The last days of Greyhound


For decades, the city’s tried to get rid of downtown’s bus terminal. This coming year, it will  finallyhappen.

Nearly a quarter million travelers pass through Sacramento’s Greyhound terminal annually, but early on a recent weekday morning, there’s only a couple dozen. Actually, there’s more luggage than passengers; bags rest in orderly rows in front of numbered gates while riders loaf in chairs or sit on the mint-chip marble lobby floor. CNN hums on a flat screen mounted on the eastern wall above rental lockers. The rising sun blasts against grimy windows facing L Street. Outside, three taxis await fares; one driver sleeps behind the wheel.

By 9 a.m., the corner of Seventh and L streets awakens. It’s a vibrant scene with commuters, residents, loiterers and workers. But it’s not the kind of scene City Hall and others envision in downtown’s future. Which is why this August, Mayor Kevin Johnson stood in a dirt field in north Sacramento holding a jackhammer as he and Greyhound officials broke ground on the bus terminal’s future home on Richards Boulevard. It’s a $7.6 million project that, according to officials, is moving forward ahead of schedule.

This means that these are the downtown Greyhound’s last days.

Preservationists are quick to point out that the terminal building at 715 L Street is a landmark that dates back to the 1930s. Local historian William Burg says the existing Greyhound, a Streamline Moderne structure made of poured concrete and tiles from Gladding-McBean, was purpose-built in 1937 to replace an older Greyhound depot on the same site. In 1947, the bus barn to the west of the terminal was added; previously, the space was a parking garage for the now-shuttered Hotel Berry.

Until the mid-century, the city’s streetcar lines converged just around the corner from the Greyhound. And even today, both light-rail lines stop along Seventh Street out front of the terminal. At its future home, however, only two bus routes will service both the Richards Boulevard and downtown’s K Street, which are 2 miles apart.

The Greyhound terminal at 715 L Street was built, like many of the company’s stations, in the Streamline Moderne style in 1937. The landowner has yet to announce plans for the location once the terminal moves next year.

But the new light-rail line, which will be completed soon, will have a stop next to the terminal. And there will be a new road opening access from Richards Boulevard to downtown. “We’re actually doing two projects in one,” explained Rachel Hazelwood, a senior planner with the city. “We’re connecting a street between Richards Boulevard and Bannon [Street] … and that’s going to really improve the grid in the River District.”

This is the first north-south street connection in “decades,” Hazelwood said.

The new Greyhound terminal itself, to be completed by early next summer, according to architects Mogavero Notestine Associates, will be a modern and contemporary building complete with sustainable features such as on-site storm drainage, water-efficient fixtures and stained concrete flooring. The terminal lobby will be blanketed by a soaring, overhanging roof and flanked by towering glass windows in the front and multicolored panels on the sides.

The Sacramento City Planning Commission finally approved the Greyhound move this past May. The Richards Boulevard terminal will rest on a 1.75-acre site in north Sacramento, which is referred to as the River District, and will finally accomplish a longstanding city goal of moving the bus terminal out of the J-K-L downtown corridor.

Still, this new location will not be Greyhound’s permanent home; the goal is to move the terminal to the Sacramento Intermodal Transportation facility on the as-yet-undeveloped rail-yard site sometime during the next seven to 15 years. So, what happens to this new location after the city has shelled out millions to what possibly could be less than a decades’ use?

“The building was actually designed as a terminal, but it could be moved,” said Mogavero Notestine partner Craig Stradley. The new terminal, he explained, is made of “components”—the exterior siding is made of metal composite panels that interlock—and “the majority of the building’s parts can be dismantled and reconstructed elsewhere.”

Second construction work has been fast-tracked because the city hired both an architectural team and a separate builder, Rudolph and Sletten, who recently completed the new Crocker Art Museum expansion.

Officials estimate that the new terminal may be completed by early summer; Greyhound’s current lease expires in March 2012, so the city has initiated discussions with the company and its landlord to try to get the buses moving to Richards Boulevard sooner.

Back at L Street, the property’s landowner, Danny Benvenuti, originally wanted to erect high-rise condos after demolishing the existing Streamline Moderne terminal. This idea has been scrapped, though, and Benvenuti will announce an interim plan early next year. Rumors vary, from a farmers’ market to retail to a rental-car outfit.

Greyhound representative Tim Stokes said that some 215,000 riders passed through Sacramento’s terminal last year, down 25,000 from 2008. He explained that the company evaluates routes annually and that the city’s outfit serves as a major hub for buses traveling not just throughout the state, but also for those heading to the West Coast throughout the country. The top-five destinations for Sacramento passengers are, in order: San Francisco, Los Angeles, Oakland, Reno and Stockton.

Greyhound fares are competitive with that of airlines such as Southwest—though most discount airfares beat standard bus rates. A one-way trip to Los Angeles on Greyhound, for instance, ranges between $54-$71, while a “Web only” fare on Southwest.com goes for $59

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This woman was on her way back to Phoenix—to the tune of $220 roundtrip, before fees

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Watching TV at the current L Street terminal, though, is free to passengers and nonpassengers alike. Or at least it was this past Sunday afternoon, when a modest crowd gathered in front of the flat screen to witness the San Francisco 49ers defeat the St. Louis Rams in overtime. A man in a green shirt and jeans pumped his arm in the air, then fist-bumped two men before heading out the doors to L Street. Most of the crowd exited as well; only seven passengers remained.

At the future Greyhound location, only riders with tickets will be permitted to enter the terminal lobby.

By Nick Miller/Sacramento News and Review