The city will dedicate its new glass and steel railroad station on the western edge of downtown on Monday.
But while the building is done, Raleigh Union Station is still a long way from fulfilling its ultimate mission as a transit hub, where buses and trains meet within walking distance of the city's downtown office towers, apartments and other attractions.
The train part is almost here. In early June, Amtrak passengers will begin using the station's new platforms and passing through a soaring concourse befitting the second busiest train station in North Carolina. Nearly 151,000 people got on or off Amtrak trains in Raleigh in the year ending Sept. 30, 2017, and the number of trains that stop there will grow from eight a day to 10 with the addition of another round-trip Piedmont train between Raleigh and Charlotte starting June 4.
But the bus portion of the station is still years away. The city will reroute an existing bus, Route 13, by a block so that it will stop outside the station at the corner of West and Martin streets every half hour. But the accommodations for buses and their riders that would make Raleigh Union Station truly "multimodal" will take another four years to build, said Jeff Mann, general manager of GoTriangle, the regional transit agency.
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GoTriangle is working with the city on plans for an adjoining station with bays where as many as six to 10 local buses could pull in at a time to collect and drop off passengers. Planners refer to the concept as RUSBus — Raleigh Union Station Bus.
GoTriangle already owns 1.77 acres just north of Raleigh Union Station where RUSBus would be built. The agency's predecessor, the Triangle Transit Authority, acquired the property more than a decade ago for what it hoped would be a downtown commuter rail station. The property, bordered by West and Hargett streets, consists of two-story brick warehouse and office buildings, including the former headquarters of the Dillon Supply Co. that dominated this part of downtown for decades.
RUSBus would likely include retail space, a parking deck and offices over top the buses, Mann said. GoTriangle and the city have commissioned a study to determine what type of development would attract tenants.
While the detailed designs are still a ways off, Mann said the ground-level bus platforms won't be shrouded in darkness.
“We want to let light and air into it. We’re going to work very hard to make it an inviting space,” he said. “We don’t want it to feel like you’re in a parking garage.”
When RUSBus opens, several local and regional bus routes will be re-routed to include stops there before or after going to the GoRaleigh Station at Moore Square on the east side of downtown, said David Eatman, the city's transit administrator. Most of the city's bus routes begin and end at GoRaleigh Station, and that won't change, Eatman said.
"GoRaleigh Station will remain as our main bus hub," he said.
But the city's goal is to provide frequent bus service between the two downtown stations, so that rail passengers never have to wait long to get connected to a bus that can take them anywhere that GoRaleigh or GoTriangle goes.
The dedication ceremony for Raleigh Union Station will begin at 9:30 a.m. Monday inside the station at 510 W. Martin St. Mayor Nancy McFarlane and others will speak in front of the station's ticket counters looking out on new benches and chairs where passengers will wait for their trains.
Including the new train platform, tracks, an outdoor plaza and the underground walkway that takes passengers to and from the trains, Raleigh Union Station cost $111.4 million to build, according to the city. It's not clear yet what the RUSBus portion will cost.