Wheels of Misfortune

Cultures clash -- and crash -- in Curtis Park. Is this a terminal situation?

"I really feel it's our responsibility to do something, not just on behalf of the neighborhood, but for the people who are using a service that right now is not safe," Wedgeworth says. "We have to be culturally sensitive to what's happening here. We're a changing community. We recognize that. We want to involve everyone in this process. We need to find a win-win for everyone."

The simplest solution, city officials say, would be to move the bus companies to the Greyhound/Trailways station at 1055 19th Street, where passengers could enjoy air-conditioning, a gift shop, a diner, 25-cent TVs, enclosed loading areas and a rooftop parking lot. Through a subsidiary, Sistema Internacional de Transporte de Autobuses, Inc., Greyhound owns stock in Americanos and the defunct Golden State; Greyhound executives attended the 2000 meetings on the problems at Champa and Park Avenue West. But the company has no plans to invite Limousine Express, Chihuahua, El Conejo or even Americanos to join it at 19th Street.

"In our current terminal, we simply don't have space to accommodate other carriers," says Jamille Bradfield, a Greyhound spokeswoman in Dallas. "To our knowledge, we have not received inquiries from them."

Mark Andresen
There goes the neighborhood: John Hayden loves Curtis Park, but he doesn't like the bus companies that congest the area.
John Johnston
There goes the neighborhood: John Hayden loves Curtis Park, but he doesn't like the bus companies that congest the area.

As for Golden State's demise, Bradfield says that was a separate company with its own management team and its own board of directors, and "it was Golden State's decision to make."

"This is in no way an indication that Greyhound is in trouble," Bradfield continues. "While business is down, the company is healthy and in no danger of going out of business."

In fact, Bradfield says, Greyhound is looking forward to relocating to Denver's proposed transportation hub at Union Station -- which city officials suggest could ultimately offer the best solution for Curtis Park, as well. In theory, the intermodal hub will be home not only to Amtrak, RTD buses, light rail, Greyhound, the Ski Train, shuttle vans, limousines, taxis and bikes, but also to shops and offices. Yet squeezing all that onto a 19.5-acre site won't be easy. And project completion is six years away, at least.

Suzanne Oldham, Union Station Alliance project manager, says the alliance is dealing with the largest chunks of the puzzle first, such as Amtrak, RTD, the mall shuttle and Greyhound. Once those are hashed out, they'll move to smaller components, such as additional bus lines. "We feel there is probably the ability to provide access for all of the transportation lines on the site," she says, "but we have not evaluated how they fit into specific plans yet."

"There's a lot that needs to go onto that site," echoes Shannon Gifford, advisory committee co-chair. "This really and truly is just beginning."

But even if the Union Station plan could accommodate more bus companies, those companies would have to want to make the move. Right now, they're operating without too many city regulations. If they move to the transportation hub, rules would be tougher. And rents could be much higher than what they're paying now.

"Maybe people want a big station, but a big station costs money," says Chihuahua's Hector Nevarez. "Unless everyone goes, I don't think anyone will go. People already know this place. Why should they move?"

Tony Barrios, however, doesn't rule out a move to Union Station -- if the price were right and it benefited passengers. "I don't object to that," he says. "Maybe it's time for us to leave. That's something we might like to do in the future."

If all other options fail, Barnes-Gelt says, Denver officials may just have to bite the bullet, down-zone the intersection at Champa and Park Avenue West, and boot out the bus companies on public-safety grounds.

"When the city invokes the powers of public health, safety and welfare, the courts usually agree," she says. "We have the public-safety authority. The issue isn't authority. The issue is backbone."

A gray sedan peels out from a parking meter across from Limousine Express, shoots across two traffic lanes, then speeds through the intersection. A big guy with a beer gut watches the light change, then jaywalks across Park Avenue West, cursing at the honking motorists as he does. On the curb, a wrinkled man with scuffed cowboy boots sits on a green backpack and groans through a loud yawn.

Hayden and his neighbors are pleased that the city is examining the bus-station situation again. This fall, members of Curtis Park Neighbors plan to work with Denver officials to review the B-8 zone. And in the meantime, Hayden says, they also intend to pressure Capehart into changing his mind about leasing 2301 Champa to any other bus company.

"We would be very disappointed and very upset if that were to happen," Hayden says. "We still think these buses create a safety hazard and that this is the wrong place for them. We've been working on this a very long time, and we'd like to see results. If he puts another one in there, he's going to have a fight on his hands."

He has bills to pay, Capehart says. If he agrees to not rent to a bus company, will neighbors and businesses help make his payments?

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