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Centro to hold ribbon-cutting at new bus hub today in Syracuse

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Syracuse -- Starting next month, Central New York bus riders won’t be able to smoke a cigarette and will be discouraged from having a snack while waiting for their bus at the new Centro Transit Hub in downtown Syracuse.

But for the first time, they’ll be able to wait for a bus indoors, out of the snow, rain and sun.

Security guards will patrol Centro’s new $18.8 million facility day and night. In the indoor waiting room, there will be public restrooms and chairs.

Centro officials, along with local politicians, will officially cut the ribbon at 1:30 p.m. today on the new hub, a facility that’s been planned for more than a decade as passengers waited for buses outdoors in America’s snowiest city. Buses and riders will begin using the new hub Sept. 4.

Former U.S. Rep. James Walsh helped secure much of the $17 million in federal funding for the hub. He’ll be at the ceremony on Friday, and he’s also looking forward to seeing what will become of the old transfer point three blocks north at South Salina and East Fayette streets.

“It really will make a qualitative difference in downtown, on Salina Street,” Walsh said. “It cleans up Salina Street from the buses and makes it a much more comfortable experience for the people taking the buses.”

Not everyone agrees. Disabled in Action of Greater Syracuse are planning a protest of the new facility a half hour before the ribbon cutting. They say Centro made some mistakes in the hub’s design, including not enough seating and signs hung at 11 and 14 feet, too high for people with sight problems to read.

“That’s way to high for anyone with a visual impairment to see,” said Sally Johnston, the president of Disabled in Action. “The color scheme also makes it difficult for people who are color blind.”


Centro officials are reviewing the concerns and said they are willing to consider changes if needed, especially when it comes to seating. “We are certainly willing to add more platform seating if appropriate,” Koegel said in a statement Thursday.

But Centro officials believe they have followed U.S. Department of Justice guidelines when it comes to the font size and height for signs. The letters are three inches tall on signs hung higher than 120 inches, a requirement by the federal government.

“Disabled customers are a large part of the customers we serve,” Koegel said. “We want to ensure they have access to our system like everybody else.”

The state-run bus authority owns the new space at South Salina, East Adams and Warren streets. That gives it the ability to impose new rules about what riders can and can’t do while waiting for a bus.

It also allows Centro to hire off-duty Onondaga County deputies to patrol the area and to train security cameras on the 22-bay hub to ensure a more orderly wait for the bus, according to Frank Kobliski, the executive director of Centro.

“It gives us a far greater opportunity to maintain a comfortable and safe environment,” Kobliski said. “We will have lights on all over the place.”

The bright, airy space is quite a contrast with the current hub three blocks north on South Salina at East Fayette streets. There, people wait under plastic and metal bus shelters on gum-stained sidewalks, where bicyclists often wheel through crowds that spill into the streets.

“We have completely outgrown that intersection,” Kobliski said.

At the new hub, riders will catch the same bus in at the same parking space each day. Most city bus lines will be in the central part of the hub; most suburban buses will line up on the outer ring. Most transfers will take less than five minutes, Kobliski said.<p>Buses will continue to make downtown stops, though the routes will vary slightly starting Sept. 4 to integrate the new hub into the mix. Those

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