[Ed. Note — The following is an open letter to the “Road Runner” — Patrick McNamara, the Arizona Daily Star’s transportation columnist — by Tucson Bus Riders Union member and member of the Occupied Tucson Citizen Working Group, Greg Evans. It is in response to an article by McNamara, that ran in Monday’s paper, about the two proposals to redevelop the existing, functioning Ronstadt Transit Center — through which 17,000 people pass daily — into apartments, hotels and storefronts , as well as still somehow maintaining it as a transit center. In the article McNamara declares of the Ronstadt redevelopment project: “It is called progress, and the community shouldn’t stand in the way.” ]
Dear Mr. McNamara,
As a Park and Ride rider of Sun Tran (to PCC West Campus, and then into the city), I did not agree with your statement in your article on Monday that “both of these proposals would preserve the transit functions of Ronstadt” and was quite frankly offended by your telling us that “the community shouldn’t stand in the way” of this project.” The fact is, both proposals seriously degrade Ronstadt as a transit center and unless major changes are made I at least will, in spite of your admonishment, oppose this redevelopment.
The main, very concrete concern about the first proposal (the Alexander proposal) is that it would seem to put us Sun Tran riders into an indoor garage with up to 15 buses sitting and idling or passing through it, which, quite frankly, sounds something like hell. It was quite conspicuous to me that the proposal as it is presented online gave no indication as to what the bus loading area would actually look like inside, probably because it would be hard to make it look very pleasant or nice. And, truly, I can’t think of any city downtown transit center I’ve even been in that attempted to do this (take its transit center to the inside of a low ceiling space – see the illustration below), probably because it really isn’t very workable. I understand that at the presentation they assured bus riders that venting fans would be in place to suck out the exhaust fumes from the buses out of the enclosed space, but you will I hope respect the fact that we’re skeptical about how successful they will be in doing this, and besides which it in no way would address the issue of noise abatement (the buses, if you’ve ever been around them, make a lot of noise, and that’s when they’re sitting outside, not in a low ceiling garage).
Regarding the Peach proposal, well, that simply represents an end to the transit center as we know it. It is simply a drive through lane where buses whiz by, drop off and pick up passengers and more resembles an elongated, high volume bus stop than a transit center.
Indeed, if you’d been doing some real reporting instead of PR for the business interests downtown, you might have been asking what it is that Sun Tran would do under the Peach proposal as Ronstadt is currently a major point for changing drivers (and shuttling them to and from this point so they can be there to take charge of their buses), where bus drivers take breaks, etc.
These questions and the ones I mentioned above about the Alexander proposal are all, I think, worth asking, and it would be nice if the Star‘s transportation reporter were asking them instead of spending his column space telling the community that it shouldn’t “stand in the way” of this project.
Note: People have until Friday, July 31, to comment on the two proposals – the Alexander plan and the Peach plan – and can go to http://www.tucsonaz.gov/integrated-planning/ronstadt-transit-center-joint-development for more information and to make comments.