IN: Bus Riders Impressed with Bloomington Transit's New Center

Aug. 19--After four years using public transportation in Bloomington, city bus rider Daniel Neidlinger was ready for a change of scenery.

"You have to do that every once in a while," he said. "I think it was time for an upgrade, a new center for buses."

The downtown transit center opened its air-conditioned doors to travelers Monday. From the walls of windows and new seating to the credit card-accessible vending machines, the new building at Third and Walnut streets is different from its predecessor at Fourth and Washington streets in almost every way.

"Nothing bad here. It's a perfect center," Neidlinger said Monday afternoon while he waited in the center for a ride. "It's 10 to 20 times better than the old one. I love the whole environment."

Reactions have been positive on the road as well. Jim Brothers, who drives a Route 3 bus, is glad that there are a few new rules to complement the beautiful building. Passengers waiting to catch buses will have to move to sidewalks or alleys flanking the center to smoke.

"The smokers don't like it, but nonsmokers are happy," Brothers said.

As for concerns, drivers have also noted that the lanes where buses park to pick up and drop off passengers are too narrow for easy access from the street.

And while the traffic signal at Smith Avenue and Walnut Street will turn red when buses exit the center, traffic is still congested from vehicles stopped for the stoplight at Walnut and Third streets.

Driver Chris Bomgardner's concern focuses on the facility's public restrooms.

"We have a lot of people -- who knows what they'll do in there," he said. "It's one of those things we'll have to wait and see. Hopefully, they take care of it and don't abuse it."

Training supervisor Debbie Schmidt said the transit center ran normally for a Monday, and has heard passengers compare the new building to bus terminals in major cities.

"Everybody has enjoyed looking at the new facility," Schmidt said. "Instead of a small hole in the wall like we had downtown, it's very spacious."

On its first day, Schmidt said, the main issue the terminal faced was directing passengers to their buses and keeping them on the sidewalks.

"Obviously, passengers are walking wherever they want to," bus driver James Coker said.

Though he's only been in Bloomington 11 days, Gabriel Harley has used Bloomington Transit twice. Harley is an international Indiana University student from Brazil, and is used to taking buses in large cities.

"It works much better than it does in Brazil," Harley said. "You have to wait more, but at least you know where the buses are," he said, referring to the bus tracking smartphone application that shows bus locations in real time.

But like any young adult with a smartphone, Harley quickly took note when he couldn't connect to one key feature the new downtown transit center promised.

"The only thing missing is the Wi-Fi," Harley said.

Copyright 2014 - Herald-Times, Bloomington, Ind.