Citizens rallied on Rodney Square in Wilmington Thursday to protest the dismantling of the bus hub there this past winter.
At the rally, Coalition to Restore Bus Service on Rodney Square leaders said the rerouting of buses from the Square amounted to discrimination.
“It is not right. It is a civil rights violation,” said Scott Spencer, organizer of the group and transportation consultant.
Protesters called on public officials to bring back the bus routes removed from the square this winter. They decried what they see as a lack of transparency, and the prioritization of private business interest over working-class people.
The rally consisted of roughly twenty people. Speakers included community activists, faith leaders, political candidates and elected officials.
Coalition leaders read copies of emails, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, between staff in the Office of the Governor and several state agencies and Robert Buccini, co-founder and co-president of Buccini/Pollin Group.
The emails reveal that Buccini had requested changes to Rodney Square, and that he was given the chance to comment on proposed changes to bus routes before the public was.
Bernice McLeod is a Rodney Square bus rider who came to the rally Thursday.
“I’ve been coming out to all the protests because, as a senior, the way the buses are set up, it’s a big inconvenience,” she said.
She says the December route changes have at times added 45 minutes to her commutes.
After gathering on Rodney Square, the Coalition and protesters marched to Gov. John Carney’s office, and requested a meeting with Carney in early fall through the Governor’s spokesperson.
Coalition leader John Flaherty says he hopes through this meeting the Coalition, the Office of the Governor and state transportation officials can find a “mutual solution.”
Gov. John Carney says he’s willing to meet with the group—to tell them about “our comprehensive approach to revitalizing the City of Wilmington.”
“Well we’ve been working hard on the new transit station down by the Wilmington Train Station,” he said.
The Coalition also requested a meeting with Robert Buccini.
Spencer says in the months that the Coalition has been requesting records and petitioning officials to restore the bus routes, he’d expected a representative of Buccini/Pollin Group to reach out to the Coalition. However, he said, no one did.
Robert Buccini would not comment on whether he’s willing to meet with the Coalition, because he hadn’t yet read their written request.
But he thinks December’s decrease in buses stopping at Rodney Square has been a good thing.
“We haven’t had any homicides in Rodney Square,” he said. “We haven’t had any stabbings in Rodney Square. It’s a far, far safer place for the City of Wilmington.”
He says the Coalition’s characterizations of the bus route changes as classist or racist are inaccurate.
“I would disagree with that,” he said. “One of the largest bus stops is right at our building at 838 Market St. And the other one was next to our Starbucks. So when the buses were relocated they were relocated often to our properties. And we welcome that.”
“It’s a small state,” he said. “And if you want to have a meeting with a public official and you do what I do and you go through the proper channels, I think the access that we have is the same that anyone else would have.”
He added that Buccini/Pollin Group is one of the largest employers in the state. He says his “team of people” gives his company’s stance a “multiplier effect.”
DART is hosting a public presentation about the Wilmington Transit Hub next week.
Spencer said he objects to the fact that the effective bus hub on Rodney Square was changed before the new transit hub has opened.