GLENS FALLS, N.Y. (NEWS10) – The section of Elm Street closest to Centennial Circle is narrow. Located between the highway-adjacent artery of Hudson Avenue and the increasingly-busy Park Street, it struggles to accommodate parking spaces on top of two-lane traffic.

That’s to say nothing of the Trailways and Greyhound bus systems that stop there. A parking lot that the buses used to use – between Empire Pizza and a building now under renovation – has been closed off to public use. That’s created a street-clogging problem, that the city is stepping up to address. As of this week, there’s no parking and no standing for vehicles on that block of the street.

“We’d heard complaints earlier this year,” said Glens Falls Mayor Bill Collins on Wednesday. “I thought they were being exaggerated. I’ve got to tell you; I didn’t give this the credit it deserved.”

Collins, who stepped into his seat as mayor at the start of this year, was part of a meeting earlier in the year regarding the potential construction of a parking garage further up Elm Street, where an open parking lot currently serves several businesses on Elm and Glen streets. The idea was to create a transportation hub for public transit, including buses like the ones active just a block down. At that meeting, he heard from several business owners who brought up just how bad things had gotten on Elm Street, citing multiple buses clogging up the street at a time.

One of those business owners was Robin Barkenhagen, owner of 42 Degrees, a glass art and pipe shop on Glen Street. Before the current location, Barkenhagen’s business operated out of 15-23 Park St., a building later purchased by developer and businesswoman Elizabeth Miller. Miller and her son are currently finishing up work renovating that building, set to open soon as cafe and market Park & Elm.

The renovation process required the parking lot once used by Trailways and Greyhound to be fenced off – and it won’t be open to the public again once the new venture opens. That blocking-off is to blame for more buses in the street – but when Barkenhagen looks back at his former storefront, he says the problems predate the new project.

“On a daily basis, the buses would pull up,” recalled Barkenhagen, whose business operated on Park Street for nine years before moving. “Between 3 and 4 p.m. was the worst time – there would be 2 or 3 buses stacked in the parking lot, with no room for them. If there were two buses at a time, the second one would physically block the driveway. Nobody could get in or out.”

Barkenhagen tried several ways to get the buses to stop trapping his employees and customers where they parked. He says he asked drivers to move, but nothing changed. He took pictures of the problem, and complained directly to the bus companies. At one point, Greyhound told him they would change where they parked – but the next day, back the bus came.

Years after leaving that property, the topic came up between Barkenhagen and a city employee, who was surprised to hear about the severity of the problem. Collins was surprised, too.

Another voice speaking up on the issue was Mark Levack, who operates Levack Real Estate from an upper floor of 33 Park St. – giving him a great view of the street. He came to Collins with photos of bus passengers retrieving luggage from the bus while standing in the middle of the street, dodging traffic in order to do so safely. He also showed the mayor video of one bus backing into another, and another of four buses clogging the street at once.

“The site is not large enough to handle bus traffic and customer traffic simultaneously,” said Levack. “No business should be allowed to do business in a public thoroughfare of block traffic.”

Parking on a postage stamp

As of the end of last week, the Glens Falls Common Council passed a law prohibiting parking or leaving vehicles standing on the affected stretch of Elm Street. Signs to that effect have gone up this week, and the Glens Falls Police Department has started giving out warnings to those who violate the new law as of the end of last week.

Meanwhile, the conversation has highlighted a problem that isn’t going away. The city of Glens Falls is tight-knit and close-packed. City officials have been working to find a new transportation hub for bus routes for some time, and the question hasn’t gotten easier to answer. Barkenhagen says he would have supported the parking garage idea for the Elm/Glen lot – but the city didn’t end up getting the funding it would need for it.

The question of where to look next is up to the city planning board. Collins says that conversations have included finding a spot along the Hudson Avenue corridor, which leads to Exit 18 of the Northway. Another idea is the Aviation Mall, just over the Queensbury line, where Greater Glens Falls Transit buses already travel daily.

Wherever the city next puts its efforts, the good news is that at least one of the bus lines has become more involved in the conversation. Collins said a Trailways representative recently visited Glens Falls after being contacted about the problem, and immediately agreed about its severity upon seeing it for themselves. Now, they’ve become willing to relocate where they do their business. That’s good news for the bus line’s current and former neighbors alike.

“I’m glad they’re doing something,” said Barkenhagen. “We’re a postage stamp in this city. There’s not a lot of space anywhere – but the worst place for it is where it is now.”

Barkenhagen suggests the city purchase the parking garage adjacent to 333 Glen St. in the city, located in a spot that can handle much more traffic. He also said that the bus issue wasn’t what motivated him to move 42 Degrees – that was just down to the timing of Elizabeth Miller’s purchase of the building.

Collins sees the issue as a learning experience. Complaints around Elm Street predate his tenure as mayor by plenty of years, and he himself admits he didn’t understand the problem until recently.

“I learned that I needed to pay more attention to complaints and see their merit. I hadn’t done that at the beginning of the year,” he said.

Trailways and Greyhound did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday.