04/04/11 — Officials figuring logistics for station

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Officials figuring logistics for station

By Steve Herring
Published in News on April 4, 2011 1:46 PM

There is plenty of blame to spread around for lapses in planning for GATEWAY's new transfer station, Wayne County Manager Lee Smith says.

The discussions over the station failed to adequately address not only where its administration will be housed, but where its fleet of vans will be stationed as well.

Also missing from the discussions has been an in-depth look at GATEWAY's maintenance needs as well as how the move and proposed county projects will affect the bus routes, Smith said.

Blame lies with everyone who has been at the table for not communicating better and for being somewhat territorial, Smith said.

Meanwhile, the Goldsboro-Wayne Transportation Authority that operates the GATEWAY transit system has completed paperwork making the project eligible for about $855,000 that would help build the transfer station adjacent to Union Station.

It is federal money that passes through the state for public transit, Smith said.

Facing west and looking at Union Station, the transfer station would be located to the right of the station that is to be completely renovated.

The transfer station will have bus slots, a covered opened area, an interior centralized heated and cooled area, a concession area and office, scheduler and ticket seller. The administration would be housed elsewhere.

"You have the Union Station project which is the main project, which the city has obtained state and federal money to do the renovation," Smith said. "They did the acquisition so the city has done all of that. As part of that is when you have a transfer facility like your buses and those kinds of things I think it was their feeling at the time that you almost need to have a separate facility adjacent to it.

"I didn't really agree with that in the beginning, but I do now because I understand it now. They are really building for the future -- building for Greyhound buses coming in and the train obviously then our local taxi system and local GATEWAY be it vans or buses."

However, what hasn't really been discussed is how that will "kind of divide GATEWAY up a little bit," he said.

One suggestion has been for the GATEWAY administration to locate on the first floor of Union Station providing the station with a tenant.

"In Union Station itself when they get the trains in the future, you are going to have to have that first floor for that," Smith said. "What we are talking about is there something that we can work on that will work for five, 10 or 15 years where we could put GATEWAY down there and look for a permanent solution later because we don't want to divide up our people too much. For a manager, it is hard to manage people who are everywhere.

"I still see the stand-alone transfer station, but it may help to expedite that because they (Union Station) will have a tenant. But we will have to go to the Federal Transit Authority and public transit to find out if we can use our money to help pay for lease space or rent. Right now we have a good (administrative) facility over on Madison (Avenue), but we need to do something and if we are going to do something we need to centralize it."

Once Union Station becomes an operational train station then the GATEWAY administration could move upstairs at the station or relocate into its own facility, Smith said.

By then there would be a history to go by that could show that a separate facility is not needed, he said. As such, the administration could possibly find a home in the county courthouse or City Hall, he said.

Moving to Union Station changes the routes, which means GATEWAY operations manager Terry Jordan and director Trey Rhodes are going to have to look at some changes.

"The county and city need to sit down with them and tell them what our plans are for the Health Department and Department of Social Services, Services on Aging because they are major impacts to the vans and buses," Smith said. "We all need to kind of coordinate."

The county is planning to move the Health Department and Services on Aging to North William Street once it can renovate the old Masons department store.

There have been joint meetings in the past, but they have not risen to the level that Smith sees as being needed.

Also missing from the conversations has been where the GATEWAY vans are going to be located, he said.

There is additional property near Union Station that could be acquired, he said.

"There are monies that could help us do that," he said. "We could go to the state and federal governments and maybe do that -- buy something adjacent that we could do a lot to park the vans. That has got to be looked at, too."

Stations in larger cities have retail spaces, but are devoted almost exclusively to handling passenger traffic while the administration is located elsewhere, he said.

Smith said he sees the need to have the administration as close to the transfer station as possible.

Another issue is how GATEWAY will handle vehicle maintenance.

"I don't think they have examined that," he said. 'I think in the past they have looked at a maintenance-administrative facility. I just find it hard to believe that we have enough volume in GATEWAY that we need our own maintenance facility. I mean we have a handful of buses and 20 some vans. I don't think so.

"There was a study done to look at the maintenance of city vehicles, county vehicles and GATEWAY. We just feel like that needs to be looked at again. I don't think it went as deep as it should have. I don't think we had everybody at the table. I don't think you had all of the data on the table as far as what our real costs are and what the partnerships could be because there are things that we didn't examine."

That could include a private partnership or a mix of public-private, he said.

The county has a lot of vehicles and it uses private service in the community, Smith said.

"They do a great job for us, but it is harder to keep up with them when you are using multiple places," he said.

Maintenance could be contracted out or GATEWAY could own a facility and contract with a company to operate it, he said.

"The time to do that is now while you are in budget," he said.

The transfer station and Union Station are two separate animals, something that Smith said he did not realize until just recently. He said that everyone involved needs to lay aside territories and who owns what.

"It is about can we do it more effectively," he said. "Can we do it better with fewer dollars? Or, can we do it better combining everything and using the same dollars and partner where we all can save? I don't think that we have done that, but I think that we can."