Port Shelves Union Station Proposal

Vicki Woo December 15, 1978 0

By Vicki Woo and Ron Chew

The Port of Seattle earlier this month shelved its plan to construct a $17 million intermodal transportation terminal at the old Union Station site adjacent to the International District. The Port cited the unwillingness of Greyhound Bus Lines to participate in the terminal project.

Jim Dwyer, Senior director of planning and port relations, told The Examiner that “Trailways was ready, willing and able” to participate in the terminal project, but that Greyhound “indicated the site was not adequate to meet their needs.”

The Port had planned a complex which would house Greyhound, Trailways, Airport Bus Service, Greyline Tours and Evergreen Cascade Trailways. Amtrak would be hooked up with the complex by tunnel under 4th Avenue, under Port’s proposal.

Since Greyhound Bus Lines has a large share of the market in bus travel, said Dwyer, its participation was essential.
But The Examiner has learned that the President of Greyhound notified the Port, by letter, of its decision not to participate in the Union Station scheme on November 16, about one month before the Port made its public announcement to shelve the Union Station project.

According to Seattle City Council insiders, there were at least three Council members prepared to vote against appropriation of the money the Port had sought for its planning study. That would be enough votes to block passage of funds for the study. Seven of the nine Council members would have to vote for the appropriation, since the $25,000 would come out of emergency funds.

The City Council’s transportation committee had scheduled a public hearing on the transportation terminal appropriation November 22, but the hearing was rescheduled to early December, then postponed at the request of the Port. Some observers pointed out that it was a politically wise decision by the Port to shelve the transportation terminal project at this time, rather than risk defeat by the City Council.

The International District improvement Association (Inter*Im) had spearheaded opposition to the conversion of Union Station into a transportation terminal, pointing to the traffic congestion, pollution and potential detrimental effect on housing the terminal would cause. Inter*Im had heavily lobbied the City Council.

“It’s a community victory,” stated Bob Santos, director of Inter*Im, following the Port’s announcement. “The support of the business community, residents and groups outside of the District” was a key factor in Port’s decision, he said.

Asked if the opposition from International District community had anything to do with the Port’s decision, Dwyer replied that the Port had earmarked money for community participation in the planning process. Art Yoshioka, another Port representative, responded, “I don’t think so.”

Asked if the Port will formulate a different proposal for a transportation terminal, Dwyer replied, “I don’t foresee that occurring in the near future.” Yoshioka added, “It’s kind of a lost opportunity.” But, Yoshioka added, “the basic problem won’t go away—the needs of public transit.”

A local Greyhound official declined to comment on the decision not to participate in the Port scheme. But Lee Whitehead, director of public relations for Greyhound in Phoenix, said, “Our people looked at the site and determined it was not suitable because of the amount of traffic congestion.” The proximity of Union Station to the Kingdome would hamper access to and from the terminal, Whitehead said. He said the Union Station site could not be altered to meet the needs of Greyhound. “We decided that it was not going to be feasible at some later time,” Whitehead said.

Whitehead’s response raises a question. The Port, in its attempt to defuse community opposition, had argued that it would study alternative uses for the Union Station site as well as alternative sites for the transportation terminal. However, according to Whitehead, the Port made the recommendation to Greyhound that the terminal be built at Union Station. “We have not closed the door on the notion (of a transportation terminal),” said Whitehead. “But that particular site we will not participate in because, as a bus terminal, it is not acceptable.”

Dan Dingfield, consultant to the Port of Seattle, suggested that competition between Greyhound and Trailways might have played a role in Greyhound’s decision to stay out of the Union Station terminal project. Shigeko Uno, vice-president of the International District Economic Association (IDEA), said Greyhound handles 60 per cent of the bus traffic and 995 other bus companies handle the other 40 per cent. It has been suggested that Greyhound wants to control the market.
“Fanciful speculation,” responds Whitehead.

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