Burlington bus riders have been waiting 18 years for the arrival of an indoor station in the downtown area. That’s not quite as long as the city has anticipated the Southern Connector, but almost.
Meanwhile, conditions at the current terminal on Cherry Street have grown more unpleasant in recent years as ridership has increased along with the number and frequency of buses arriving and departing.
At peak times, 13 buses jockey for spots along the south side of Cherry Street. A few commuters jog along the traffic lane in search of their bus rather than using the narrow sidewalk clogged with fellow passengers — some with bikes, wheelchairs and baby carriages — who are alighting or waiting to board. Then all the buses pull out at once, creating congestion that extends all the way to the traffic light at South Winooski Avenue. It’s a dangerous, polluted mess.
Downtown bus users are reminded every day that “public transport occupies a low place on the totem pole of priorities,” observes Chapin Spencer, who is executive director of Local Motion, the bicycle and pedestrian advocacy organization. Spencer is also vice chair of the commission overseeing the Chittenden County Transportation Authority, which operates the city buses. In his opinion, failure to replace “the outdoor, unheated, cramped” Cherry Street terminal with a modern facility represents “the single biggest impediment to continued ridership growth” on the CCTA system.
Noting that his organization has been using Cherry Street as its central dispatch point since 1970, CCTA general manager Christopher Cole acknowledges, “We long [ago] outgrew our ability to operate efficiently there.” The situation today “isn’t good for the Marketplace or for CCTA,” Cole adds. Even as the city seeks to discourage homeless and mentally ill people from loitering on the downtown pedestrian mall — by temporarily removing benches, for example — nothing is being done to reduce the crowds waiting for buses on Cherry Street.
Read the full article by Kevin J. Kelley on the Seven Days website.