Old City community frustrated after city abruptly cancels interim bus terminal meeting

Wednesday, July 10, 2024
Old City community frustrated after city abruptly cancels interim bus terminal meeting
Philadelphia residents in Old City were left with few answers at a community meeting concerning an interim bus terminal.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Parents and residents of Philadelphia's Old City neighborhood were left with few answers at a community meeting concerning an interim bus terminal the city could potentially install on 2nd Street.

If approved, the bus terminal would be installed at a PPA parking garage between Walnut and Chestnut streets. It would sit right next to Amigos Spanish Immersion Pre-School, which cares for dozens of toddlers throughout the workweek.

The pre-school's owner, Cloe Levin, said the city never formally told her, parents or other business owners in the area that the site was being considered. She said she only found out after seeing Greyhound buses run test routes from the location.

Levin, who said she routinely takes young students on walks throughout the neighborhood, said she's now concerned that buses will not only clog up traffic on the already busy street but also be a safety hazard for her students.

"Every single day there are SEPTA buses that can't turn from Chestnut onto 2nd Street and they're blocked there on a daily basis," Levin said. "So, I can't imagine multiple Greyhound buses."

City representatives from the Managing Director's Office were supposed to listen to concerns and answer questions during a community meeting at the pre-school on Tuesday. However, the officials decided to leave minutes before the meeting was set to start because of concerns that members of the media, who were invited, would intimidate parents.

Sharon Gallagher, the senior communications director for the Managing Director's Office, also added the city thought the meeting would be private.

"This was not a community meeting," Gallagher said. "It was a meeting with parents. That's what we were asked to come and do."

Councilmember Mark Squilla, who represents the 1st District, did show up and stayed to listen to the concerns of parents and community members.

Many of those in attendance echoed safety, health and traffic concerns. That included parent, Marie Carillo, who said all the smog from a bus terminal would compromise the health of both children and staff at the preschool. She expressed her frustration that city representatives weren't there to hear her out.

"Adding many large buses coming down the street would, I feel, significantly increase the risk to the children and the teachers here," Carillo said. "I really wanted an opportunity to express our concerns directly to them, so it is disappointing that they didn't give us that opportunity tonight."

Other parents, such as Brian Kunis, said the potential site for the new bus terminal was poorly designed and said there would be an increased potential for traffic accidents.

"I've almost been hit a couple times myself just by cars swerving around," he said.

The Philadelphia Office of Transportation and Information Systems told Action News that the Old City location was one of several temporary locations the city was looking at after Greyhound shuttered the doors to its bus terminal months ago.

A representative said nothing was set in stone, but added the city is currently looking for a short-term solution for the bus terminal because it wants something in place to accommodate visitors to the city in 2026 when the city holds events to celebrate the nation's 250th birthday and hosts World Cup matches.

The representative said 30th Street was among the locations the city was looking at for a permanent site.

That did little to calm the concerns of parents who said they just want a long-term solution figured out.

"What does temporary mean? Let's find a location that's going to be permanent and let's set it up for success," Sara Ronsville said.