Durango officials say they’re worried a Walmart customer will be struck by a vehicle at the city’s bus stop there, but store managers haven’t seemed overly concerned.
Transit Manager Kent Harris presented his concerns and efforts to address the situation at Durango’s Multi-Modal Advisory Board meeting Wednesday.
Amber Blake, multi-modal administrator for the city, said the city, but mostly Harris, has had numerous meetings with Walmart employees since 2009. However, an assistant store manager who declined to give her name and General Manager Mike Neidlinger said this is the first time they’ve heard about safety concerns.
“Current Walmart management in Durango has only recently learned of the city’s interest in discussing the location of the bus stop in front of our store,” said Delia Garcia, a spokeswoman in Phoenix for the corporation, Friday in an email. “The safety of our customers and associates is important to us, and we’ve initiated contact with the city to better understand their concerns and establish a dialogue between the appropriate parties.”
The stop at Walmart is at the front of the store between the store’s two entrances. No one has been hit so far, but city transit operators have said there have been some close calls.
It’s one of the busiest and most dangerous stops, picking up about 8,200 people so far this year, Harris said.
City staff members are concerned pedestrians coming out of the store could get hit by a bus or the cars that drive around the buses. Harris said he suggested to a store manager in January the bus stop be moved to the south side of the building or the end of the parking lot, but he couldn’t get the OK.
“They didn’t really (seem) too concerned about the safety issues we have with that,” Harris said. “Nor should they be because if we hit somebody, it’s not their fault anyway. They’re not going to be liable for any of that.”
Blake said most of the riders to Walmart don’t ride the bus by choice, but are dependent on the service to do their grocery shopping.
The biggest concern Walmart seemed to have with moving the stop to the south side of the building is it would take up two parking spaces near the building, Blake said.
Several emails from Durango bus drivers to Harris expressed problems with the stop’s safety.
“It’s dangerous for people coming out of Walmart who don’t see the vehicle passing the bus,” wrote Nathan Blacksten on April 1. “Sometimes the vehicle has to slam on the brakes or the pedestrians have to back out of the way to avoid a collision.”
Ken Leonardo wrote Harris in March to say drivers will pass the bus and “totally blow off” the stop sign.
Paul Forsey also said last month that his bus has almost been hit several times by cars trying to get around him.
Neidlinger said no one has discussed any concerns with him, but he couldn’t comment further.
Harris said he talked to a store manager in January who is no longer with the store.
“That was the only person they would let me talk to,” he said. “I tried for the manager, but they would never let me speak to him. So I spoke to assistant manager Jeff.”
The manager’s last name was not released by Walmart despite a request from the Herald. Harris said he doesn’t remember the employee’s last name.
A nearby property owner has given the city permission to move the stop near Greene Chiropractic, which is 476 feet north of Walmart, according to Google maps. However, the city would prefer to find a solution with Walmart.
Multi-Modal Advisory Board member Jeremy Nelson suggested Harris speak to someone higher up at Walmart and remind the company of the steady stream of customers Durango buses bring to its door.
“The liability would be on the city, for it’s a public operation,” Nelson said. “At the same time, lawyers are very clever to figure out ways to go after whoever has the deepest pockets. I’m pretty sure Walmart has deeper pockets ultimately than the city of Durango.”