BLOOMINGTON — Before pinpointing a location for a new city bus transfer center in downtown Bloomington, which could take up to one or two city blocks, Connect Transit board members were encouraged to first build a better partnership with the city.
Conceptual layouts for the future facility were presented to the board Tuesday night by members of Farnsworth Group, which was hired to analyze the needs of the Twin City public transit system and design transfer site prototypes.
Based on the analysis, the downtown center would require a 7,425-square-foot facility on a site the size of one or two city blocks. The space would include 10 bus stalls, a lobby, restrooms, a multipurpose meeting room, staff space and outdoor area. A cost estimate for the center was undetermined.
“This is a basic idea of the space you would need. It’s not site-specific. This has nothing to do with whether there’s a library involved or any other entity,” said Aaron Quick, vice president of Farnsworth Group.
The idea of building a multipurpose facility on the site of the Market Street parking deck that would incorporate the transfer station, a new Bloomington Public Library and parking, has been rejected by several members of the City Council and the library board.
“I just don’t know if that’s still on the table or not,” said Mike McCurdy, Connect Transit chairman. “I don’t think Connect Transit can do this on its own. I would like to think the library board is interested in continuing to talk.”
Members of the Bloomington library board, however, made it clear Tuesday that if the library expands, it will be at the current location on 205 E. Olive St.
Quick said the Connect Transit transfer center in Normal is “the perfect example” of leveraging federal, state and local dollars for a project. He said federal agencies would be the first to identify a lack of cooperation between Connect Transit and the city.
“If you don’t get some kind of agreement with the city of Bloomington to do this, your chances of getting federal funding for the project are extremely unlikely,” he said.
The current downtown transfer center, in front of the McLean County Law and Justice Center on Front Street, does not have enough space for the buses and does not provide bus patrons with restrooms or an indoor waiting area.
Connect Transit board member Jennifer McDade questioned the need for two transfer stations in a single community.
“Regardless of if you’re with City Council or this board, you’re basing your support for a project like this on the general public’s support for a project like this,” said McDade. “Someone has to take the lead on really engaging the public.
"To assume we have overwhelming support for this is a blind spot.”
After downsizing from four transfer centers in the past, Connect Transit General Manager Isaac Thorne said two transfer locations are necessary based on surveyed customer need in the Twin Cities.