The Oklahoma City Council approved a permit Tuesday for a new Greyhound bus terminal east of downtown, but debate and a rare split vote highlighted growing divisions among council members related to some aspects of city planning.
Greyhound is relocating from its current terminal at Walker and Sheridan avenues downtown when its lease is up in a year and a half, and it chose a site at Martin Luther King and Reno avenues that needed the permit for a green light. But council members were unanimous in their hope Greyhound will eventually be interested in relocating to the future MAPS 3 intermodal transit hub.
That the transit hub won't be ready in time for Greyhound's move was the source of the division on the council this week. Councilmen Skip Kelly, Pete White and Ed Shadid said they thought more could have been done to time the end of the Greyhound lease with the availability of the new hub, but some of their colleagues, led by Councilwoman Meg Salyer and Councilman Pat Ryan, argued the city and transit groups need more time to evaluate plans before making long-term commitments.
The MAPS 3 transit hub connection is an example of how some council members have been more critical in recent months of what they perceive as prioritization and fast-tracking of some projects, specifically the MAPS 3 convention center, at the expense of others.
“The more I look at some of the things that occurred in the MAPS program, the more I'm convinced that many things were tacked on the program just to make sure it passed as opposed to having any real serious interest in making it happen, and I think the hub is just another example of that,” White said. “It ought to (have) been something we're concerned about. We shouldn't let opportunities get away from us like this.”
The city has targeted the Santa Fe Train Depot on E.K. Gaylord Boulevard as the site for the intermodal transit hub, which is intended to eventually link the MAPS 3 modern streetcar to existing and possible future rail service, city buses, long-haul buses, cyclists and pedestrians.
Negotiations to buy the depot from its current owners are ongoing but unsuccessful so far. The depot isn't expected to be finished for at least another eight years, and the MAPS 3 transit projects was one of those that had its implementation timeline broken into pieces, due in part to an effort to build the convention center earlier.
But the complicated process of buying, designing and integrating the transit hub is the reason why a temporary move for Greyhound out of downtown is the best way forward, Salyer and others argued. The city and transit groups will have more time.
“I really don't think we missed an opportunity. I think we've perhaps gained one,” she said. “We are certainly eight years away from a substantial intermodal transit hub in downtown. We don't know what that looks like yet.”
Greyhound will be at the temporary site, approved in an 8-1 vote with only Shadid dissenting, for at least eight years. Company officials previously told the council they planned to stay for at least 10 years, but they shortened the low end of their estimate in a nod to the council's wishes for flexibility and the earliest possible move to the hub.
Still, Shadid contended city officials should have seen this coming and done more to hustle along the transit hub, pointing out Greyhound committed to $800,000 in improvements for the new temporary site.
“That's $800,000 that we have lost as potential investment into that site (for the MAPS 3 transit hub),” he said.
Shadid and White have been the most outspoken council members in asserting that a focus on the convention center and other development projects can result in missed opportunities for more broadly popular efforts like the transit projects.
“It isn't like we woke up this morning thinking that we were going to do a hub,” White said. “We've been talking about that for several years now, and that interstate bus transportation was going to be part of it.”