PORTAGE, Mich. (WOOD) — Portage could be seeing a transit hub coming soon, with talks underway between the city and Kalamazoo-area bus service Metro.

The notion came from a recent staff report by Metro Executive Director Sean McBride:

“We’re both working on long-range planning and how to best serve the community,” he said.

He drew parallels between Metro’s comprehensive operational analysis and the master plan for the city of Portage, where more can happen than just the existing routes.

“The city of Portage is a key population center, a key retail center, a key job center,” McBride said. “We have six routes that service Portage, various parts of Portage. How do we have supportive infrastructure in place to best provide the best public transit experience in the city of Portage?”

It’s too early for those questions to be answered. There haven’t been any decisions about where the hub will be, how much it will cost, whether it will be built from scratch or renovated out of existing structures or what amenities it will have. McBride said what’s is clear is that it must be large enough for multiple buses, have shelter for passengers to be out of the elements and be in a spot where they can be picked up and dropped off safely without disrupting traffic.

“That’s the kind of the challenge… We don’t control land,” McBride said. “We’re hoping to work with the city of Portage where we can control some land that would allow us to put together those various components.”

Some amenity considerations include electric vehicle charging, an area for Metro’s future micro transit ride-share service and a commuter center to serve people who regularly travel I-94.

City Manager Pat McGinnis says transit is a vital service for many in Portage.

“We’re all about it. We’re really excited about making sure we’ve got a place for people to transfer,” McGinnis said about the hub project. “They need to get to work. They need to get to their medical appointment. They need to get to a friend’s house. It really doesn’t matter, but they need to get places.”

He said the future hub would provide a more efficient and practical way to connect passengers to where they need to go, whether it is a traditional bus route or Metro’s future micro transit ride-share service.

“I might not be able to get from here to Oshtemo in one shot, but I do need to transfer at some point. That’s where the hub comes into play,” McGinnis explained. “So we’re going to need one of those in Portage.”

McGinnis said four properties in the rich commercial area on the south end of Westnedge Avenue, one of which is city-owned, are being considered. But wherever it is, city leaders say their top priority is safety.

“… Whether it’s from a vehicular standpoint, where it’s safe for the buses to get in and out… and the pedestrians being able to approach the buses, wait for them,” McGinnis said. “That’s what we really need to make sure we hit the sweet spot on.”

Practicality, convenience, efficiency and affordability will also be measured as the hub is designed. McGinnis hopes it will start a domino effect of sustainable investment into nearby neighborhoods.

“We need to build communities around mass transit, not bring mass transit to communities,” he said. “When you got mass transit available, let’s see if we can reinvest in those areas and see some residential density there that can take advantage of that transit that already exists.”

He said the city will look into federal, state and philanthropic agencies for long-term, sustainable funding.