Black benches and shelters at 11th and N streets temporarily house a handful of StarTran passengers. At certain times of the day, plenty more linger outside, waiting to catch their bus.
Ridership has simply outgrown the small structures at the northwest corner of that intersection, which has become the de facto hub for Lincoln’s bus system. To the credit of city leaders, they’ve recognized the existing setup outside the Gold’s Building simply isn’t good enough.
StarTran is considering hiring an outside firm to study potential locations for a new, covered bus transfer station. The idea isn’t a new one, with an unsuccessful 2015 effort to secure a federal grant, but its revival aims to address a great need in the city.
"This transit hub was never built to serve as a bus transfer station," said the request seeking bids from firms to conduct the study. "It lacks basic infrastructure and … has pedestrian safety and security issues."
We couldn’t agree more with this characterization.
With most routes stopping at the corner of 11th and N, it’s the closest thing Lincoln has to a central bus stop. The report defined the city’s route map as a “hub-and-spoke” approach, with the intersection as a stopping point for nearly every bus.
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Only problem is that it lacks the amenities one would usually find at such a facility – including covered boarding areas, heating and air conditioning. Some bus riders told the Journal Star’s Riley Johnson that they wait an hour for a bus in whatever weather Mother Nature throws at them. Even dedicated restrooms are lacking; bus riders now must use a restroom off an alley between N and O streets.
Because the corner is crowded and congested, many Lincolnites elect to avoid the bus hub when walking downtown. Others have complained about trash and smoking concentrated there, too. These things are bound to happen when more than 10,600 people ride StarTran buses daily and connect at a juncture ill-suited for such crowds.
And, as Lincoln shows no signs of stopping its explosive growth, these numbers figure only to rise.
Though any proposal for a better central bus hub is only in its infancy, Lincoln must start somewhere as it attempts to create a more appropriate station for StarTran riders. Leaving them out in the elements and crowding downtown sidewalks falls beneath the expectation Lincolnites should have of their transit system.
The status quo doesn’t befit a city of this size or stature. But officials’ desire to revisit a past plan and improve the conditions faced by Lincoln’s bus riders – regardless of whether they’re lucky enough to land a sheltered seat at the present hub – is a campaign we should all cheer.