Huntsville’s public transit system is slated for a big upgrade as plans are underway to build a new transit transfer station in the heart of downtown.
Huntsville City Council recently approved a design services contract with Fuqua & Partners Architects for the design of the station, to be constructed near the intersection of Pratt Avenue and Church Street. The design phase is expected to take about nine months, followed by demolition and site preparation.
Construction would likely begin in early 2023, with completion slated for September 2024. Mayor Tommy Battle believes the new station will improve public transit access for residents in all sectors of the City.
“As more people move to Huntsville, adding more public transit routes is a priority,” he said. “So many of our citizens work on the west and north sides of the City, and we want to look at expanding service to meet those needs. Our entertainment offerings are growing along the University corridor, so we have to take that into consideration as well.”
The new station
The station project is being made possible by a $12.5 million Federal Transit Administration grant that will cover 80% of the total cost, with the City of Huntsville providing a 20% match.
Quisha Bryant, director of Parking and Public Transit, said the new station will accomplish several goals, including providing a safer environment for transit customers. To enhance safety, the facility will have a perimeter security fence like those at train stations and airports. Other features will include an upgraded video surveillance system and tighter access restrictions to restrooms, waiting areas and the transfer platform.
Further from downtown, employment, retail growth and residential density will dictate the rate of expansion of the transit network.”
The station will feature modern signage and real-time “next bus” technology, and the 45-foot station bays will be covered. There will also be separate waiting areas and customer amenities for Orbit and Greyhound passengers.
The new station will also accommodate ride-share services like Uber and Lyft as well as private pickups. An area for those vehicles, designed for easy entry and exit, will be just outside the ticketing office.
Huntsville will keep the existing station, but it will transition to a bus cleaning, fueling and service center. Other upgrades will include an expanded dispatch center, training room and updated employee areas.
A significant benefit of the new station will be space for expanded service. The plan is to add fixed-bus routes to areas not currently served.
“Further from downtown, employment, retail growth and residential density will dictate the rate of expansion of the transit network,” Bryant said. “In other words, not all future bus service will necessarily operate out of the downtown area.”
Bryant said Huntsville Transit has completed the first two phases of a five-phase improvement plan by implementing 30-minute service frequency on routes 1, 2 and 4. Thirty-minute frequency is also available along the Route 5 and Route 6 corridors that travel north and south from downtown along Church Street, Whitesburg Drive, L&N Drive and to Airport Road.
With a re-evaluation of the plan set for spring 2022, Bryant said consideration for new bus routes and service is subject to the annual planning and budget approval process.
Additional space will also help. The current station has nine bus bays that can accommodate 30-foot buses. The new station will have 14 bays that can accommodate 45-foot buses, if the City chooses to purchase larger buses in the future.
“It’s also important to understand that as Huntsville grows, similar stations will be needed as part of the transit infrastructure,” Bryant said.