The Oshkosh Plan Commission approved building plans for GO Transit to make updates to its downtown transit center, 110 . Pearl Ave., shown here on Tuesday. WM. Glasheen/USA Today Network - Wisconsin
OSHKOSH – GO Transit's downtown facility has needed major upgrades for awhile; the COVID-19 pandemic made that obvious, but it also provided a silver lining, officials said.
"The pandemic made it more apparent that we needed to do it (make upgrades) sooner rather than later," said Jim Collins, the city's transportation director. "It also provided the funding to do it."
With Plan Commission's 9-0 approval Tuesday of the facility's building plan review and funding from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Recovery and Economic Security Act, the transit system can begin to move forward with basic updates.
For the general public, the updates may not seem like much. But for transit staff, including drivers, Collins thinks the changes to the existing facility will be welcome. The pandemic highlighted the need for swift communication, which Collins said will improve though the addition of a supervisor's office on-site instead of at the transit office at 926 Dempsey Trail.
"It's much easier to get those messages out when we have a presence downtown," Collins said.
The office will be an addition to the facility's current mechanical building, Collins said. That area will also see a new break room for bus drivers in the employees' "comfort station," which is currently just two single-stall restrooms.
Lighting and video surveillance upgrades will increase safety, and updated and repainted pavement, along with improved landscaping and signs, also will improve accessibility, Collins said.
"We'll be taking care of cracked pavement, less tripping hazards," he said. "We're going to clean it up, make it look better."
Plans also call for a small customer service window where riders could also purchase transport passes. However, Collins said that will only be staffed limited hours. Riders also may buy bus passes at the Dempsey Trail office, various "pass outlets," including the Oshkosh Public Library and Festival Foods, or on the GO Transit mobile app.
In response to a question about public restrooms not being included, Collins said public safety officials recommended not having them unless in an open space that could be staffed whenever the center is open. He said that was not possible at this time.
However, he hopes this is the beginning of transit upgrades. Staff conducted a feasibility study for a new transit center in 2019 and determined expanding the current facility is the most viable option.
The city does not have the money for more upgrades, and Collins said it would also have to acquire more property. He said the department will continue applying for federal grants for that project.
Plans for the transit center upgrades now move to the full city council, which meets Tuesday.
Contact Katy Macek at email@example.com or 920-426-6658. Follow her on Twitter @KatherineMacek.