Greyhound bus station closes doors for move to Union Station


A bus pulls out on the last day for the Greyhound bus station on First Street NE, which is closing and moving its operations to Union Station. (Bill O'Leary/WASHINGTON POST)

In the always changing city, there is no shortage of goodbyes.

A Supreme Court justice came to memorialize the old Italian restaurant that shuttered a few years ago on New York Avenue. A legion of plumbers mourned the 50-year-old plumbing supply outlet that closed near Howard University.

So what about the Greyhound Bus Terminal, that monument to charmless ’70s-era architecture, which shut down Tuesday, 25 years after Greyhound moved into the building on First Street NE?

Where were the neighborhood historians, the long-standing patrons, the politicians — the usual crowd that specializes in misty-eyed, bittersweet adieus?

Nowhere to be found.

Instead there were two cabdrivers, one leaning against a glass door and sipping coffee, the other gazing across the tiled floor at the near-empty terminal as they pondered all those hours they spent awaiting fares.

“It’s better than HBO in here,” said Thomas Cambron, 59, who has been driving a cab for three decades. “Saw a couple of shootings. Undercover police. Guns. Fights. Hustlers. Gypsies.”

His buddy, John Fresh, 38, nodded. They were interrupted by a man they know as “Snook” but who identified himself as Augustine Nathaniel Williams Jr., a resident of the Federal City Shelter, at 2nd and D streets NW.

“When did the security guard shoot that woman in the mouth?” Cambron asked. “Was that ’01?”

“It was before that,” Williams said.

“Ninety-eight or ninety-nine?”

Both men shrugged.

For the past few decades, Williams said, he has helped travelers arriving at the terminal find taxis. His compensation is whatever his customers choose to tip him, a pot that can grow to $5 or $10 a day.

Then it’s back to the shelter, where he eats, sleeps and showers.

“I’ve made a lot of friends here,” Williams said, beneath a baseball cap with the inscription “Legends Never Die.” “I’ll just have to move on.”

Greyhound, for its part, is moving its operation a few blocks away to Union Station, where D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) and other dignitaries cut the ribbon on the bus company’s new 1,100-square-foot terminal Tuesday.

Norton and Rep. John L. Mica (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said Greyhound’s relocation is a boost for Union Station, which already provided Amtrak, Metro and taxi service. In addition to Greyhound, Megabus, BoltBus, Washington Deluxe and DC2NY bus lines will operate out of the station.

Greyhound, terminal officials and local leaders have been negotiating the bus company’s move for more than a decade. The incentive for Greyhound to relocate grew as the neighborhood transformed from an industrial backwater into a fledgling cosmopolitan hub known as NoMa, home to a Harris Teeter as well as office and residential towers with names like Flats 130.

The developers who have purchased Greyhound’s site plan to demolish the terminal and build a mix of offices, apartments and retail.

As she waited for a bus to Raleigh, N.C., on Tuesday, Gabrielle Bredell, 24, said there was nothing she could think of to miss with the bus terminal’s passing, least of all the bathrooms.

“Horrible,” she said.

Milvara Hodge, 55, a Greyhound employee for 10 years who spent some of her workdays cleaning the bathrooms, said vagrants often washed themselves there.

With the terminal’s closing, Hodge said, she worries that she will become one of them if Greyhound lays her off.

Paul Schwartzman specializes in political profiles and narratives about life, death and everything in between.
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