Greyhound Disappearing Without any Tracks

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Posted November 13, 2008 in News

Riding to the rescue of stranded Greyhound bus patrons in Riverside is . . . Dial-A-Ride?

 

This was the solution offered by Riverside City Manager Brad Hudson during a November 4 city council meeting where the soon-to-be-discontinued Greyhound station downtown was discussed.  

 

The bus carrier was already scheduled to be shuttered on October 31 but according to Abby Wambaugh, a P.R. spokesman for the Dallas, Texas-based company, they got a 90-day reprieve so they could stay open through the holiday season. 

 

After Greyhound closes its doors, the nearest stations will be San Bernardino to the north and Perris to the south. The closing could cause a great inconvenience to those riders who use the bus line on a frequent basis. To get to those farther away stations passengers will have to take the Omnitrans bus (or Metrolink) to the San Bernardino station, 10 miles away, or an RTA bus to the Perris station, which is 20 miles away.

 

In Riverside’s push for redevelopment and restoration of its downtown area, Greyhound and its rider base are the big losers. The inconvenience for the elderly and disabled becomes even greater. All this doesn’t matter to the city, however, because the closure is being made due to safety concerns. The city feels the station attracts parolees, drug dealers and vagrants. 

 

Efforts to re-locate Greyhound to another part of the city went nowhere. 

 

“We have tried to work extensively with the city,” says Wambaugh. “They asked us to vacate by January 31.” Wambaugh would not say who did the asking.

 

The closure is apparently a done deal, but some Riverside residents, notably well-known city gadfly Karen Wright, are convinced the expulsion can be reversed. Wright has been tirelessly spreading the word about the closure by hectoring council members, passing out handbills, and posting messages on Craigslist.  

 

“This is a wrong-minded decision,” Wright said at the November 4 meeting. She went on to criticize the lack of transparency in the dealings with Greyhound, saying the public at large had not been consulted. As a last resort, Wright asked residents to vote on whether Greyhound should stay or go.

 

“If we can vote on rooster issues—which was a non-issue—the city can certainly put on the ballot, [an] item for whether or not Riverside needs a Greyhound station.”

 

This prompted a response from Ward 2 Councilman Andy Melendrez, who had to recuse himself from the city discussions because he owns a business within 500 feet of the Greyhound station. Melendrez was responding to emails he had received from elderly constituents concerned about the closure. He asked City Manager Hudson for a comment on any future costs for the city regarding this matter.

 

“I don’t think we are ready to release that information at this time,” Hudson said. When Melendrez pressed Hudson on when the information could be released, Hudson said merely, “As soon as it’s executed.”

 

Nancy Hart, Ward 6 Councilwoman, was apparently not part of the discussions, either. She chided Hudson. “I’m just curious as to whether in your ‘discussions’ you are thinking about making provisions for a bus line between here and the new Greyhound station wherever it might go.”

 

This is when Hudson remarked that Dial-A-Ride would be considered as an option, though no one seemed to know who would pay for it—the city or the Riverside Transportation Authority.

 

All this was a surprise to Brad Weaver, marketing director for the RTA, who responded, “Who said this? Was it the council?” 

 

When asked if the city had approached the RTA, Weaver could not be sure. “We’re in touch with the city on many matters.” Weaver was quick to point out that both Riverside and the RTA have separate Dial-A-Ride programs.  

 

However, it doesn’t seem as if either program is equipped to deal with driving passengers to locations outside city limits. The Dial-A-Ride programs offer elderly and disabled persons rides within 3/4 of a mile of a current RTA route. Only a passenger who is ADA-approved can catch a ride to a location outside city limits, and even then, other than a caregiver, they aren’t allowed any companions to ride with them.  

 

If the Greyhound does close, Riverside would be the only city of its size in California—over 250,000 population—to not have a carrier. Of over 50 such cities in the U.S., only the communities of Aurora, Colorado and Plano, Texas do not currently have a Greyhound.

–Kevin Ausmus


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