It’s taken a decade for Intercity Transit to get this close, but the public transit agency is on the cusp of building a larger bus hub in downtown Olympia.
The $8.5 million expansion is a big investment. It will add an 11,000-square-foot facility adjacent to the 10-bay Olympia Transit Center that opened along State Street in 1994 and is running out of space.
The project promises a larger waiting room for riders, amenities such as extra public restrooms, and extra space for bus drivers to wait between runs. It also adds five bays for more buses to board passengers.
In a long-awaited development that helps coordinate bus options in our region, the project has room for Greyhound Lines, Inc., to relocate its local depot.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
The Dallas-based regional carrier has operated for about 75 years in a depot next to Sylvester Park, several blocks away, but Greyhound has been talking to IT since 2017 about moving to the expanded hub.
“There are no sticking points,” Greyhound spokeswoman Lanesha Gipson said in an email to The Olympian last week. “Greyhound will enter into an agreement when IT presents a lease or license for our review and approval.”
That is encouraging news. But nothing is certain until agreements are signed.
The Federal Transit Administration also gave its go-ahead last week to the hub project, IT general manager Ann Freeman Manzanares said.
The existing downtown Olympia transit center still looks pretty good as it nears its 24th anniversary in August. But ridership is up tremendously over the years.
The enclosed waiting area for passengers has only two public restrooms for passengers. That isn’t much for a center where people get on or off a bus an estimated 5,000 times each day.
If the project gets final city approvals and construction begins this summer, the new center could open in 2019. It will be angled on the corner of Olympia Avenue and Franklin Street on a grassy portion of the transit hub's one-block-square site.
Co-locating the Greyhound bus service was talked about as far back as 2007, but neither party was ready to proceed.
Since then, IT secured planning money and also won three federal construction grants worth $4.3 million. IT matched that with about $4.2 million in savings from its yearly collection of local-option sales taxes.
So the new transit center will be paid for when it opens, IT spokeswoman Rena Shawver said.
A hard reality about transit service is that it's expensive to build and operate. But expanding the local bus network is an important long-term goal for a livable community.
Thurston County is predicted to add tens of thousands of new residents over the next 20 years. Many will want to live car-free and near a bus line.
We hope that as our communities encourage higher residential densities, bus routes become more numerous and economical to run.