Passengers waiting for their bus to arrive. The 7th and Market pickup spot is shared by Greyhound, Flixbus, and Peter Pan. (Danya Henninger/Billy Penn)

Greyhound has abandoned the Center City bus station that was its home for more than 35 years and relocated to a small office on Market Street.

The switch has drawn complaints from bus riders who are now forced to wait on the sidewalk, without access to shade, seating, or bathrooms, or any kind of shelter from downpours, sweltering heat or, eventually, freezing cold.

It’s also raised questions about the future of the old station and surrounding lot, which lies in the footprint of the proposed 76ers arena and would be covered by part of that massive structure if the project moves ahead as planned.

For now, the building on Filbert Street between 10th and 11th streets is a vacant shell, boarded up and fenced off as the property owner waits to see if the 76ers purchase the land or another temporary occupant finds a use for the site.

When did Greyhound move?

Greyhound vacated its longtime station on Filbert Street, a block from Reading Terminal, last Tuesday, June 27, the company said.

The company is now operating from a storefront on Market between 6th and 7th streets, about a block from Independence Mall. Greyhound customers can use ticket machines and speak to agents in the small office, and buses pick up passengers on the adjoining curb.

Buses operated by Flixbus, the company that owns Greyhound, also stop at the same location, as do buses by rival firm Peter Pan.

So people are just waiting out on Market Street?

Yes, Greyhound appears to have switched to the model used by Megabus and various other operators, in which passengers wait on the open sidewalk for their bus.

How’s that working out?

Some riders are not happy with the new arrangement. “I can’t say on camera how frustrating it is,” one told CBS3.

The small ticket office has no bathroom and passengers aren’t allowed to hang out there, they said. On the street, there’s no protection from the weather. Plus, the lines of people waiting for buses can easily block the sidewalk for other pedestrians.

Greyhound responded to questions by saying there are restaurants nearby, as well as bathrooms on its buses.

Greyhound moved out of its longtime standalone bus station on Filbert and into a storefront on Market Street near 7th Street. Ticketholders wait on the sidewalk for their ride. (Danya Henninger/Billy Penn)

So what’s happening to the old station?

The site is vacant at the moment. In response to concerns from neighbors, the owner last week fenced off the property to prevent a potential homeless encampment around the building, Deputy Streets Commissioner Richard Montanez confirmed to Billy Penn. The Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation had heard the same.

The former station property includes a section of Cuthbert Street on the north side. The west end of that block of Cuthbert (near 11th) is a public city street — but the east end (near 10th) was made private and transferred to the property owner years ago, Montanez said.

Until last week, however, all of Cuthbert was open to through traffic. Now the new fencing surrounds the street’s private section, cutting off access to 10th Street and turning the block into a dead end.

The future of the property is undetermined. The 76ers want to build part of their proposed basketball arena, 76ers Place, on the site, with demolitions tentatively scheduled to begin in 2026 if the project is approved. The team’s development partnership, 76 Devcorp, already has the deal worked out.

“The 76ers remain under contract on the parcel of land previously occupied by Greyhound,” a 76 Devcorp spokesperson said. “We are also open to exploring any temporary activation opportunities that could serve the community.”

Is that why Greyhound relocated?

Not necessarily.

Over the past decades, Greyhound has faced increasing competition from newer low-cost transportation companies that avoid using bus stations — which come with all kinds of expenses, like staffing, rent, and upkeep — and pick up from sidewalks and parking lots instead. The need to cut costs apparently contributed to its decision to leave Filbert Street.

“The company is changing its operating model from a terminal bus operation to a curbside bus operation,” the company wrote in a notification letter to an employee union and the city Commerce Department last month. 

Greyhound had employed 59 people at the old station, 10 of whom were going to be laid off as part of the relocation, the letter said. The site’s 2022 payroll was $2.4 million, suggesting the move could result in hundreds of thousands of dollars in reduced labor costs alone.

Any other reasons?

One issue may have been traffic flow changes that led Greyhound to reorganize the station’s operations last year.

After buses lost access to a paved lot on Arch Street they had used to make turns, Greyhound responded by changing entrance and exits to the station. That affected NJ Transit dropoffs and pickups at the station. The agency complained the changes resulted in dangerously tight turns for its buses and reduced available bus gates. 

Nj Transit rerouted its buses to avoid Philadelphia, inconveniencing some riders who were forced to transfer in Camden or other places.

And yes, here come the Sixers. The property owner, Criterion Holdings LLC of New York, has been marketing the site for redevelopment for some time. Then 76 Devcorp expressed interest. Greyhound may have faced a choice of leaving now or within a few years, when its lease was reportedly set to expire.

How exactly would the property fit into the Sixers arena project?

76 Devcorp’s plan calls for the arena to replace part of the current Fashion District shopping mall. 

The structure would also extend north over Filbert Street and the former bus station, consolidating those properties into one large building.

If the arena building covers part of Cuthbert Street, it could butt up against existing residential and commercial properties.

The proposal faces fierce opposition from Chinatown residents and business owners, who argue it would flood the neighborhood with drunken sports fans after games, send property prices soaring and destroy the neighborhood’s character.

Meir Rinde is an investigative reporter at Billy Penn covering topics ranging from politics and government to history and pop culture. He’s previously written for PlanPhilly, Shelterforce, NJ Spotlight,...