A bus line for no one

It’s unclear exactly who is supposed to ride Centro’s new Downtown circulator route—a 2-mile figure-8 loop that winds its way from the Tech Garden to Dinosaur BBQ and back.

It can’t be people who live Downtown. The residential population is growing because the neighborhood is so famously easy to walk around. There’s no need to get in the car or wait for the bus to get from Hanover Square to Salt City Market—you can just walk there. A potentially actually useful bus service for Downtown residents would connect them to the City’s other neighborhoods, but this circulator route doesn’t do that because it never leaves Downtown.

It can’t be Centro’s regular riders. The circulator very pointedly avoids interacting with the Hub, and anyway, anybody who rides a bus into Downtown already has ample options for getting themselves around Downtown using Centro’s existing bus lines. This circulator route doesn’t add any new options for regular bus riders.

It can’t be people who drive into Downtown for entertainment. Anybody who shows up in a car has to put it someplace, and they might as well park it where they’re going. Even if they plan to move around Downtown—drinks at Hanover Square and then a hockey game at the War Memorial, maybe—the bus still isn’t much help because after riding from the restaurant to the theater, they’d have to ride back to pick up the car, and this bus doesn’t run past 7pm.

It can’t be commuters. The route doesn’t even start running until 11am.

It’s hard to imagine who would have a transportation problem that this circulator could possibly solve. But to even ask that question you’d have to think like a bus rider, and not many people in positions of power think like that because not many people in positions of power ride the bus. The officials who pushed this new service do not, in their daily personal lives, have to worry about what it would take for a bus line to make life easier, and so their reasoning on this issue is not much more sophisticated than this: “Downtown is booming, Downtown is success, a Downtown bus will succeed!”

If anyone involved had taken a moment to consider the service from the point of view of someone who might actually ride it, then they would have seen that the Downtown circulator will not serve a need, that it is a waste of money, and—because Centro’s budget is not unlimited—wasted money means worse service on the lines that people actually ride. Syracuse will never get the public transportation system that this City needs and deserves until someone with the power to make decisions at Centro takes the perspective of a bus rider.