Buckle up, bus riders. The is revving up for some big changes and the community's in the driver's seat.
The transit center, on Rodriguez Street between West Beach Street and West Lake Avenue, hasn't has been upgraded since it was built nearly two decades ago. A combination of rider requests and $85,000 in funds Metro can allocate to improvements has led to a discussion about what the overhaul should look like.
"Every time I come down here, people ask me if we can change things," said Liseth Guizar, an investigator with Santa Cruz Metro.
She is spearheading the transit center improvement project with Claire Fliesler, a Metro transit surveyor.
The transit center was built after the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake. It opened in October 1995 and acts as a hub for Metro, Greyhouse, Monterey Transit District and ParaCruz.
"It’s a high-use facility that has been described by our patrons as 'prison-like' in appearance with flower planters that look like 'Mexican above-ground tombs,'" said Guizar.
Upgrades could be as simple as planting new flowers and slapping a paint job on the kiosks. Larger efforts may include building additional seating, adding awnings, razing the kiosks in favor a park-like setting, installing better restrooms or painting new murals on the expansive walls and fences.
Already, the transit center has gotten more attention from Metro. When a restaurant space opened up inside the terminal—a former bank—Taqueria Lidia moved from a small kiosk outside into the main building. The interior got a paint job and new partial walls to create a dining area. Also, security guards now patrol the Transit Center when it's open; previously the guards went off-duty at 6 p.m.
"It's a lot more secure than it used to be," Guizar said.
Future changes at the Transit Center will come from suggestions made by bus riders and local residents.
In August, Metro will hold two public meetings at the , connect with groups in Watsonville such as the and the Rotary clubs, survey users at the transit center and at the Friday farmers market. The aim is to assess what the community wants from the transit center.
"Metro's really moving toward community engagement and community-driven project," Fliesler said.
The Metro board already gave the go-ahead to have community discussions around the upgrades and allocated some funds to the future project. Following the community input, Guizar and Fliesler will compile a plan for the improvements that will again go before the Metro board for approval.
"There's some momentum, there's some money and there's some community drive," Fliesler said.
If the funding needs stretch beyond what money is set aside for repairs at the bus station, Metro will seek grants to cover the costs, according to Fliesler. Construction would start in 2013.
Follow the transit center upgrade project on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Watsonville.Metro.