By Vivian Shipe
KNOXVILLE, TN — She steps out into the night. It’s 10:30 pm. A cold dark rainy night. There is no shelter. She draws her infant closer to her body to shield him from the rain. She is so tired. The baby needs changing but where? The gas station is locked up and there is no dry place to lay the child. Her eyes follow the Greyhound bus that has dropped her off across from the interstate entrance. Alone, afraid, she looks around, not even knowing the connecting bus has been delayed and she will be here another 12 hours.
This is not the scene from a movie or a book. It is the new reality for Greyhound travelers when they arrive in Knoxville awaiting transfer to connecting buses as last Monday, with no announcement or fan fare, the bus station was sold to private owners and the new location for customers has been moved to a Marathon gas station at the entrance to I 40 off Cherry Street.
Children wrapped in blankets, people in wheelchairs, a seventeen year old traveling alone trying to get home, not aware of the dangerous sex trafficking area in which she has been dropped.
Greyhound was purchased by a German company operating under the name of FlixMobility. Their goal is to strengthen their presence in the United States
So, what does that new presence look like in Knoxville TN?
Passengers can no longer purchase tickets in person, only online. There will be no more ticket counters or announcements of delayed buses over the intercom system and basic needs will not be met. The Marathon station which has contracted with Greyhound as the drop off point. It closes at 10 pm leaving no shelter or bathroom facilities.
City Mayor Indya Kinncannon has reached out multiple times to the company and is willing to have the drop point moved to the Knox Transit Center which is well lit and in a much safer area with interstate access. Her efforts to reach the company to date have been in vain. Citizens are demanding that in the interim, police patrol the area during bus connection and drop offs and want a shelter and porta potties placed there for the passengers.
After all, Knoxville IS the number nine most desirable place for people wanting to move to. A moral and ethical responsibility to help everyone who comes into the cities borders is what the people want addressed regardless of the fact that it’s a foreign private business now holding the lives of millions of US citizens in their hands.
While Greyhound which served the country since 1914, has used small station drop points for years in rural and smaller cities, the purchase by the German company marks a disturbing trend towards that same model being used in larger cities across the nation with price increases and no regard for human life
Community outcry has been extremely loud with organizations taking meals to the passengers and even standing guard as the busses come in during the night to ensure safe passage. Citizens even stepped up to help stranded passengers whose driver abandoned their Greyhound bus leaving passengers with no help while attempt’s to reach the company to send another bus took over 12 hours.
Finally, under the watching gaze of local Knoxvillians, another bus arrived and took the passengers to their next stop, hopefully with no further traumatic experiences
Something this new company has not made a priority as they “strengthen their presence” in these United States of America.