Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Bus Is For All Of Us

Public transportation is on my mind. 

With regard to this topic, I must temporarily digress back to Grand Junction, Colorado for a moment.

Residents and business owners around the location of the proposed Greyhound station and Grand Valley Transit transfer center in the 24 1/2 Road and Patterson Road area are correct in their assertions that the proposed location is not a good one. They're just right for all the wrong reasons.

Recent reporting in the Daily Sentinel seemed to indicate that the basis for most of the complaints is rooted in classism, NIMBY, and/or financial self-interest. Not mentioned is the questionable appropriateness of a regional ground transportation hub so far removed from the centers of commercial activity and education, as well as the seats of government and location of essential social services.

As a property owner in the Downtown area, I continue to be amazed at the lengths that some will go to attempt to artificially gentrify this area and the surrounding neighborhoods. When the homeless shelter was moved from Downtown to North Avenue, did the homeless leave Downtown with it? How many of us honestly believe that flinging the Greyhound out will do the same?

I'm driven to recall the very first GVT transfer point, when the service was first instituted nearly 12 years ago. The former parking lot at 12th and Orchard, owned by the former Mesa State College, seemed a logical choice, and appeared to function well until the College's expansion plans forced a relocation.

Now that Colorado Mesa University appears poised to expand its campus all the way to 7th Street, an opportunity presents itself to re-establish a connection between the University and the remainder of the Grand Valley through development of such a transportation hub in the heart of the North Avenue multi-use district that the City has worked so hard to plan for.

A combined Greyhound / GVT transportation center on the CMU campus would serve all manner of people coming to Grand Junction to work, access government services, and learn. These people would find access to these services and facilities to be much more efficient than trying to reach them from the west end of town, and CMU students would have easy access to buses across town or across the state. Win-Win.

City and County government leaders, who do not have the authority to prevent CMU from doing what it wants with their property, should nonetheless consider expending some political capital in trying to convince CMU administration of the potential benefits of such an establishment. Groups who represent potential stakeholders and beneficiaries of such an arrangement, i.e. CMU's Associated Student Government, should also be discussing this and getting involved.

Regardless of some inaccurate public perception about those who utilize public transportation, these types of facilities should be considered for the benefit of the entire community, irrespective of social or economic status. I feel bad for those who look at the area and its needs with such narrow vision.

Best wishes to those tasked with bringing improved local and regional public transportation to a reality.

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