How could potential sale of Greyhound station in downtown Chicago affect bus riders at regional hub?

If Greyhound gets booted from 630 W. Harrison St., as has happened at stations in several cities, it could leave travelers standing outside in sometimes extreme weather.

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bus Greyhound bus station Chicago West Loop passenger luggage

A passenger carries luggage to a bus outside the Greyhound bus station at 630 W. Harrison St.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Chicago Greyhound bus riders could be left on the curb after its main station was sold if the city can’t move fast enough to buy the land or build a public-run bus terminal.

Two months ago, Greyhound learned it was at risk of being kicked out of the South Loop bus terminal at 630 W. Harrison St., where it’s been for 34 years.

Greyhound has been booted from stations in several cities over the last few months after the sale of its properties to an equity firm last year.

Their experiences show what could be in store for Greyhound’s Chicago station, which, as a regional bus hub, serves about a half-million people a year and 55 buses daily.

Passengers in other cities were left confused and angered about losing shelter while waiting for buses. Many riders wait hours in Chicago for connecting buses.

“Where would I lay down and wait? On a sidewalk, the curb, the street?” said Jordan Nelson, who uses crutches after breaking a leg.

Nelson waited for a ride to pick him up at Chicago’s Greyhound station for over 12 hours one day in mid-June after arriving from Nashville, Tennessee. Usually tight on cash, the 22-year-old relies on intercity buses for travel. He’s never flown on a plane.

Jordan Nelson Greyhound station West Loop Chicago bus terminal

Jordan Nelson waited hours for his girlfriend to pick him up outside the South Loop Greyhound station.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Greyhound passengers have been shocked by the sudden closure of terminals in other cities. The stations were moved to curbs, parking lots or stations miles from downtown.

In early May, Greyhound suddenly exited its downtown station in Louisville, Kentucky, four months after the property was sold to a developer. The company left a sign on the vacant station’s door directing riders to its new bus stop a mile away in a strip mall parking lot.

Some riders had to pay for additional travel to get to the makeshift station, local TV station WDRB reported. Louisville officials had debated helping Greyhound move to a spot near the city’s airport, but the station was sold before its city council approved the move.

In late November, Greyhound’s station in downtown Cincinnati was sold, pushing the company’s bus terminal more than 10 miles away. Critics said the new location was harder to get to by the city’s public transit. The company that bought Greyhound’s station planned to use it as a parking lot for an adjacent casino.

In 2021, Greyhound demoted its station in Charlottesville, Virginia, to a parking lot at a former church, then an Amtrak parking lot. Passengers were confused about where to print tickets and waited in temperatures near 100 degrees.

Blue covered masts white colored cables Greyhound bus terminal station 630 W. Harrison

The Greyhound bus terminal at 630 W. Harrison St.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

How Greyhound lost its land

Greyhound lost ownership of 33 of its stations two years ago when the company was sold to Germany-based FlixBus. Greyhound’s properties were sold separately in December to private equity group Twenty Lake Holdings, owned by Alden Global Capital, and the stations have been sold one by one.

“In other cities, when a buyer is found, things can move extraordinarily fast,” said Joe Schwieterman, a professor at DePaul University who wrote in April that Chicago’s Greyhound station was at risk of imminent closing.

“We could be in the eye of the hurricane,” he said.

A developer may try to build two towers on the property, Crain’s Chicago Business reported.

The Chicago Department of Transportation wants to buy the Greyhound station and create the city’s first public bus terminal. Earlier this year, CDOT applied for a federal grant to buy the terminal.

In a letter supporting the grant — called the Buses and Bus Facilities Competitive Program — the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning wrote that a public bus terminal would serve other bus lines besides Greyhound. The public station would also alleviate congestion on curbs near Union Station, where the other bus companies operate, CMAP wrote.

Mega Bus Chicago Union Station West Loop

Passengers wait to board a Mega Bus outside Union Station in Chicago.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

A public station may be the natural next step for Chicago. Ten of the 14 largest U.S. metro areas have public-owned bus terminals, according to Schwieterman. It would operate similarly to an airport, operated by the city and funded by fees paid by bus operators, Schwieterman said.

CDOT Commissioner Gia Biagi told the Sun-Times she was committed to making the South Loop site permanent for Greyhound. “But if we can’t,” Biagi said, “we’re committed to making sure there’s a place for Greyhound to dock in the city.”

Local Ald. Bill Conway (34th) supports moving Greyhound’s station elsewhere. Neighbors living in the gentrifying South Loop have complained to the rookie alderperson about crime near the station. Last year, a Greyhound employee was fatally shot outside of the station.

Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner Gia Biagi

Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner Gia Biagi.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

CDOT and Greyhound both told the Sun-Times they’re looking at alternative sites, but none of those is as good as staying in the South Loop, just blocks from connections at Union Station and the CTA Blue Line.

“There aren’t great options right now,” Biagi said. “Certainly we’re thinking through what Plan B would look like, but we’d like to focus on Plan A.”

If Greyhound gets booted from the station, the company will likely do curbside pickup and drop-off in a West Side parking lot until it finds a permanent home, Schwieterman said.

“It would just be embarrassing,” he said.

Greyhound station map Midwest Chicago

Chicago’s Greyhound station is a regional hub for bus lines across the Midwest.

DePaul University Professor Joe Schwieterman

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