Monday, October 20, 2014

Well intentioned bus shelter is an example of poor implementation

Montgomery County installed this new bus shelter at the intersection of University Boulevard (westbound) and Sutherland Road a few weeks ago.  It was placed adjacent to the parking lot for the Fresh Greek Grill and Red Maple restaurants, and it is located at a heavily used bus stop served by routes 9, 19, C2, and C4.  This bus stop is very popular, as it is the best way to transfer from the southbound Z bus routes to the westbound C routes.  There is little doubt that a shelter here is useful for transit riders.

The problem is that installation of the shelter was poorly implemented.    

The new bus shelter at University Boulevard and Sutherland Drive.  Photo by the author.

Here are some issues that should have been considered before it was placed where it was.

Width of sidewalk:

The sidewalk at this location is 8 feet wide, and it is hemmed by the road on one side and a metal fence on the other.  This sidewalk felt narrow before the shelter was built, due to the near constant presence of transit riders who stand on the sidewalk to wait for the bus.  With the new shelter, the passable portion of the sidewalk is reduced to about 5 feet, and that's if there are no people standing at the stop taking up some of that space.  There are also other objects obstructing the sidewalk in this area, such as a trash can and some newspaper dispensers, making this spot difficult to navigate with a stroller, wheelchair, or on a bike (you could always ride in the road, but the road is very hostile to cyclists due to a lack of any cycling infrastructure).

Size of shelter:

This new shelter, while a nice gesture of good will towards transit riders from the county, is largely impractical due its small size.  The roof of the shelter is only about 4 feet wide, meaning it offers little to no protection from the elements.  The roof is too narrow to provide a sizable amount of shade on sunny days, and it is also too narrow to keep water off people on rainy days.  In the county's defense, a shelter any larger than this would have effectively blocked the whole sidewalk, so it makes sense that they went with the smaller shelter possible for such a tight spot.  However, there is more space available here which was ignored with the installation of this shelter, which leads to the next point.      

Empty space between parking lot and sidewalk:   

There are 4 feet of space between the sidewalk and the parking lot, a space which is currently occupied by a planter and a fence.  Had the county been willing to work with the SHA to remove the fence and small curb supporting it, they could have had additional room for a larger shelter while preserving existing sidewalk space.  However, it seems that the county was unwilling to take this step to make use of this space, so they took the easy route and installed an inferior shelter in an already tight spot.

There is additional space between the sidewalk and the parking lit which could have been used for the shelter.  Image from Google Earth.

This bus shelter, while trivial in the grand scheme of things, represents a lack of communication between MCDOT, the SHA, and the community.  Hopefully all parties involved will learn from this minor error so that better lines of communication can be established as we embark on much bigger projects in the near future.            

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