02/25/09 — Officials talk more about plan for depot

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Officials talk more about plan for depot

By Anessa Myers
Published in News on February 25, 2009 1:46 PM

The Union Station project might or might not include a separate building for GATEWAY and Greyhound bus service.

Goldsboro and North Carolina Department of Transportation officials and GATEWAY board members met Tuesday afternoon as a steering committee for a study currently under way that will help to fit different parties' needs into design plans for the station.

The Union Station study is being performed by Martin, Alexiou and Bryson, PLLC, a Raleigh consulting firm specializing in transportation planning and traffic engineering.

"The question we need to answer today is -- what can fit in the existing building or if we need another building?" George Alexiou told the group.

But committee members couldn't agree on whether or not the bus services needed a separate building.

The firm's representatives, Alexiou and Greg Saur, first gave the group recommendations for future growth of each transit service.

They predict that Goldsboro could have GATEWAY commuter routes to Mount Olive and commuter routes to Johnston and Wake counties in the short term, with commuter routes providing service to Eureka, Pikeville, Fremont, Seven Springs and Walnut Creek in the long-term.

Greyhound has eight existing routes, and the firm representatives see a need to add a few buses to the fleet to accommodate population growth over the years.

Alexiou and Saur also gave the group a future outlook on commuter and intercity rail. Commuter rail service is meant to be used for daily commute, and intercity rail service will be longer trips to cities an hour or more away.

Both services are in the long-term planning phase right now, since it costs so much to put the railways in place, but Alexiou and Saur expect that Goldsboro could have eight commuter trains running a day -- three morning trains going to Raleigh, one noon train going to Raleigh, one noon train returning to Goldsboro from Raleigh and three evening trains returning from Raleigh.

Intercity rail would have less trains involving Goldsboro, but would still have one morning train stopping in Goldsboro between Raleigh and Wilmington and one afternoon train going the opposite way.

"We could also see a possible Wilmington to Rocky Mount route," Saur said.

The task that the firm was given was to show an interior plan, albeit not an architectural plan but a space requirement plan, to accommodate all of the riders of each of the possible transit services that will use Union Station.

Saur said the firm believes GATEWAY could have 100 passengers a day, Greyhound could have 50 passengers a day, commuter rail could have between 600 and 1,250 passengers a day and intercity rail could have between 78 to 139 passengers a day.

Working with the possibility of more than 1,500 passengers moving through the station a day in future years and 6,505 square feet of indoor space in the current station, the firm incorporated all of the transit services needs into the existing building.

Looking at the station from the front entrance off of North Carolina Street, the firm's spatial plan includes passengers entering into the shared waiting area, which would occupy 2,053 square feet of the downstairs.

To the right of that waiting area is a proposed large restroom area and a separate GATEWAY and Greyhound ticket and baggage area, along with a small visitors area toward the rail platform entrance in the rear of the building.

To the left of the waiting area is a proposed "interbag" and ticket area for commuter and intercity rail services, an employee restroom, custodial office and walkway to the old postal shipping room on the far left of the building.

Saur said the old postal shipping room has been left open for right now, thinking that that 1,275-square-foot space could be used for public space to rent out or to hold events.

But Downtown Goldsboro Development Corp. Director Julie Thompson didn't see the postal room as the optimum space for events.

"Can't we put the restrooms and some of the other things like the custodial closet in the postal room so we have a larger open space in the middle to be used later for events?" she asked.

"I'm guessing there are other nice spaces that you could hold events in Goldsboro, though," Alexiou told Mrs. Thompson.

"No, that's just it," she said. "There really isn't. There are places to have a small group, like the (Wayne County) Museum that holds 90 people, and the country clubs hold 500 people. But there is nothing in between. That's what I was hoping to be able to accomplish with Union Station."

The firm's representatives told her that they could look into moving items to provide a larger space in the middle for events.

The 3,475-square-foot top floor of the station will likely be used for office space, both of city departments, like the police department's crime prevention office, and of outside businesses.

Craig Newton, senior project engineer with the state DOT Rail Division, said that the spatial model that the firm came up with "really highlights the benefit of a multi-modal station."

"We don't want the needs to overlap, but in a pinch, they can accommodate each other. The agencies can work together," he said.

Still, he said that the firm was probably going on current Amtrak standards for their spatial model, but said that he felt transit services needed more space in Union Station.

"They have gone on what they call a starvation diet," he said of Amtrak. "They have had to work so long with so little. ... We probably need double or triple the space of their standards."

He said that he didn't want people to be sitting on top of each other, but would rather they have room to move around a little bit.

And, he added that he wanted to see the renovation of the station be as "pure" as it could be.

"I want to see it be restored back to as close architecturally as it can be," he said.

In the short-term, he said he could see events being held in the main area of the station, like Mrs. Thompson said, but added that he didn't want to have a situation where a rider is told they can't come in because there is a party going on.

"The event is secondary to transit uses," Mrs. Thompson said. "But if we can design it to be used for events, that would be great, for groups of 200 or less."

"I'd like to see us try to preserve as much of the original architecture of the waiting rooms as possible," Newton said. "And using that space as an event space is conducive."

Alexiou asked if any of the riders of any of the transit services would have a problem waiting in the same area.

"It's unprecedented for Amtrak in North Carolina," Newton said.

Michael Kozak, also with the state Department of Transportation, said that city bus riders like to see the bus stop in case they need to run to make it and Greyhound likes to have their buses lined up -- so he wanted to see if the firm could find a way for the bus service waiting area to be closer to where the buses pull up.

That's when Newton brought up the station plan included in the Comprehensive Downtown Master Plan -- a separate building for GATEWAY and Greyhound to the right of the station.

"I'm really thinking we need the extra building," he said. "It's harder to create an Amtrak space and a Greyhound space in the current building."

For the steering committee's next meeting in March, members asked the firm to bring them spatial models with a separate bus building and one without, along with the pros and cons of each.