Makeover on Main: Bus station gets new look

The most obvious exterior change that bus watchers notice: The Trailways sign no longer adorns the front of the bus station.

And disposing of that controversial cultural artifact wasn't even part of the $218,000 federal grant Charlottesville used to refurbish the Greyhound bus station on West Main Street.

The biggest changes are inside. New offices house the marketing group of the Charlottesville Transit System, which now is Greyhound's authorized ticket agent.

The terrazzo floors gleam, 40 years of grime banished. The new downstairs restrooms are clean and odor-free.

"It was a real rundown, dump sort of place," says acting CTS director Charles Petty. "The ceilings were falling in, and the bathrooms upstairs were not ADA accessible. They were really funky."

Now, it's a veritable multi-modal transportation center. Travelers can purchase a ticket to Phoenix– or a book of CTS tickets to go to the Mall.

The buzzword in urban transportation planning circles these days is "seamless," and the goal is to provide inner-city and intra-city connectivity.

That means an arriving passenger, say a struggling country musician tired of Nashville, could quickly hop a city bus to get to her in-town destination.

Good news for taxpayers is that the federally funded makeover came in under budget. "The bids were made in a slack time," says Petty. "We did work beyond what was planned, like the kiosks."

Those are still to come, as is Charlottesville's first crepe cart, a mini mart, and public access computer terminals.

The station currently serves 350 passengers a day. "We're hoping to bring in walk-in traffic," says Diane Taylor, CTS marketing director.

She points to video games that now greet visitors coming in the front door. Those will be moved to make room for the crepe cart. And the mini mart may sell take-out Hispanic food for around five bucks.

The city will get a cut from 15-minutes-for-$1 public access terminals. "We put in additional digital service lines," says Petty, adding that he hopes to have those online before the Christmas travel season. "A lot of students travel on the bus," he notes.

Operations supervisor Randy Kirby has witnessed the transformation firsthand. The former Greyhound worker is now a city employee.

"All of a sudden, I'm in here and see flowers coming in," he says. "It's great."

While Greyhound still owns the building, it's turned its operations over to local governments in cities such as Lynchburg, Staunton, and Fredericksburg. "Greyhound has done this a lot," observes Kirby.

The exterior Trailways sign was a legacy of the days before Greyhound bought its competition in 1987. Its departure has drawn mixed reviews.

While not part of the renovation, the city first asked Greyhound to remove the sign, and then pressured the company to make repairs to the sign.

"Greyhound was fairly entrenched and didn't want to remove it," says Mike Mollica in facilities management. "They dug in their heels. They felt it indicated buses even though it said Trailways."

Mollica says there were "major water infiltration issues" where the sign sat on a short canopy. Then when Greyhound got estimates to repair the sign, "they decided to pull it."

He, for one, is happy to see it go.

Others, like Petty, saw the sign as "neat and retro."

And Randy Kirby misses the sign, a sentimental symbol of his career. "I went to work for Trailways in March '73," he explains. Thirty years later, he's a city employee, and the Trailways sign is West Main history.


And after. The new and improved bus station loses its Trailways sign.