The bus deck at Union Station will be reconfigured so it can begin to serve as a major hub for intercity buses this fall, under a new agreement between several bus companies and the station’s redevelopment agency. This move, which the U.S. Department of Transportation estimates will consolidate nearly three-quarters of the District’s intercity bus service at the station, should be a good deal for bus riders.
Fans of the discount buses won’t have to figure out which street the services are using. Over the past several years, the buses have moved from place to place across the District, as D.C. officials and the bus companies sought locations that would be adequate for passengers without adding to traffic congestion. The riders also will have a place to wait that’s protected from the weather.
For most of the bus services involved, it means they can offer passengers a central location convenient to the transit services they’re likely to use getting to and from the intercity buses. The deal also allows Greyhound to move buses from the terminal at First and L streets NE, a location that’s near Union Station, but not near enough, especially if you’re lugging luggage.
The Union Station Redevelopment Corp., chaired by U.S. Deputy Transportation Secretary John D. Porcari, the former Maryland transportation secretary, has been working on this deal with the District government, other transportation agencies and the companies involved in Union Station operations.
In addition to laying down striping for the bus slips, the reconfiguration also involves moving some utilities in the garage. The work should allow double-deckers to use the bus deck.
The agreement also is designed to preserve the D.C. tour bus operations now using the bus deck.
While the development corporation is not going to make a profit on the deal, it is looking to recoup the cost of this redesign. For riders, it means adding a 75 cent fee to each bus ticket. For the bus companies involved — Greyhound, Bolt Bus, Megabus and Washington Deluxe — it means an annual charge of $30,000 for each bus slip.
Despite those extra costs, the consolidation of so many intercity bus services in a single hub looks like a win all around.
I hope that as the new hub evolves, it can be made even friendlier for riders. On his blog, Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space, Richard Layman notes some characteristics of an ideal bus terminal. He said it would have:
“1) integrated information displays listing arrival and departure information for all services (no different than how it is set up at airports and railroad terminals including Union Station for Amtrak, MARC, and VRE);
“2) display signs at each gate;”
3) guidance at the gate showing “that people should line up and how they should do it;” and
“4) space enough in the concourse for lining up.”