Winston-Salem Transit Authority will be enforcing new policies on their vehicles as well as their properties at the Clark Campbell Transportation Center downtown and Hampton Haith Administrative Center and Facilities. City councilmembers approved the changes on Monday night after discussing the move during last week’s Public Works Committee meeting on Oct. 10.
On Monday, the city’s Director of Transportation Jeff Fansler told the council that they’ve “had a series of conduct issues and folks that are abusing our current ban policy.”
“We wanted to consolidate some of our policies into one document that would allow for better enforcement.” Fansler said, adding that this would also help them address problems that are affecting the facility operations, staffing and turnover issues, and “significant facility impacts” based on “some of the events that are taking place there.” Fansler mentioned that there have been issues with “tampering,” “abuse of the bathroom facilities” and people “blocking the doors.”
The updated rules will be posted on the buses and in the facility, and the city’s marketing department as well as WSTA’s marketing team will be involved in helping “roll this out,” Fansler said.
The rules go into effect on Dec. 1 according to city documents.
The transportation center offers protection from the elements and is equipped with restrooms, vending machines and seating areas. It’s where many of the city’s unhoused residents take refuge. According to previous reporting by Triad City Beat, as of Jan. 23 there are 468 houseless individuals — 301 sheltered, 167 unsheltered — in the city.
During a June 12 public safety committee meeting, WSTA’s General Manager Donna Woodson brought up “complaints and concerns,” not just from transportation center staff, but from “citizens who want to utilize the bus services… and are not able to because they don’t feel safe.” During the meeting, Councilmember Annette Scippio asked if “riders” or “non-riders” had been the source of the issues Woodson talked about. Woodson responded that the “majority of the time they are non-riders” who are “there for hours and hours.”
One of the most notable changes to WSTA’s policies is that people will be allowed to spend a maximum of 90 minutes at the bus station if they are not passengers. People will still be able to access the facility and use the restroom, but they have to abide by the new rule.
“You can still come in and use the space,” Fansler said, but added that the policy “basically allows us to identify who has a purpose in the building.”
“So if you can produce an identifying ticket, and you’re going to be using one of the providers in the space, then you of course have the right to be there,” Fansler noted.
North State Security officers will enforce the facility’s policies, Fansler said.
Other changes to the rules include transit drivers’ right to deny transportation to anyone displaying public intoxication, and pets will also be banned from the vehicles and properties. Service animals will be permitted in compliance with ADA regulations.
Blocking the transportation center doors is also not permitted, and all patrons must enter the building through the main entrance only.
Councilmember Jeff MacIntosh commented that the “conditions at the transit center are not really up to our standards,” adding that they “would not let some of the conditions exist here at city hall” that they “allow to exist there” at the center.
“Both for the passengers’ safety and the staff’s safety, it’s time that we just spend some time, spend some money and improve the safety situation there,” MacIntosh stated, adding, “I think everybody comes out ahead and I’m glad we’re doing this.”
Over the summer, Triad City Beat spoke to Damian Newman, a rider who had been waiting at the center for a Greyhound bus to New York. Newman was concerned for the unhoused people at the transportation center. “Some people, they just need to get back on their feet. And they need help,” Newman said.
WSTA staff has started hosting a monthly resource fair at the Clark Campbell Transportation Center on the first Wednesday of every month from 1-4 p.m. on the Fifth Street side of the facility. Community service vendors such as the BEAR Team, Second Harvest Food Bank and Winston-Salem Bike Patrol have attended the previous resource fairs. The next fair will be held on Nov. 1.
During the public comment period, resident and local business owner Jay Pierce thanked the city for “working on the problems at the bus station.”
“There’s a lot of things going on downtown…violent acts, guns being fired, sexual assaults,” Pierce said.
“As a stakeholder downtown operating a business, I feel that there can be more things done to provide a safe environment for people to enjoy businesses in downtown Winston-Salem,” Pierce said, concluding, “I think we all have a stake in a safer downtown.”
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