WAVE transit moved a bus stop farther from the entrance of the newly renovated Shoppes at Bel Air by request of the mall’s owner, Rouse Properties, according to a city official. A local mass transit advocate called the move inconvenient at best and “mean” at worst.
Rouse Properties requested the move because the old bus stop was in a more “congested area” of the mall, city spokeswoman Laura Byrne said. The new stop is at the edge of the mall parking lot closest to the JCPenney store.
Rouse Properties did not return multiple calls about the issue to its media inquiry line.
Byrne said the new stop, which is covered, is one of the city’s nicer bus stops and is handicapped-accessible. The distance from the mall to the stop is a mall issue, as Rouse requested the move, Byrne said.
Ellen Carter, a local mass transit advocate who has routinely taken the bus by choice, said there have been issues in the past with loitering near the previous bus stop at the mall, although she claims those were not bus riders.
“We’ve sat and watched mall police chase people to their cars,” Carter said. The bigger issue for Carter is the city’s reluctance to support public transportation. She said it will prove to be damaging to the city in the long run.
“We have an administration and people in power who are just opposed to public transportation,” Carter said. “The truth is every thriving city has expanded mass transit because workers and shoppers need it. Every failing city has cut its public transit.”
The Mobile City Council voted in September 2015 to cut WAVE’s general fund budget allocation by more than $600,000. Because of the cuts, WAVE trimmed some routes within the city and eliminated routes to Prichard and other portions of the county.
The city foots the majority — about 60 percent — of the budget for the bus service. The other funding comes from federal grants. Neither the county nor other local municipal governments chipped in for the service.
Moving the bus stop hurts elderly and disabled shoppers who rely on the service to get around, Carter said. The distance is also annoying to everyone when the weather is bad.
“If it’s raining we walk through the lightning and moving cars,” she said. “Frankly, it’s mean. It really is intended to discourage people from riding the bus to the mall.”
Carter said she no longer takes the bus to the mall. Instead, she shops online.
“The truth is I was a bus rider by choice,” she said. “I’m a college professor and retired Navy. I’m not rich, but I’m not broke either.”
Last year, the council debated and ultimately approved an incentive deal to allow Rouse Properties to renovate the Shoppes at Bel Air. Per the agreement, Rouse will be able to recoup roughly $500,000 in sales tax revenue per year for up to 15 years.