Weeks after TheBurg reported that Transit News would be forced out of the Harrisburg Transportation Center under a new PennDOT plan, the store’s proprietor has been invited into talks with PennDOT executives.
They’ve pledged to discuss potential design options that would keep the newsstand in the train station, PennDOT press secretary Erin Waters-Trasatt said on Thursday.
William Cologie, who has owned Transit News since 1991, met with PennDOT executives last week after mounting a campaign to save his business. A PennDOT plan published in March called for evicting Transit News from its current retail space to make room for Amtrak offices, part of a $15 million overhaul of the train and bus hub.
At the meeting, PennDOT apologized for not including Cologie in early stakeholder conversations. They also reported that the renovation plans must be revised and offered to include him in the upcoming planning process, he said.
PennDOT has not guaranteed that Transit News will keep its current spot in the renovated station, but Cologie is heartened that they have listened to the opinions that he and his customers have raised.
“It has been incredibly gratifying to read the messages sent to PennDOT and to see how much Transit News means to so many,” Cologie said in a letter to his supporters. “We work hard, have always worked hard, and will continue to work hard to remain, what many consider us to be, the world’s best transit center newsstand.”
Cologie bought Transit News in 1991, when it had $3,000 of inventory and occupied a small office in the train station lobby. He oversaw an expansion of the store and its move into a larger space. Today, Transit News has $54,000 of inventory and generates more than $500,000 in annual sales.
Cologie said that many travelers and Harrisburg residents sent messages supporting Transit News to PennDOT in the days after the story broke, and shared some of those comments with TheBurg. Customers who commute to Harrisburg by train said that the station enhances their work week, while city residents said that they rely on the station for to buy a daily newspaper, coffee or books.
Waters-Trasatt confirmed that PennDOT has received emails and calls from the public asking them to preserve the newsstand.
Nonetheless, Cologie remains concerned that Amtrak, a key stakeholder in the remodeling process, has not confirmed its participation in the next round of planning. Amtrak owns the train station, but PennDOT is paying for its remodel.
The renovation is on hold until PennDOT and Amtrak executives decide who will manage the remodeled space. That responsibility currently lies with the Harrisburg Redevelopment Authority.
PennDOT will not have a timeline for advancing the project until the two parties reach that agreement, Waters-Trasatt said.