LANDLORDS says tenants are leaving prime Mitchell Street store fronts because they do not feel comfortable with the number of people waiting for buses.
It has prompted the City of Greater Bendigo to say that conditions are "not ideal" and that it would be open to discussions with the Department of Transport about potential solutions.
Landlords Sandra and Giulio Mase suspect bus-related crowds and anti-social behaviour between Hargreaves and Queen Street hurts trade.
The pair have already lost tenants over the issue and two more have said they will not renew leases.
"I feel sorry for the people running the businesses there," Giulio said.
"It's hard enough for them at the moment without the riff-raff going past."
The council's strategic planning manager Anthony Petherbridge said he would welcome the opportunity to discuss "a small realignment of the current timetable with the Department of Transport, and discuss the issues traders and passengers are experiencing along Mitchell Street".
Guilio said buses should ideally be pulling up somewhere else, but that the main problem was the number of people standing in front of businesses because there was nowhere else for them to wait.
Sandra said foot traffic had largely dried up in the years that buses had been pulling up there in such high numbers.
"People are put off, maybe even scared of the verbal abuse and fights that take place there," she said.
"Businesses in general are struggling due to COVID, but this bus stop on Mitchell Street has been there for a number of years."
One trader, who asked not to be named, said some customers had been concerned about coming into the store because of people milling out the front.
The trader had seen fights both out the front and, on occasion, in their store itself.
"It's more the swearing and shouting that we see and hear, in terms of the anti-social behavior, which can be tiresome," they said.
"I do think there is a safety issue there too with COVID-19, because you do see people who are not wearing masks or standing 1.5 metres apart."
The trader had considered moving to another location where customers might have better parking options and not have to navigate people waiting for buses.
They said police did respond to issues at the bus stop and had proactively patrolled the area, but wondered whether that was a realistic long-term solution given that it drew resources away from other areas.
The trader believed a permanent solution should avoid simply moving the problem to other areas.
"But any way of mitigating the problem would be awesome. All of us traders are sick of it," they said.
Challenges with crowds at Mitchell Street bus stops date back to at least the 2000s.
Both the state government and the council have invested in new bus parking bays and intersection rebuilds to help ease problems along different parts of the road.
They have also adjusted bus routes and, in 2012, installed seating in the mall to move crowds away from some Mitchell Street stores.
Council research showed that bus routes could be split and spread out across the city centre, Mr Petherbridge said.
"[That] could address this issue with little impact on timetables or travel times. It would also help remove bus traffic congestion around the Charing Cross intersection and reduce walking times to workplaces or shops," he said.
The transport department's Loddon Mallee director Melanie Hotten said her agency would be open to discussions.
"We are always happy to assess proposals from councils, with our key priority to ensure that any change is safe for everyone, including bus passengers, the community and other road users," she said.
The Bendigo Advertiser asked whether buses should pull up there, where they might be moved and whether something should be done to reduce the amount of people gathering there.
"We know how important Bendigo's bus network is for keeping the community connected - local bus services ensure that people can access healthcare, education and employment," Ms Hotten said.
"The Mitchell Street bus stop serves as the main outbound interchange for Bendigo buses, given its central location and accessibility."
The department considers a range of factors when choosing bus stops, in consultation with councils and bus companies.
They include whether a new bus stop location allows visibility for passengers, cars and buses, whether there is enough space for safe pedestrian and passenger access, ease of access, how evenly spaced bus stops are and disability access.
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