Greyhound's quandary

January 16, 2003

GREYHOUND LINES, which handles more than 1 million Baltimore passengers a year, should have a centrally located bus terminal. This much is clear.

But more than a year after Mayor Martin O'Malley's last-minute about-face killed the carrier's advanced plans for a new terminal next to Amtrak's Penn Station, Greyhound is in a quandary. With redevelopment closing in, it is likely to be evicted from Fayette Street by the end of the year.

Temporarily, the bus line can retreat to its secondary hub at East Baltimore's Travel Plaza. But that property is for sale and Greyhound's long-term access to it is uncertain. Moreover, the site is distant and difficult to find, hardly a desirable permanent option.

Late last spring, Greyhound proposed another downtown terminal site, a parcel of land bounded by Eutaw, Mulberry, State and Saratoga streets. That spot has plenty of advantages: It adjoins the existing Lexington Market Metro station and is just half a block away from light rail. Within walking distance are the future Hippodrome performing arts center and the University of Maryland professional schools. The Convention Center and the two stadiums are not far away, either.

The city countered with two other possibilities: a parcel along Russell Street, near the Ravens football stadium, and a surface lot for MARC commutes at Franklin and Pulaski streets. The drawbacks: Neither is on a Metro or light-rail line or is well served by MTA buses.

Since this initial exchange, nothing has happened. City Hall evidently does not want to get immersed in the inevitable controversies selecting a bus station site would entail.

But however contentious this matter may be, decisions should not be delayed any further. With three possible sites on the table, a feasibility study should be conducted promptly.

Years ago, when Greyhound began planning for the ill-fated Penn Station location, it received federal funding for an intermodal terminal. Out of the company's 350 terminals nationwide, roughly 100 newer ones are of that type, combining various forms of ground transportation.

The convenience of transferring from an intercity bus to a local transit line should be the goal here as well. Baltimore's new Greyhound station must accommodate not only current needs but also future travel demands.

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