Here's a story that pisses me off for several reasons..
what do you think?
Upscale shopping centers shun buses
It's a long walk for some as four 'upscale' properties keep buses off premises
Josh Shaffer, Staff Writer
RALEIGH - Shopping centers in Raleigh increasingly advertise themselves as "upscale" or "affluent." In other words, don't come by bus.
Four plazas in Raleigh now forbid city buses from entering the property, even the parking lots. At Brier Creek Commons in northwest Raleigh, that can mean that workers must trek up to a quarter-mile across hot asphalt -- the equivalent of Fayetteville Street in downtown Raleigh.
A good walk never killed anyone, but bus riders call the shopping centers' rules another indignity that poor shoppers and workers must endure.
Last Friday, the city nixed three stops at the end of Creedmoor Road because two shopping centers there will not allow Capital Area Transit buses through the premises. One of those stops served 15 people a day.
"Some people have to walk all the way to Target," said Denise Watkins, 48, gesturing to the horizon beyond Brier Creek where she works. "They really don't want shoppers unless they have cars."
The city lists four shopping centers that have denied access: Brier Creek Commons, Towne North and Brennan Station on Creedmoor Road, and Bent Tree on Falls of the Neuse Road.
On weekdays, buses passed into Towne North each hour. The property manager, Debi Hunter, of Craig Davis Properties, began writing the city in March complaining about the buses. She described senior citizens afraid to leave the Kroger there for fear of being struck, adding that she often had to jump back to avoid buses. She asked that the city stop using the shopping center.
Carmalee Scarpitti, who works with the city's transit program, called the danger exaggerated. She said a pedestrian would have to be halfway across the street to cross a bus' path, and at the exact moment each hour.
Sorry, you're banned
Finally, on May 11, Hunter wrote the city to say the buses were banned.
"Towne North Shopping Center LLC hereby restricts the city of Raleigh from using our parking lot as a cut-through. ... We realize that this may result in dramatic change to this established bus route, but our tenants and their safety are our main concerns."
On June 15, the city posted notices along Creedmoor Road that the buses would no longer serve stops beyond the Stonehenge shopping center south of Towne North. At one of those stops, an average of eight people get on and seven get off daily.
The problem, said city Transit Administrator David Eatman, is that buses can no longer turn around at Towne North -- end of the line.
Efforts to reach the owner of the center failed. Officials with American Asset Corp., Brier Creek's manager and developer, did not return calls Wednesday. Nor did owners of Brennan Station and Bent Tree.
Riders feel insulted
Riders say the ban from the centers adds insult to a long list of discomforts.
Many stops lack benches, let alone shelters to keep out the sun. At Brier Creek on Wednesday, people waited on an overturned Target cart.
Many routes, including Brier Creek, send buses once an hour.
Miss it, as Watkins did Wednesday, and you wait another furious 60 minutes on the shopping cart.
Then the ride from downtown Raleigh to jobs in North Raleigh can take an hour. Tack on a walk to the end of that and it's hard to greet customers with a smile.
"When it's pouring," said Winston George, who rides from Durham to his job at Bob Evans in Brier Creek, "It's even worse."
Watkins has to walk two-tenths of a mile to her job at Home Goods. But it's the finale to a long unpleasantness. Her ride takes an hour and 20 minutes, once she has navigated the stops between Southeast Raleigh and Brier Creek. There is no shelter on the sidewalk where she waits, nor a bench. On Tuesday, two women waited for the bus sitting on the ground under a tree, and they pulled their shirts over their noses when a dump truck passed and filled the air with black fumes.
"And it's all in the heat," Watkins said, who added lack of air-conditioning to her list of woes. "I have gotten on buses in the last three weeks, and it's hotter on the inside than it is outside."
Both Towne North and Brier Creek market themselves to well-off shoppers. Craig Davis' Web site touts the recent "upscale" redevelopment at Towne North and its location in "affluent North Raleigh." On its Web site, American Asset Corp. calls Brier Creek "an open-air lifestyle center ... located in one of the Raleigh market's most affluent and rapidly growing submarkets."
Access is too public
Just across Glenwood Avenue from Brier Creek, buses are allowed in Alexander Place Promenade, anchored by a Wal-Mart Supercenter.
"They come to Wal-Mart," George said. "Why not here?"
A retail property's value is closely tied to the income of the people it serves, but brokers say it makes no sense to prevent access.
"Having public access is always an amenity," said John LaRocca, a senior vice president at Raleigh real-estate services firm Grubb & Ellis/Thomas Linderman Graham. "You want as many people to come there as possible. I can't think of a shopping center that's trying to steer people away. ... Removing a bus stop would be limiting their ability to attract those customers.''
Margaret King, 53, rides the bus everywhere for her house-cleaning business.
Waiting an hour in the sun, without shelter, is one thing. Walking the bus-to-shopping center gap is another.
"Sometimes you walk a mile, feels like," she said. "Ride the bus, you're in for a rude awakening."
Staff writer Josh Shaffer can be reached at 829-4818 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Staff writer Jack Hagel contributed to this report.