The impact on a local landmark business is a reasonable justification for reconsidering the city's bus transfer station.
Congratulations to the Lawrence City Commission and city bus officials for making a common-sense decision to move slightly the city's T transfer point.
On Tuesday, commissioners approved moving the transfer point on Ninth Street from just west of Massachusetts Street to just east of Massachusetts Street. The switch will respond to the desire to keep the transfer point in the heart of downtown and will have a minimal effect on existing bus routes. And it will ease traffic congestion west of Massachusetts Street where buses have been stopping on both sides of the street.
The bus transfer issue has been portrayed as largely a concession to Weaver's Department Store owners who believe that the removal of six parking spaces and the congestion just north of their store have had a negative impact on their business. Protecting this landmark retail anchor in downtown actually isn't a bad reason to move the bus transfer point. Weaver's is Lawrence's only remaining downtown department store and is operating in a highly competitive market in which there is a relatively thin line between surviving and going out of business.
Weaver's request to move the bus transfer point was not based on a desire to keep a certain group of people away from the store or simply to try to get back six parking spaces along Ninth Street. It was based on the observation that business was suffering and that congestion from the buses might be part of the cause. In a highly competitive situation, business owners have to think about such factors.
The city's Public Transit Advisory Committee seemed annoyed that Weaver's or city commissioners would try to second-guess their decision on where to locate the transfer point. Committee members seemed to be asking, "Why should we move the transfer station?" when they should have been asking, "Why shouldn't we move it if that move might help a local retailer without causing serious disruption to the T system?"
Moving the transfer station less than a block will continue to give riders of the T easy access to downtown, a move that hopefully will benefit downtown businesses. It also will ease traffic congestion at one of the city's busiest intersections, which may encourage more people to come downtown.
The T still is in its fledgling stage. Although it is an important service for some local riders it also must fit into a broader picture of what is good for Lawrence. Bus officials want the bus transfer point near Ninth and Massachusetts because Lawrence's downtown is such a thriving, vital place. With that in mind, it only makes sense to work with the businesses bus-riders come downtown to visit. Adjustments like moving the transfer point are one way to do that.