NJ Transit has rerouted five bus lines serving Center City Philadelphia because of “unsafe” conditions caused by traffic flow changes at the Greyhound terminal where its buses picked up and dropped off passengers.
As a result, some inbound South Jersey commuters must transfer to other NJ Transit routes in Camden at the Walter Rand Transportation Center hub.
A sixth line, the Route 551 express service between Atlantic City and Philadelphia, instead drops customers bound for the Greyhound station a block south, at 10th and Market Streets. It also makes stops on Broad and Vine Streets before heading back east.
Greyhound changed the entrances and exits to its station in late February, apparently to account for loss of access to an empty paved lot at 1018-24 Arch St., which bus drivers had used for years to make smoother turns into and out of a facility hemmed in by narrow streets.
The property was sold to an unnamed developer in 2019 as part of an $8.4 million deal, but little had changed until recently, when it was barricaded, neighbors say. On Feb. 28, NJ Transit began stopping and starting routes 408, 313, 315, 317, and 409 in Camden.
In effect, the move stopped daily one-seat bus travel to and from Philadelphia and locations such as Cape May, Wildwood, Asbury Park, Millville, and Trenton — not to mention interrupting direct service from many South Jersey towns and cities in between.
Some riders complained about the change in Center City service during a recent public hearing about the future of South Jersey bus service, according to NJ.com. ”My commute has become unbearable, I have to coordinate between two buses and a [SEPTA] trolley,” Laura Schultz of Pitman, who works in University City, was quoted as saying. “I have no car and rely on NJ Transit.”
Philadelphia has not had a centralized location for intercity bus service, instead scattering it in different halves of the city. Greyhound and Peter Pan still use the Filbert Street terminal, though it is small and has been described as bunker-like. Meanwhile, low cost carriers such as Megabus leave from street stops near 30th Street Station, with no shelter for waiting passengers.
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A senior NJ Transit executive said Greyhound implemented the changes, which were first proposed last November, without warning or responding to safety concerns the agency had raised.
Greyhound strongly disputed the suggestion the new traffic pattern is unsafe but the company did not respond to specific questions about why access to the Arch Street lot is now blocked.
A representative of the owner of the lot, listed in city real estate records as Arch Street Realty, LLC could not be reached for comment. The new owner was described as a private local investor whose development plans were not yet complete in a Jan. 10, 2019, news release from brokerage firm Marcus & Millichap announcing the sale of the “Greyhound parking lot.”
City records show the owner sold a related parcel at 44 N. 10th Street to another limited-liability corporation.
Crystal S. Booker, the Greyhound spokesperson, said in a statement that the bus company subjected the traffic plans to “several rounds of testing to ensure operational safety and efficiency” and cleared them with the city. Our adjustments successfully meet desired requirements, providing plenty of boarding space for customers and a clear line of sight for drivers,” she said.
But NJ Transit Senior Vice President Mike Kilcoyne, general manager of bus operations, explained the decision at a March 30 meeting of the agency’s board of directors. He said the space crunch had reduced gates available to NJ Transit at the Greyhound station on Filbert Street, and the traffic patterns also potentially endangered its drivers, other employees, and passengers.
A turn from Arch Street to the new 10th Street entrance is too tight, “forcing buses to ride the curb or the sidewalk” to complete it, Kilcoyne said, according to a recording of the NJ Transit board meeting. (He starts at about 18:40) He also maintained there was no “proper boarding area” for its customers, which could force passengers to stand in active bus lanes, among other concerns.
Passengers can transfer in Camden to other buses that serve the city at no extra cost with a “continuing trip” ticket, Kilcoyne said: the 400, 401, 402, 410, and 412 routes. And the 551 express still goes to Philadelphia directly, just not to the Greyhound station.