The Winston-Salem Transit Authority has updated their policies for behavior on their properties, both at the Clark Campbell Transportation Center downtown and Hampton Haith Administrative Center and Facilities. On Oct. 10, WSTA manager Donna Woodson told councilmembers on the Public Works Committee that this included merging their code-of-conduct and ban policy into a singular document. Changing the rules requires council approval, which the committee recommended in a unanimous vote. The item now goes to council on Tuesday.
In two weeks, a metal detector will arrive and will be installed at the downtown transportation center sometime in November, Woodson said. All patrons must pass through the metal detector at the main entrance and are subject to searches by security or law enforcement. Visitors are not allowed to enter through any other access point.
Patrons’ beloved companions have also been an issue. Now there will be no pets allowed inside the transportation center, administrative and maintenance facilities or on WSTA vehicles, save for service animals.
“We have had an uptick in people bringing pets, everything from pitbulls to you name it,” Woodson said, adding, “some on a leash, some not on a leash.”
Lastly, Woodson explained “one of the most important” rules. The new policy gives people without a valid bus ticket or a transfer a “maximum of 90-minute dwell time” at the transportation center.
Councilmember Barbara Hanes Burke asked how they will be able to tell who has been at the center for more than an hour and a half. Woodson replied that if security notices that a patron is there and “the buses have all come through and left the terminal” and that person is “still there,” they will then approach them and ask them if they have a transportation need.
“If they are not able to produce a transfer or a bus ticket,” Woodson continued, “then they will be asked to leave.”
Woodson said that there are people who spend “numerous” hours there. “They’re not performing any transit-related type of service,” Woodson added, noting that there is daily “abuse” of that.
But Woodson acknowledged that “a lot of that happens because some people just don’t have anywhere to go.”
Councilmember Kevin Mundy expressed concern over the policy language, such as “boisterous, abusive, lewd, violent, lascivious or profane language or behavior,” as well as loitering, public impairment, “panhandling” or “peddling of any kind,” unsanitary issues and more — behaviors that could result in a six-month ban. Mundy worried that these words could be “weaponize[d] against a marginalized population,” and added that someone who works with the unhoused population had suggested “objective and concise code language” that would define loitering and give examples of it. “I think that the recommendation here is to soften the language,” Mundy said, adding that they could “make sure that it’s not unduly harsh.”
Woodson replied that the intent of putting “specific” language was so that people “will understand what is prohibited and what’s not.”
Mundy also said that constituents were concerned that the unhoused may lose access to bathroom facilities.
Woodson said that the restrooms will remain open to the public. If someone is walking downtown and needs to use the restroom, they just need to go through the front entrance and the metal detectors.
“We are not proposing to lock the bathrooms down at any rate,” Woodson said.
“We need a plan to put bathrooms downtown,” Mundy said. “That is collectively our responsibility.”
The lack of resources for Winston-Salem’s unhoused led Woodson’s team to bring community services together. Woodson partnered with Forsyth County Government’s Behavioral Health Services Director Denise Price and several others.
Woodson announced that they will host a monthly resource fair at the transportation center on the first Wednesday of every month from 1-4 p.m. on the Fifth Street side of the transportation center.
The next resource fair will be held on Nov. 1.
On Sept. 6, they held their first fair with 10 community service vendors like the BEAR Team, Second Harvest Food Bank and Winston-Salem Bike Patrol. They held another event on Oct. 4 with 16 vendors.
Woodson said that they wanted to help bus station patrons access these resources before the new policies went into effect.
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