Marys Wants To Eliminate Palm Tran Stop Near Its Front Door

Marys Wants To Eliminate Palm Tran Stop Near Its Front Door

WEST PALM BEACH — For about two decades, St. Mary’s Medical Center has allowed Palm Tran buses to pull up to a special stop at the end of the hospital’s drive and within 250 feet of its front door.

That soon could end.

The West Palm Beach hospital has told the Palm Beach County bus agency that, starting in July, the buses that run routes 20, 21 and 31 will instead have to make a stop somewhere along 45th Street, west of the hospital and about 1,800 feet from its main entrance. That’s a third of a mile for anyone to walk.

The three routes account for a total of 72 stops a day at the hospital. In 2015, that meant 60,541 people boarding and 57,337 getting off at the stop — Stop 2274 — according to an executive summary Palm Tran Executive Director Clinton Forbes wrote in March.

Palm Tran has said many of those include St. Mary’s patients and employees, but the agency plans in the next few days to study exactly how many are starting or ending their journey there.

+St. Mary’s wants to eliminate Palm Tran stop near its front door photo
LANNIS WATERS

The entrance to St. Mary’s Medical Center on 45th Street in West Palm Beach in 2012. (Lannis Waters/The Palm Beach Post)

Without the stop on the hospital’s circular drive, Palm Tran buses will have to find another place to make a big U-turn, because the drive is a turnaround point for the routes. This is especially so for Route 31, which is coming from the east.

Forbes explained the issue at a May 26 meeting of the Palm Tran Service Board, an advisory panel.

“It’s extremely complicated and may disenfranchise our customers,” he said.

+St. Mary’s wants to eliminate Palm Tran stop near its front door photo

Dwight Mattingly, chairman of the Palm Tran Service Board, at Palm Tran Service Board meeting, May 26, 2016. (Eliot Kleinberg/The Palm... Read More

He said the stop has a covered shelter and its proximity to the entrance allows the rider to make a restroom break.

According to his executive summary, it’s the busiest stop on Route 21; the second busiest on Route 31, behind the downtown West Palm Beach Amtrak/TriRail station; and the third busiest on Route 20, behind the Gardens Mall and the Mangonia Park Tri-Rail station.

“It’s reprehensible that a public institution would take an action to try to get the transit system, that they’ve invited up to this time to serve this stop, to say, ‘We’re throwing you out,’” said Dwight Mattingly, chair of the Palm Tran Service Board and himself a Palm Tran driver.

+St. Mary’s wants to eliminate Palm Tran stop near its front door photo

Palm Tran Assistant Director Charles Frazier at Palm Tran Service Board meeting, May 26, 2016. (Eliot Kleinberg/The Palm Beach Post)

Forbes told the Service Board on May 26 that the hospital first came to his agency in March. He said the hospital told him the buses are “creating a congestion issue. That’s the primary issue — that they’re (buses) impeding traffic flow.”

He said Wednesday that the hospital also is concerned for patients that are on foot.

But Forbes says he has told hospital officials that Palm Tran can’t make the change by July. He said he needs until September to rework the routes, especially the turnaround point. He said Wednesday that St. Mary’s has expressed a willingness to work that out.

+St. Mary’s wants to eliminate Palm Tran stop near its front door photo

Palm Tran Executive Director Clinton Forbes at Palm Tran Service Board meeting, May 26, 2016. (Eliot Kleinberg/The Palm Beach Post)

At the Service Board meeting, member Terry Brown reminded his colleagues that St. Mary’s is a private institution which has the right to boot Palm Tran at any time. He also wondered if there was more to its request.

“There has to be a very compelling reason, a security reason, other than traffic flow,” Brown said.

Palm Tran Assistant Director Charles Frazier told the Service Board there’s never been a formal agreement with St. Mary’s. Rather, it was “more of a handshake deal.”

Forbes said he plans to work with county government officials and St. Mary’s representatives to work out a compromise.

St. Mary’s spokesman Ryan Lieber did not answer several specific questions from The Palm Beach Post Wednesday, saying only in a prepared statement, “St. Mary’s Medical Center has a close working relationship with the county and Palm Tran. We are working with them to address the needs of the hospital and Palm Tran.”


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