April 16, 2008


City bus station seeks new location

Operator of Grant Street site says he cannot make enough money


Joe McIntyre/staff photographer   
Passengers board a Trailways bus at a bus station on Grant Street Wednesday. The station operator is ending the contract and bus companies are looking for a new site to drop off and pick up area passengers.

Staff Reporter

The local Greyhound and Trailways bus station on Grant Street will be closing on May 1.
Don Broska, a sales manager representing both Greyhound Lines and Trailways Upstate New York, said area representative Ken Morey’s contract expires on April 30 and he will no longer continue to represent the bus services.
Morey said this morning that he has lost money most years that he has operated the bus station since it opened at the current site in January 1997.
“It doesn’t make enough money to keep it here in town,” he said. “There isn’t enough money to pay to have a station full time. It doesn’t pay enough to have it open when it should be open and there isn’t enough money to run it the way it should be run.”
Morey said he gave the bus companies about two months notice and had spoken with them several times over the years about the financial difficulty of running the bus station.
“I feel bad for the people (customers),” he said. “We have regular customers and I’m not sure what they’ll do.”
The Greyhound and Trailways bus offices are leased from Fred Compagni, owner of Grant Street Construction.
Broska said the companies are seeking an alternative location for its bus services and a new representative.
“The problems we have had in the past have been zoning restrictions,” Broska said of finding a new location. “We are looking to tag onto an existing business to supplement its revenue.”
Broska sent an e-mail to Mayor Tom Gallagher explaining the situation and seeking input from city officials as to an appropriate business the bus companies could use to incorporate its ticket sales and have a bus stop to service the Cortland area.
Gallagher said he distributed the e-mail to the Common Council for ideas.
Alderman Susan Feiszli (D-6th Ward) has been very active with the bus station since she first began her political career on the council.
“Four years ago, when I first came on the council, I held a ward meeting and the bus station was one of the biggest things people were concerned with,” she said. “It was a private business so there was not a lot the city could do.”
Feiszli said most of the concerns were with the location of the bus station and the first impression people got from that location, as well as poor lighting and shelter conditions.
“They did improve the appearance by planting some trees and added lighting, but the location was still poor,” she said. “It’s just a bad first impression.”
Now that Morey will no longer run the bus station, Feiszli said she sees it as an opportunity to find a new location that would be more convenient to downtown and area residents.
“I think with the price of gasoline, people are using it (bus services) more often,” she said. “Wilson Farms was the first thing that came to mind last night (Tuesday) when I heard about the situation … It has bathrooms and even a sit-down coffee area. It could bring in business.”
Feiszli added that she has not approached the store with her idea. Wilson Farms is open from 6 a.m. to midnight.
The bus station in Cortland has been in various locations throughout its existence, including the former Hotel Cortland, across the street from Coffee Mania on Port Watson Street, and on River Street.
Broska said ideally the new location would be one that is convenient to the community and close to Interstate 81.
If a permanent new location cannot be found before the current bus station on Grant Street closes May 1, Broska said he hopes to at least find a bus stop to accommodate both companies’ passengers and comply with local zoning laws.
In 2007, the county was looking for a place to put a 40-square foot Plexiglas bus shelter that would include lighting and an emergency telephone.
The shelter, which is currently in storage, cost approximately $5,125, $2,000 of which came from a grant from the Cortland Savings Foundation secured by the Social Justice Cluster, which had lobbied for the shelter for years.
The Social Justice Cluster obtained the grant with the help of the county Chamber of Commerce.
The shelter was supposed to go on the site of the current bus station, but Morey and Compagni declined, citing liability and maintenance concerns.
The bus station at 42 Grant St. has had a poorly-lit, wooden structure set far back from the road as its shelter.