Greyhound buses will no longer be rolling through Selma and other parts of the Black Belt due to the bus company’s efforts to trim expenses and increase profitability, according to Greyhound Lines off

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 3, 2005

Starting June 21, the company will be shutting the doors of 39 stations in Alabama, many of them located here in the Black Belt.

Greyhound spokesperson Eric Wesley said the closings are part of a large restructuring plan to close stations that have not been profitable over the past few years.

“We are reducing our schedule frequency across the Southeast,” Wesley said. “We are closing those stations where customer demand hasn’t been that high.”

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In a letter to Mike Parnell, director of schedule planning for Greyhound, Selma Mayor James Perkins Jr. voiced his displeasure at cutting services throughout the Black Belt.

“The City of Selma is the heart of the Black Belt.

We serve a regional population of 250,000 people from surrounding counties,” he wrote. “For generations, this region has suffered for the lack of an interstate and limited public transportation. For many of our citizens, Greyhound is the only public transportation available.”

Along with Selma, other bus stations closing this month include Demopolis, Marion, Uniontown, Camden, Pine Hill, Thomasville, York and Livingston.

Greyhound will continue to run buses out of 12 Alabama cities, the nearest being Montgomery and Tuscaloosa.

Claire Twardy, executive

director of the Selma and Dallas County Chamber of Commerce, said the closings would have an impact on the Black Belt.

“I believe this would have an impact on businesses and the community,” Twardy said. “There are people who rely on the buses to get to their health care needs in Montgomery and Birmingham, and to visit with family,”

Twardy said is also concerned about how the closings will affect local businesses that use Greyhound for shipping and receiving packages.

Twardy said the chamber is working with the City of Selma and Congressman Artur Davis to try to keep the bus station open or find another solution for public transportation.

“We want to see if Selma can be a hub for the smaller surrounding counties,” Twardy said.

In his letter, Perkins outlined many of the positive developments in the Black Belt, including new industry, lowering unemployment numbers and patterns that show more people moving into the area.

He said Greyhound would do well to look ahead and see the Black Belt’s bright future.

“I ask that you rethink the conditions of our market, looking more in the context of our future and less in the context of our past,” he wrote. “We are just beginning to explore our real growth potential and expand on the opportunities before us. Your decision to restrict public transportation at his time is inconsistent with what is taking place in our market.”

For members of the Friends of the National Historic Voting Rights Trail, which has been campaigning for a rural transportation system in the Black Belt, the closing announcement could bring more attention to their efforts.

“This could bring more fuel to the fire of why we need a intra-state transportation system,” said Tina Price, executive secretary of the Friends of the Selma to Montgomery NHVRT.

Price said a rural transportation system would not be linked to a national company chain, which could lead to more stability and less fear about closings.

“We are going to focus on this now that we have more a reason to cry a little louder,” Price said. “We are still going to push Sen. (Richard) Shelby this is something we need.”