A look inside Lawrence Transit’s new Central Station; it should be ready for riders by the start of 2024

photo by: Austin Hornbostel/Journal-World

Lawrence Transit's Central Station, 2315 Bob Billings Parkway, is pictured Monday, Oct. 16, 2023.

Construction work is well underway at Lawrence’s new bus station, and passengers may be able to catch a ride to or from the new facility by the start of 2024.

Members of the city’s Public Transit Advisory Committee got a chance to tour Lawrence Transit’s Central Station at 2315 Bob Billings Parkway on Monday, as work to bring the facility online continues. As the Journal-World reported, the new station was originally slated to open in August, but factors like supply chain issues and unexpected utility relocations led to a delay in its opening until early next year. Once the station opens, it will replace Lawrence Transit’s temporary hub of the past decade at Seventh and Vermont streets.

photo by: Austin Hornbostel/Journal-World

Lawrence Transit’s Central Station, 2315 Bob Billings Parkway, is pictured Monday, Oct. 16, 2023. Construction is still in progress at the new multimodal transit transfer facility, with plans to begin operating shortly after the start of the new year.

Led by Adam Weigel, the city’s public transit and parking manager, the group touring the facility on Monday was brought up to speed on how the finished station will look, both inside and out. Weigel told the group that he’s expecting construction to enter its final touch-up phase by mid-November, and he’s optimistic the station will be fully operational by Jan. 2, 2024.

“That continues to be our goal, and it seems to look like that is a very achievable one,” Weigel said. “There don’t seem to be any concerns about our ability (to do that).”

There’s not anything “critical” to wait for at this point, Weigel said, just some elements such as digital kiosks that may not be installed until after the new year and varying wait times for different types of furniture for inside the building. He said the plan is for Lawrence Transit staff to begin working out of the station between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

In the time between now and then, the space inside the facility will look less like a construction site and more like a modern bus hub. The public space inside the building will include an indoor bicycle storage room on one side, complete with a bike repair stand, and a larger indoor waiting area featuring a large TV screen showing bus arrival and departure times.

photo by: Austin Hornbostel/Journal-World

Members of the Public Transit Advisory Committee stand in what will eventually be the indoor waiting area at Lawrence Transit’s Central Station.

“We’re looking forward to seeing how people use this space,” Weigel said. “It is a space that will be open during operating hours; I don’t think we have a huge issue if people leave their bikes overnight, but they’ll have to remember after 8 p.m. on a weekday that they won’t be able to get back in here and get that.”

photo by: Austin Hornbostel/Journal-World

A glass-paned art installation will line the walls of the indoor bicycle storage area at Lawrence Transit’s Central Station.

The public-facing area of the station also has room for a “vendor space,” Weigel said, which may be filled with a few different amenities for transit riders. He said work is ongoing to bring a couple partnerships to that space, including one with the Library Friends and Foundation which will allow riders to borrow from a selection of library books without going through a check-out process. Another aim is for the space to incorporate some sort of takeaway food element.

In the back half of the facility, Lawrence Transit will have various office spaces, including a conference room, open cubicle area and individual offices. Weigel said most of the Lawrence Transit staff will work out of those spaces, and they’ll also have access to a climate-controlled garage area for storing bus stop amenities like bus shelters, benches and bike racks that are waiting for installation or repair.

Weigel said another part of the staff area of the building he’s excited for is a break room for bus drivers and Lawrence Transit staff.

“They do not have a great option out in the community for a rest space right now, so this will provide them that,” Weigel said. “Under our current operations, we don’t get as (much) regular admin and bus driver interaction as we will once this is open; we’ll see people daily.”

photo by: Austin Hornbostel/Journal-World

This space will eventually be a break room for bus drivers.

Outside the building, there are a couple ways the facility is intended to go beyond just serving as a bus stop. One example is a two-lane circle drive close to the building, which Weigel said will be used as a drop-off area and will also have the potential for some other creative uses. He said one lane could play host to visits from vehicles with other service agencies, like Just Food’s Cruising Cupboard or Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health’s mobile clinic.

There’s also the potential for hosting tabling events just outside the building near that curb, Weigel said.

“That’s one way we’re also thinking about providing value to riders, providing a space that’s not just people using the bus,” Weigel said.

There’s an outdoor bike rack area not far from the building, which Weigel said will also include four bicycle lockers. He said there’s no plan to have a reservation system or cost for that service starting out, as Lawrence Transit gathers information about how riders are using the lockers.

At the nearby bus platform, Weigel said the station will have the capacity for each of the eight bus bays to operate independently since their curbs are arranged in a “sawtooth” pattern and won’t block other buses trying to leave. He said that design eliminates a problem Lawrence Transit has with its current downtown hub’s parallel setup, as buses can’t navigate around each other as easily.

photo by: Austin Hornbostel/Journal-World

The bus platform at Lawrence Transit’s Central Station will be able to accommodate eight buses at each independently operating bay.

Weigel said there will be a number of benches and enclosed shelter areas positioned along the platform, plus speakers that can play public announcements and pre-recorded messages to riders. At each shelter, there will be push-button heaters that passengers can use during colder weather, as well as interactive digital kiosks that Weigel said people can use to plan a trip.

photo by: Austin Hornbostel/Journal-World

Once it’s completed, the bus platform at Lawrence Transit’s Central Station will include amenities like benches, covered shelters and interactive digital kiosks to help passengers plan a trip.

At the end of the tour, Weigel added that it’s “looking pretty hopeful” that Lawrence Transit will be able to extend its fare-free pilot program into 2024. Throughout 2023, all of Lawrence Transit’s services have been free to use thanks to increased federal funding. Weigel said a final decision about the fate of the program next year will be made once there’s been a chance to evaluate another round of ridership data.


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