RALEIGH — At a time when Raleigh is working to connect and expand its transit network, the city’s Greyhound bus station is leaving downtown for a location on busy, sidewalk-free Capital Boulevard 3 miles north of downtown.
Later this month, Greyhound will move out of the West Jones Street building that has greeted bus passengers since the early 1970s. Buses will soon come and go from a new terminal at Capital and Crabtree boulevards, across from the new Salvation Army building.
The new location is nearly 3 miles from the city’s Moore Square bus station and Amtrak station. Arriving Greyhound passengers making a transfer will have to cross six lanes of Capital Boulevard to catch a Capital Area Transit bus downtown.
The new building looks more like its previous tenants – a succession of failed barbecue and Chinese restaurants – than a modern bus terminal. Workers have added canopies to the barn-looking building, which had been vacant for several years.
While some passengers will find the new site challenging to reach, Greyhound points to its close proximity to the Interstate 440 Beltline and other major roads. The company also plans to add food service, a step up from the vending machines downtown.
“We believe this is an overall better location for our customers as the downtown area can be congested and busy,” company spokeswoman Lanesha Gipson said. “Not all of our customers originate from downtown, so this is a convenient location for customers downtown as well as those in other areas.”
Raleigh is a transfer point for many Greyhound passengers, and nearly everyone in the waiting room Thursday afternoon was just passing through.
“It doesn’t really matter” where the station is located, said Amanda Marcum as she awaited her next bus. But she says she won’t miss the tight turns that buses make as they approach downtown Raleigh.
Setback for transit
Raleigh leaders said they were surprised to see Greyhound leave downtown. They said having the bus station isolated from other transit facilities will pose problems for residents who don’t have cars.
“Clearly, I’m sure customers want to be closer to a downtown location,” planning director Mitchell Silver said. “Long term, we certainly would like to have a transit hub next to other transportation hubs.”
Mayor Nancy McFarlane said her goal is to eventually bring trains, local buses and regional buses into a single downtown hub. “We want to have integrated transit opportunities,” McFarlane said. “We will find a way to link (Greyhound) into our Union Station area.”
Raleigh recently secured funding for the new train station in the Warehouse District on the west side of downtown, and it’s in the early stages of planning a bus facility to accompany the project and ease crowding at the Moore Square transit center. The train station is tentatively scheduled to open in 2017, with the bus depot to follow.
Greyhound has a 10-year lease on the Capital Boulevard property, and Gipson said the company isn’t ruling out a role in Union Station.
“We have not been directly asked to be included in that complex; therefore there are no definite plans to move back to the downtown area as of now,” she said. “However, we would consider the opportunity if asked.”
Greyhound has been unloading prime real estate in growing downtowns across the country, and the bus line has joined forces with local transit systems when possible. In Wilmington, Greyhound is selling its longtime downtown station and now operates out of a Wave Transit transfer station on the north end of town.
Greyhound rents space at the central city bus stations in Winston-Salem and Greensboro. In Durham, Greyhound buses stop at the downtown Durham Station Transportation Center, a hub for DATA and Triangle Transit buses around the corner from the Amtrak station.
The move this month will make Raleigh the only major North Carolina city where Greyhound is connected to just one local bus line.
Capital Area Transit officials say they’re trying to improve service to the new Greyhound station. The site is served by the No. 1 Capital Boulevard route, which will soon run buses every 15 minutes throughout the day, transit administrator David Eatman said.
CAT is building new bus shelters and benches on both sides of the street to serve Greyhound and the Salvation Army. The city is also installing a crosswalk signal at Capital and Crabtree for passengers hitching a ride downtown.
While incoming Greyhound passengers will have to negotiate Capital Boulevard, Eatman said the new site has better CAT service than the old downtown station. The route next to the current station sometimes only runs once an hour, although passengers can also walk two blocks to Glenwood South and catch the free R-Line.
Some cities can house Greyhound, but Eatman says that’s not an option at Moore Square. “We basically don’t have capacity for all of our vehicles,” he said.
A changing landscape in downtown Raleigh likely contributed to Greyhound’s decision to sell its 1.72-acre site. Real-estate investor Ted Reynolds bought the property last year for $4.75 million – well above its tax value of $3.38 million.
Reynolds hasn’t announced his plans for the site and couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday. He’s the developer behind the 15-story Quorum Center office and condo building across from Greyhound.
But David Diaz, president of the Downtown Raleigh Alliance, said the location has potential for “almost anything” – offices, apartments or a hotel.
“It just seems like overall, this could be a good benefit” for downtown, Diaz said of the Greyhound sale.
When Greyhound bought the property in 1969, the area was considered the outskirts of downtown Raleigh. But in recent years, the success of apartments, restaurants and nightlife along Glenwood South has spread eastward toward the state government complex.
Between Greyhound and the 42nd Street Oyster Bar, Grubb Properties will break ground on a 203-unit, six-story apartment building later this year. Two more apartment buildings are in the works a few blocks north on Harrington Street.
Diaz called the area a “transition” zone between Glenwood South and the Capital District that’s rapidly filling up. An aging, one-story bus depot no longer fits in with the neighborhood.
“As we look to connect the different parts of the downtown, development in those transition areas is the way you connect,” Diaz said.
Campbell: 919-829-4802; Twitter: @RaleighReporter