Substandard bus stops drench, humiliate riders

A soaked bench at the Depot. Image by the author.

A soaked bench at the Depot. Image by the author.

During Marin’s big Pineapple Express a few of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of taking the bus all over Marin. Stepping off a bus without worrying about parking or gas or finding the car always feels liberating to me, so I thoroughly enjoyed that aspect. But thanks to bad stop design, I and my fellow riders got soaked.

After chatting up some of protestors of WinCup, I walked along the narrow sidewalk to the closest southbound bus pad, not just to see what the walk was like but also because I had to get to Mill Valley. Aside from protestors using up the entire sidewalk width, forcing me to walk in the street, it wasn’t so bad. The bus pad, though, was another story.

The bus pad shelter allowed the wind to whip rain right in the face of me and my fellow travelers. The bench was so soaked that sitting would have made for a cold and soggy experience. Someone else waiting spoke very little English but pointed at the rain and the bench and laughed. “Very wet,” she said, and it was quite clear she thought the situation was ridiculous. Though she was heading to Mill Valley, too, she hopped on the next bus that came (Route 36) just to get out of the wet. I decided to stick it out, though, and my Route 17 bus arrived soon enough.

Alas, the Mill Valley Depot, central bus station of this most wealthy of towns, was in even worse shape. The roof dripped everywhere, soaking not just the benches but anyone who risked standing under it without an umbrella. Water trickled in from every slat in the roof and positively poured in through the light fixture.

The state of repair on the Depot and the quality of the bus pad stops tells riders, You don’t really matter. For one of the wealthiest counties in the country and one that prides itself on being green and supporting the less fortunate, that’s unacceptable.

If buses are a travel mode of equal stature to the car or ferry, bus stops – especially signature stops like the Depot – need to be treated like it. They should be comfortable, or at least bearable. The people who ride the bus for work or out of necessity do matter.

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About David Edmondson
A native Marinite working in Washington, DC, I am fascinated by how one might apply smart-growth and urbanist thinking to the low-density towns of my home.

9 Responses to Substandard bus stops drench, humiliate riders

  1. rihallix says:

    Dave states: “Stepping off a bus without worrying about parking or gas or finding the car always feels liberating to me”. I find such a statement unusual.

    The day I moved to the US (in 1996) and stopped being a slave to unreliable, expensive and standing room only British Rail was my moment of liberation. My personal turn-off was running to a transit stop only to find you’d just missed a train or bus and have to waste 15+ minutes waiting (in the freezing cold, the wind, the rain…). When you’re busy, as so many of us are, this dead time feels like a travesty.

    By comparison a car guarantees:
    - you leave the moment that you want (you are not wasting time waiting for something else to depart)
    - you are not constantly stopping, diverting, waiting for people to board and disembark, pay…
    - you get a comfortable seat, reclined just the way you like
    - you can have a private phone conversation if you need to (provided it’s hands free)
    - you get to control the temperature
    - you don’t sit next to a smoker (my rides to school in the 1980s) or someone you didn’t want to
    - but most of all it provides a chance to listen to music that I love

    Back to transit stops. These need to be fairly inexpensive and robust, and where possible comfortable. But there’s no substitute to being on your way already compared to remaining at a transit stop.

    • Neil says:

      I know right? Its so infuriating when people have a different opinion than you, especially when their opinion is wrong!

      • rihallix says:

        @Neil: Funny – I simply stated I found his statement unusual. I then outlined why I found it unusual.

    • Unusual, sure, but it is absolutely a freedom I enjoy. While on the journey:

      – I get to read or write
      – I can have a phone conversation without endangering anyone (hands-free, too, is just as dangerous when driving as a hand-held!)
      – I can either people watch or make faces at babies, or both
      – I get some fascinating conversations with people I never would have encountered otherwise
      – I don’t have to sit next to someone I don’t want to (I’ll just stand)
      – And I still get to listen to music I love, I just can’t sing along

      I was a car-owner for years, including a 50-minute reverse-commute, so I got the unimpeded road through some beautiful countryside in northern Washington State, which included the unusual (but rather fun) twice-daily border crossing. Get some earl grey, head off. I know what I’m missing, and, honestly, it pales in comparison to what I gain.

      • rihallix says:

        We definitely share different perspectives on “freedom” and “enjoying travel”. I’d suggest running a survey but we both know that getting an unbiased cross-section of audience would be a challenge on either of our sites.

        However the market has really spoken, and people have voted with their wallets over many decades:
        http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/12/how-america-gets-to-work-in-1-very-long-graph/282349/

        The Bay Area stats show a per capita drop in transit usage since the 1980s despite substantially increased investment. One might attempt to reverse this trend, getting people to switch to transit, but I’d suggest we’re talking about the kind of effort that would be akin to those attempted in more one-party states (oops, forgot California is almost that already). It would be a massive undertaking going against the flow.

        If this is with the goal of emissions reduction and mobility then I say the market is starting to serve this need. Switching car tax to be based on CO2 emissions like Europe instead of car value would help grease the wheels. Fuel efficiency jumped from 22mpg to 23mpg for the entire fleet in just one year and is continuing to increase, drastically reducing emissions. And 1 in 10 Bay Area new car buyers is buying a hybrid. The market is massively incentivized to solve these problems – evolving and improving the car. We can help it along. But diverting the middle class out of their comfortable cars to transit – well good luck with that…but please don’t attempt it here.

  2. Stephen Nestel says:

    Dave, As you recall, both Richard Hall and I greeted you when you stopped by. Sorry that you chose to walk in the gutter. You are suggesting you were forced there by rude protestors. That is unfair. You are always welcome to stop by and chat. You might not like the opinions you hear but you will not be treated rudely. No one considers you ” the enemy”.

  3. letsgola says:

    This is a chronic problem all over the US. My guess is that it’s not failure to consider the conditions, but a conscious decision to reduce costs by avoiding the need to design the shelters & foundations to withstand large wind loads. Which in a way is worse…

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