rail vehicles, taxis and Greyhound buses in the same general downtown location.
The nearby bus station eventually needed to be demolished as part of the new Fourth Avenue underpass project. To replace the station, city planners recommended a vacant site at Sixth and Toole avenues, in the same block as the depot.
Not much happened with Greyhound for five years. Then, criticisms surfaced from some downtown businesspeople who wanted the bus station near Interstate 10, not at Sixth and Toole. Concurrently, other suggestions were made regarding both temporary and permanent sites, including a controversial site south of downtown.
In 2004, the City Council voted to move the bus station temporarily into a modular building at Interstate 10 and Congress Street. At the same time, they reaffirmed their support for the Sixth and Toole site as the permanent location.
To justify its position, the council had a feasibility study prepared. This $159,000 report, completed in 2005, confirmed the permanent location for the bus station should be at Sixth and Toole.
The city then quickly moved to hire an architect to design the permanent building, which would also include two floors to house the city's Department of Transportation. In October 2005, Poster Frost Associates was selected and told they had five months to plan the project.
The work was soon put on hold, however, because City Hall wanted to explore a more expansive concept. However, work on designing the bus station finally resumed, and a presentation to the City Council was made last August. A few months later, design work stopped again (See "Depot Delays," Currents, Nov. 8), but the halt was supposed to be short.
Now, money may be an issue. Andrew Singelakis, deputy director of transportation, stressed that the debt service on the $17.5 million building would be about $1.4 million a year. With Greyhound paying less than $100,000 in annual rent, City Hall would have to use state gas-tax money to cover the balance.
However, Tucson has seen a big reduction in gas-tax revenues recently, and Singelakis said about constructing the building: "We'd have to cut other services. For the foreseeable future, we don't have the funding."
Meanwhile, the bus station will have to move from its current location at Congress and I-10 in about a year so work on a new arena can begin. Thus, Masbruch and Singelakis are proposing Greyhound be moved to another "temporary" location on city owned property at El Camino del Cerro and I-10.
"It may be more effective at El Camino del Cerro and I-10," Masbruch said of the bus station. "It may not be problematic."
Greyhound had more than 76,000 passengers either arrive in or depart from Tucson last year. To serve these people, Singelakis said, Sun Tran bus Route 17 would be extended to the new site.
This route now runs every 30 minutes between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m., and it runs hourly from 8 to 11 p.m. Whether this service would have to be enhanced, and what that would cost, are questions Singelakis said haven't been answered yet. The cost of preparing the new site for use has also not yet been examined.
For his part, Clark from Greyhound said, "We're really excited to be part of the (proposed) intermodal center." He did not want to comment on a possible move to the northwest side. In the mean time, we'll continue to serve the city."
Poster Frost Associates was paid more than $450,000 in federal funds to do space-management analysis and design for the new downtown building. But after meeting with city representatives last week, Corky Poster said about the Sixth and Toole location: "The project is probably dead for us at that site.
"It's disappointing and frustrating," he said, "to design a building and not see it happen."
In 2005, then-Councilmember Kathleen Dunbar declared she wanted the Sixth and Toole project implemented quickly.
"It's time to do it and move forward," Dunbar told the Arizona Daily Star. "I am really frustrated with the length of time it's taken."