An extra 24 buses a day could be stopping in the middle of The Square by Christmas.
Tranzit Group plans to abandon its Pitt St InterCity facility in Palmerston North and park free by the i-SITE, where its competitors already stop.
"We just want a level playing field," managing director Paul Snelgrove said.
Tranzit was no longer prepared to spend $100,000 a year maintaining the Pitt St building, which he described as "embarrassing" and unnecessary.
The decision to move soon was prompted by the city council deferring plans for a new urban and regional bus terminal for two years.
"The ongoing delays are a bit of a joke," he said. "It is very urgent to get a resolution. We will definitely not be where we are in two years. It might be more like three months."
Mayor Jono Naylor said having more bus movements through The Square was not the council's first choice.
But it might not have the power to stop it.
Tranzit needs to give Horizons' Regional Council 35 working days' notice of any plans to change its bus stops.
There are limited traffic safety grounds for withholding consent.
City council roading manager Graeme Tong said he would have "serious concerns" about a lot of buses travelling through the carpark and an area where there were a lot of pedestrians.
Closures of the car park for community events would also create problems, he said.
More detailed work would need to be done to establish whether the hazards were enough to deny registration.
Horizons' passenger transport committee chairman Vern Chettleburgh said Tranzit's plan was not a good solution for the city.
"But I don't blame them - they want a level playing field.
"This is what we have been warning the city council about for years."
Mr Snelgrove said the Pitt St location suited the InterCity service, but the business no longer needed the building and the costs that went with cleaning it.
He said that after years of discussion about an alternative, the council's decision to defer building a new terminal was the last straw.
He said free use of the i-SITE and the "brilliant" public toilets in The Square, which competitors already enjoyed, would suit Tranzit well.
"All we are asking for, in addition, would be bus stops and bus shelters."
Mr Snelgrove said that if the councils did not want the buses in The Square, he was willing to consider other central locations.
But Tranzit would definitely not use the Railway Station, as proposed in public submissions on the proposed terminal.
Mr Naylor said both councils needed to continue talking to Tranzit Group to come up with a better option.
"We always knew the situation at Pitt St was temporary, but this has come sooner than we anticipated."
The city council pays the $60,000 annual lease at Pitt St, and would have to give three months' notice to cancel it.
Its planning committee will possibly discuss next steps at its September meeting based on a report from Mr Tong's staff that will summarise public submissions and recommend how to deal with Tranzit's Square proposal.
LAYOUT DEEMED UNSAFE
The layout of Palmerston North's urban bus terminal in Main St East, requiring buses to merge with through-vehicles, has potential to cause serious accidents.
Tranzit Group managing director Paul Snelgrove said the terminal was in a great, central location, but was, "an accident waiting to happen".
He wants the city council to close off other vehicle access from The Square turning left into Main St.
The main risk was when buses were pulling out of the central bus stops into a flow of traffic that could be travelling as fast as 50kmh.
"There has been one accident, but it's more by luck than anything else that there have not been more."
There was a similar hazard on the other side of the road, where buses pulled out to approach the roundabout.
He believed that could be resolved with a give way sign that let the bus go first, without blocking through-traffic altogether.
"It's difficult because drivers just can't see traffic coming."
Mr Snelgrove said there had been three near misses "when buses have been trying to get into the traffic".
He also worried for the safety of pedestrians, especially the young and the elderly and those who did not realise vehicles had priority.
The risks would only increase with bus passenger numbers - currently 1.4 million passenger trips a year, and growing.
Mr Snelgrove said the council had made some improvements down the centre of the bus park area about a year ago, which had helped, but more was needed.
"It's a real safety issue."
City council roading manager Graeme Tong said he was aware of the incident in which a girl was "bumped" by a bus a year ago, and safety improvements were made.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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