Featured photo: The central hub for the Winston-Salem Transit Authority is located downtown at the corners of Fifth, Trade and Liberty streets. (photo by Gale Melcher)
In June, Winston-Salem Transit Authority staff appealed to city councilmembers about the “complaints and concerns” they had been hearing from staff and passengers at the Clark Campbell Transportation Center downtown.
Staff proposed bringing a revised code of conduct before council in the coming months.
During the upcoming public works committee meeting on Oct. 10, council members will consider a resolution authorizing the implementation of a revised code of conduct and ban policy for the Clark Campbell Transportation Center, Hampton Haith Administrative and Maintenance Facility, as well as public transportation vehicles.
The city’s action request form for this resolution states that “unauthorized and illegal activities” at the transportation center have increased significantly over time, and “patrons that have extended stay without transit purpose increase the likelihood that disorderly incidents escalate to altercations which often result in injury and/or arrest.”
If councilmembers on the committee approve of WSTA’s new policies, they will recommend it to the full city council for approval.
If approved, WSTA’s new policy document will consolidate the existing code of conduct, ban policy and the appeals process into one policy document.
Notable additions to the rules could include requiring all passengers and patrons to enter the transportation center through the metal detectors located at the bus bay entrances. Entrants would be subject to be searched by security.
All patrons would be required to enter the transportation center through the main entrance, and they would be subject to a temporary ban from the transportation center if they allow someone else to enter the center by any other access point.
Also, blocking the center’s doors or tampering with equipment such as metal detectors and ticket vending machines would be banned.
Loitering wouldalso be prohibited. Everyone inside or outside the transportation center must have a valid WSTA, PART or authorized transit provider bus ticket or transfer in order to remain at the center.
All passengers and other members of the public would not be allowed on WSTA property for longer than 90 minutes. This time period wouldn’t apply to patrons waiting for PART, Sunway or Barron buses, but they must still provide valid identification.
No pets would be allowed inside the transportation center, administrative, maintenance facilities or on WSTA vehicles. Service animals would be permitted in compliance with ADA regulations.
Bus drivers could also deny transportation to any patron displaying public intoxication.
The impact on the city’s unhoused population
Equipped with restrooms, vending machines and seating areas, the transportation center offers protection from the elements. It’s also where many of the city’s unhoused population congregate.
Many of these proposed rules appear to be specifically targeted to dissuade unhoused people from using the facilities.
During the June meeting, WSTA general manager Donna Woodson said that there had been an increase in non-transit activities such as loitering, long-term stay, use of illegal substances, restroom facility abuse and verbal and physical altercations.
Last September, the county installed a free Narcan vending machine inside the Forsyth County Detention Center, located just around the corner from the bus station.
“About twice a month we have to shut down the restrooms,” Woodson said, adding that the malfunctions are often due to “needles and things that have been disposed of in the restrooms.”
As TCB has reported in the past, substance abuse is more prevalent in people who are homeless than in those who are not. In many instances, substance abuse is the result of the stress of homelessness, rather than the other way around. Many people begin using drugs or alcohol as a way of coping with the pressures of homelessness.
During the June meeting councilmember Kevin Mundy pointed out the need for increased services for the unhoused population. To that, Woodson replied that the city would come up with a “detailed list” of “agencies or nonprofits that are willing to come into the transportation center and offer those services.”
It has yet to be determined whether those services will be available or not.
The action request form states that the city created a task force which included several departments within the city and WSTA. The task force worked to develop a plan to “minimize the disorderly conduct and illegal activities” at the center. The plan also includes “public engagement through community resource fairs” hosted at the center.
Woodson also said that they have requested increased WSPD presence and that they’ve seen the “positive effects” of that already, noting that when the K-9 unit comes around, people tend to leave the area.
“When they show up, people show out,” Woodson said. “Now they know that the city of Winston-Salem will not tolerate those types of behaviors at the transportation center,” adding that they’re sending a message that they need the center “to be used for the purpose — which is for transportation.”
What could get riders banned? And for how long?
Public drunkenness, excessive profanity, disorderly conduct including verbal altercations on WSTA vehicles and property could result in a seven day ban if the new rules are approved
“Boisterous, abusive, lewd, violent, lascivious or profane language or behavior” is not allowed. Loitering, public impairment, “panhandling” or “peddling of any kind,” larceny, stalking, unsanitary issues, fighting, harassment, and sexual harassment will result in a six month ban.
Indecent exposure, physical assault against any WSTA employee or contracted vendors, or city officials, or violent, disorderly, threatening conduct, any felonious activity and/or continued minor violations could result in a permanent ban.
WSTA staff and security could immediately and permanently suspend a passenger’s privileges due to their behavior. WSTA personnel could also issue a less extensive ban of 30 or 90 days “based on their discretion, violators prior history and facts of the incident.”
If the person who has been banned returns to the property before the end of their ban period, the suspension period could be extended based on the offense or lead to a criminal trespass charge.
Offenders will be able to appeal all ban decisions to the WSTA Appeals Committee except the seven day ban. Bans would remain in effect until the appeal process has been completed.
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