City Hall thrown under the bus: Report rips 'do nothing' effort to save Greyhound terminal

The city has offered no substantial plan to either purchase the station or propose an alternate site before Greyhound’s lease ends in October, according to the report by DePaul University’s Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development. “There could be a real mess for our city if no action is taken,” said Joe Schwieterman, one of the authors.

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A passenger carries his luggage to a bus outside the Greyhound bus station on the Near West Side in 2023.

A passenger carries his luggage to a bus outside the Greyhound bus station on the Near West Side in 2023. The Greyhound terminal at 630 W. Harrison is at imminent risk of closure, and the city has done little to prevent it, according to a study.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times file

Greyhound could be evicted from its longtime Near West Side bus terminal in a few months, and City Hall is fumbling its effort to save it, according to a new report.

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The city of Chicago has adopted a “do nothing approach” and offered no substantial plan to either purchase the station or propose an alternate site before Greyhound’s lease ends in October, according to the report by DePaul University’s Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development.

The report builds on the Institute’s brief from last year, when it established the need to save the station that serves a half-million riders yearly, many of whom are low-income or disabled. The terminal at 630 W. Harrison St. was put up for sale last year by a company that wants to sell it to a residential high-rise developer.

“The clock is ticking in this outcome,” said Joe Schwieterman, professor at DePaul and one of the report’s authors. “There could be a real mess for our city if no action is taken. The station is just too big and important to have an improvised solution, such as pushing departures to a curb without waiting areas.”

One issue is that the city apparently hasn’t received meaningful help from regional and federal transit partners to purchase the Greyhound terminal or build a new one, according to the report. The inaction is striking, the authors write, considering that the federal government has grown more inclined to fund intercity bus projects this year.

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

The terminal at 630 W. Harrison St. was put up for sale last year by a company that wants to sell it to a residential high-rise developer.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times file

The city should also assess potential alternate bus stops before it’s too late, the authors write. That includes looking into using curb space outside of Union Station, possible use of the Chicago Transit Authority bus depot across the street from Union Station, and curb space near the Jane Addams Parkway on Des Plaines Street, adjacent to the Greyhound terminal, according to the report.

Since bus customers sometimes wait hours for pickup, the city may need to build indoor spaces with restrooms, according to the report. Without adequate planning, Chicago may experience chaos worse than what befell Philadelphia when its Greyhound terminal closed suddenly last year and the new curbside location had to be moved twice due to lack of planning, the authors write.

The city’s transportation department sought federal money last year to help it purchase the terminal, but a department spokeswoman said the city was not awarded the Buses and Bus Facilities Program grant.

Joe Schwieterman, director of DePaul's Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development, talks with the Sun-Times Editorial Board in 2013.

Joe Schwieterman, director of DePaul’s Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development, talks with the Sun-Times Editorial Board in 2013.

Scott Stewart/Sun-Times file

In a statement, the department said it “fully recognizes the importance of intercity bus service as an affordable and accessible means of regional travel. The City has been in conversation with Greyhound and other bus companies and is assessing alternative sites for bus staging so services can continue uninterrupted.”

Schwieterman — a veteran researcher on transportation, urban planning and public policy issues — said he worries because city agencies haven’t shown a true effort to save the station.

“Public agencies haven’t presented any meaningful analysis of what they intend to do,” Schwieterman said. “I’m not talking about a 50-page report. I’m talking about some indication that they’re exploring options. That’s going to require some technical analysis.

“Also, the negotiations, what I’m hearing is that discussions with other agencies about buying the terminal haven’t progressed. If the city had a press release that they explored options and the price was too high, we’d be assured there was some diligence.”

A spokesperson for FlixBus, which owns Greyhound, said in a statement that the company was “very optimistic about our initial conversations” with city officials, but as the report concluded, “we have not seen meaningful progress that would enable Greyhound to find a permanent home within the Loop that creates the most access to affordable travel for the citizens of Chicago and tourists, alike.”

“Our hope going forward is that the City would be open to resuming conversations to facilitate Greyhound finding a permanent home for our Chicago-based operations,” the spokesperson said.

The report also rips state officials for exacerbating the bus station crisis by not prioritizing intercity bus travel. Illinois’ bus network lags more than any other Midwestern state “due to a lack of planning, branding, and marketing of state-supported bus services,” the authors write. Five of 10 most heavily traveled routes in Illinois lack direct bus service, according to the report.

The Illinois Department of Transportation did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

The Greyhound logo adorns the top of the entrance on a corrugate piece of metal the roof of the Greyhound bus terminal at 630 W Harrison in 2023.

The city of Chicago has adopted a “do nothing approach” and offered no substantial plan to either purchase the station or propose an alternate site before Greyhound’s lease ends in October, according to a report by DePaul University’s Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times file

The state could also do more to prop up its existing bus network by following the lead of other states and use buses to fill in gaps of regional train coverage. Other states have integrated bus and train booking on Amtrak’s site. The state could also develop a brand name for Illinois’ state-supported bus network, and establish a goal of connecting bus and rail service to more of the state’s top metro areas.

On the plus side, bus ridership continues to rise in popularity, Schwieterman said. The study anticipates ridership at Greyhound’s Chicago terminal to return to pre-pandemic levels by 2026.

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