Greyhound moves bus stop but complaints remain

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The Top Market & Deli on 6th Avenue in North Knoxville is the site of the new Greyhound bus stop. (Photo by Hard Knox Wire)

After months of controversy, Greyhound buses will no longer pick up and drop off their riders in a gas station parking lot off Interstate 40 in East Knoxville. 

Instead, buses will now converge in a convenience store parking lot that’s several blocks from I-40 in North Knoxville. 

If it doesn’t sound like much has changed, you’re right.

“It doesn’t make any sense here,” said David Sneed, 49, a former state prison inmate who spent his first hours of freedom in nearly four years waiting for his bus Tuesday in the working class neighborhood near the intersection of 6th Avenue and Cecil Avenue. “They’re a multimillion dollar corporation. Surely they can put up something with a roof or something to keep people out of the cold.” 

The new Greyhound stop for Knoxville is located in an empty lot beside the Top Market & Deli at 1607 North 6th Avenue (formerly known as Bill’s Market). The move is the latest development in a stalemate between the bus line and local critics of the company that has dragged on since April, when Greyhound closed its decades-old terminal on Magnolia Avenue and forced its customers (including children, elderly persons and the handicapped) to wait outdoors at the Marathon station on Cherry Street for hours or — when buses were late or canceled — even days.

Small groups of volunteers have been providing various types of assistance and trying to put pressure on local government officials to take an active role in the situation, which they have described as a small-scale humanitarian crisis. 

Greyhound officials haven’t responded to recent requests for comment.

Sneed said he was shocked to learn the old bus station was gone when he was dropped off at the new bus stop by a prison van. 

“They just said ‘Good luck’ and took off,” Sneed said. “The whole thing doesn’t make sense. There you are in prison for three-and-a-half years, and they dump you off around the same shit that got you put in there to begin with. I used to cop dope around here.”

Sneed was especially concerned to think of female convicts being discharged to the parking lot once the weather turns cold.

“I don’t want them to just drop those little girls off here where it’s freezing and just say ‘Good luck’ to them,” he said.

In some respects, conditions at the new site are arguably a little better for bus riders than they were on Cherry Street.

The facilities at the new bus stop include these two porta potties. The single bench can be seen to the right.

This time around, Greyhound has installed a single bench and two porta potties for those forced to wait for their rides, plus an awning over the drive-thru window may provide a few square feet of protection from the rain when the store is closed. Also, the company is supposed to provide security in the evening, which would alleviate many of the safety concerns voiced by critics at the previous location.

There’s still no place to wait indoors, however, and the bench (which seats up to four people) is completely exposed to the weather. 

The Top Market & Deli’s manager didn’t volunteer his name during a visit to the property on Tuesday, but he did explain that Greyhound has reached an agreement with the owner to use only the vacant parking lot beside the building and also expressed concern over how bus riders would cope with the coming winter.

While the market is open until 7 p.m. on most days, there’s not enough room inside for Greyhound riders as well as the store’s normal customers, he said. 

The move to the 6th Avenue site may not be permanent. Talks have been underway for some time now between the City of Knoxville and Greyhound about possibly converting the downtown Transit Center that was built for the City’s bus line, KAT, into a facility handling both Greyhound and KAT buses.  So far, however, the talks haven’t yielded results, and officials have stressed that the City’s legal authority to intervene in the policies of a private company are limited.

When asked Tuesday if City officials were aware of the move and if they were still discussing options with the company, City spokesperson Eric Vreeland issued the following statement: “To my knowledge, the City is aware that Greyhound plans to discontinue use of the Cherry Street stop, but we have not yet heard if they have confirmed a new location.

“Since Greyhound sold their station downtown, the City has had several discussions with the private company. Specifically, we have provided them information about what the costs would be to utilize the Knoxville Transit Center as a location for serving their nighttime routes, when the KAT buses are not running. 

“We have not yet heard back whether this is an option they would be interested in pursuing given the estimated costs of a private lease at the public transit station.   

“In the meantime, Greyhound could move their location more quickly by finding another privately-owned location – and we have provided recommendations to help them find a suitable location for pick-up and drop-off as they continue to serve the Knoxville community.”

J.J. Stambaugh can be reached at jjstambaugh@hardknoxwire.com.

Published on October 5, 2022.