BANGOR, Maine — The City Council will discuss on Monday whether to move the city bus depot to Abbott Square or Washington Street or keep it near a soon-to-be-redesigned Pickering Square, officials said Friday.
Councilors opted to have city staff take up the terminal as its own subject during the redesign discussion because it is too big a piece of the puzzle to work around, Chairman Joe Baldacci said.
“The move,” Baldacci said Friday, “will cost money, and we need to decide that first.”
“We know that it [Pickering Square] is important public space but we know that its design needs help,” City Manager Cathy Conlow said Friday. “We are not happy that it is not a warm, inviting space, so our overall goal is to create a better public space at Pickering. It’s a little bleak.”
Staffers reviewed several options, including using the former Greyhound Bus terminal at the corner of Union and Main streets, before settling on the three potential bus station locations Community Economic and Community Development Department Director Tanya Emery will review with the council, Conlow said.
“These are not to what we call ‘final design’ stage — these are initial ideas for discussion purposes only,” Emery wrote in a 10-page proposal and one-page memo to councilors. “With the input of the council and the public, we can further develop any ideas that remain under consideration. Staff are still working on very rough cost estimates, but without design details it will be difficult to develop accurate estimates.”
Released by Baldacci on Thursday, Emery’s proposal discusses the benefits and problems of each location:
— Abbott Square, between Harlow and Franklin streets. This idea has the benefit of locating the depot within easy distance of the Bangor Post Office, City Hall, the public library, the Margaret Chase Smith Federal Building and the courthouse in a well-commercialized area of downtown. Plus the city already owns the land, Emery wrote.
But Abbott Square — basically the parking lot located across the street from the library — has its catches. Several permit-paying parking spaces will be lost on the upper portion of the square, with permit holders relocated to the lower square or a newly-built parking lot on Spring Street, Emery wrote.
Putting the depot in Abbott Square also risks an ungainly mix of parking, cars and pedestrians that might force the addition of more downtown bus stops.
— Washington Street near Hancock Street. This option provides a building that could house bus service offices and plenty of room for buses to get in and out of the lot on Washington Street near its intersection with Hancock. The lot could be expanded into “a multi-modal hub” with “complimentary uses/services” and is close to a Dollar Store, Walgreens, and Foster’s convenience store, Emery wrote.
“Downtown would need to be served by a downtown express shuttle — a small bus on a continuous loop through downtown, which would arguably improve service to some key downtown locations,” Emery wrote.
The option’s cons include its distance from downtown “for those who would rather walk than wait for a transfer or shuttle,” Emery wrote, and the area’s need for significant pedestrian enhancements.
— Keeping the depot at Pickering Square. The significantly greened square would feature a single but wide U-shaped driveway onto Water Street that would keep traffic well away from Merchants Plaza, according to the drawing Emery provides.
This option wouldn’t require any changes to the bus service and would keep the depot in a centralized location. It also “separates bus traffic, pedestrian traffic, and garage traffic and
creates a defined area for buses and bus support functions,” Emery wrote, while creating “a significant, contiguous open space adjacent to the Maine Discovery Museum.”
The new waiting area also could include space for a “police presence,” Emery wrote. The redesign would add 16 parking spaces to the garage.
But the bus hub would fragment the potentially large open space promised by the redesign of the square and would cause the loss of three parking spaces, Emery wrote.
“Please remember these concepts are just to spur discussion about the pros and cons of several options for locating the bus hub. We look forward to further feedback,” Emery wrote.
Fourteen residents discussed four previous redesign options during the council’s business and economic development committee meeting on Dec. 20, when the redesign was the center of some dispute. Businessowners pressed city officials for more parking, while residents fearing the loss of open space downtown said more parking wasn’t needed.
Three of those four previous options would keep the bus hub downtown, and the fourth would add a parking lot and move the bus to another unspecified location. The first two options move the entrance of the parking garage, but because the structure is on a floodplain, costs are a prohibitive factor. Option three moves the bus hub to the center of the square and option four adds the parking lot and removes the bus hub from downtown.
The goal of the renovation project is to provide a better experience for city bus riders and for people who use the Pickering Square parking garage, and to create a better connection between downtown and the waterfront with a space for public events or recreation, Emery said at the December meeting.
The city has about $1.2 million set aside for the Pickering Square redesign, she said.
The redesign will be discussed in a council workshop at 5:15 p.m. and during a council meeting at 7:30 p.m. on Monday.
BDN Writer Nok-Noi Ricker contributed to this report.