Dogs on a train: Can Greyhound and VIA find a way to create a better shared station?

July 22, 2015

EDMONTON – In October 2003, I landed a major scoop for the Edmonton Journal. I broke the news that the Greyhound bus station was moving out of downtown Edmonton and setting up operations next to the VIA Rail station on 121 Street and 123 Ave.

At the time, Greyhound told me the location, just south of the Yellowhead, would make it easier to get passengers and freight to locations such as Fort McMurray, Grande Prairie, Jasper and Lloydminster.

Well, I got the story first, all right — a little too first.

A dozen years have passed since then, and the aging, sketchy Greyhound station is still downtown. But its lease expires in May 2016. The bus station has to move, quickly, to make way for Ice District redevelopment. After 12 years of false starts, Greyhound simply has to find another home.

Now, as I first “revealed” in 2003, Greyhound is indeed negotiating with VIA to share its space and its land.

“Yes, we have been having discussions with Greyhound regarding the possibility of accommodating them on our site and possibly sharing some common space,” VIA Rail spokesman Maxime Dupont-Demers confirmed to me via email on Wednesday. It’s too early, he says, to discuss how any financial arrangement would work.

VIA moved to its current location in 1998. It’s leasing the site from the City of Edmonton. On Wednesday, neither VIA nor the city would tell me how large the property is, how long the lease runs, how much VIA is paying, or whether VIA has the right to sublet part of the site to a third party.

Still, Bev Esslinger, the city councillor for Ward 2, which includes the VIA station lands, says she met with representatives from Greyhound in July. She was told their plans were to “cohabit” the space with the passenger train service until they can get their own adjoining space built.

“They’re in a time crunch,” she says. “They’re basically going to use the current facility, and then build one of their own.”

Esslinger is uncertain about the proposal, though. She points out there is no city bus service to the VIA Rail site. There are no plans to run LRT there any time soon. That, she says, will make it very hard for customers to get there.

She’s more worried about what she calls the “social disorder” that often surrounds bus stations, and what that might mean for surrounding neighbourhoods, such as Prince Charles or the new Blatchford redevelopment.

“If we have people wandering through the neighbourhood at night, that’s not going to be good management of the facility.”

 

Read the full story from Paula Simons in The Edmonton (Alberta) Journal by clicking here.

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