Just Asking …

DSCF9178 We’ve all seen wide, high-speed suburban boulevards where it’s not safe to cross the street anywhere but the occasional huge signalized intersection.

Yet there are often bus stops on these boulevards far from those signals.
Since most transit trips are round trips, and most services are two-way, most passengers need to use the stops on both sides of their street.  They depart from a stop on one side but usually return to a stop on the other side.
So a pair of stops isn’t really functional unless it’s safe to cross the street at that point.


In fact, transit agencies sometimes get sued when someone gets killed crossing the street at a bus stop, on the theory that the placement of the bus stop is part of why they crossed there.  (To be fair, all the other relevant governments and their hairdressers get sued in these situations too.)


So what if transit agencies said to cities and highway agencies:  We will not place a bus stop anywhere where it’s not safe to cross the street.
In effect, the bus routes on those fast suburban boulevards would suddenly be limited-stop or rapid, stopping only at the very occasional signalized intersection.  Lots of people would have to walk much further, possibly on highway shoulders that aren’t very safe either.
But might it change the calculus of suburban cities and highway agencies about how many signals or crosswalks there need to be?  And if it didn’t, whose fault would that be?
I’m not sure.  Just asking.

5 Responses to Just Asking …

  1. anonymouse July 22, 2009 at 8:03 pm #

    It might at least break their illusion that whatever it is they’re doing is adequate. Incidentally a closely related issue is bus stop placement at transfers. It’s way inconvenient when you have to walk half a block, cross two streets and walk another half block to transfer. Especially if as you’re walking you can see your bus leave, and the next one doesn’t come for half an hour.

  2. Peter Parker July 23, 2009 at 3:34 am #

    I’m of the view that safe and guaranteed crossing is the most important thing you can have at a bus stop. The only thing that would equal it is signage and timetables.
    All the other things like seats, shelters and real time info are great to have but don’t make the difference between a stop being usable or not.
    To answer your question, the average 30 or 60 minutely bus have such low visibility that cities or road authorities would generally not care.
    Your ‘calculus’ implies there is a factor to calculate. On major roads and in industrial areas pedestrians have a value of zero, so are absent from calculations. Removing a bus stop might entrenches this mentality even more.
    It is stupid to have unusable/inaccessible bus stops on uncrossable roads. Yet pulling them out because there is poor foot access is the same as ceding a fragile toehold in a transit hostile area.
    Hardly anyone will notice so this won’t have the desired effect. And if done there’s no turning back, as it can be quite a bureaucratic process to get a stop restored.
    Even if they were not used much a stop is a silent reminder that things could be better. Keeping the flame alive that pedestrians have a place other than inside a shopping mall, and to give rise to the thought that pedestrians ‘might’ wish to cross at this point and it could be a suitable focal point for a crossing.
    Say a sheltered workshop might open near the bus stop, and it may be easier to argue for just a crossing rather than a bus stop plus a crossing (in very car-dominated areas the welfare/special needs argument for transit seems strongest).
    There is however the matter of service standards, and accessibility to bus stops is as important as span and frequency (even though it’s hard getting the last two up and nearly everyone ignores the first).
    The need for a service standard is instead of allowing a known time to reach the stop, you may need to weave around barriers and allow much more for a rare gap in the traffic, thus further slowing travel time and overall reliability – waiting to cross a busy unsignalised road is effectively another transfer or ‘connection’ of unknown duration or chance of success.
    I favour a general expectation that all stops should have pedestrian access facilties from all directions, and that stops without it are specially identified by footnote (this can be especially useful for operator websites and phone apps that have journey planners and/or stop specific service information).
    The transit agency could use this to build up public expectations that every stop should be accessible on foot (or wheelchair) and if stops are not then people increasingly ask ‘why not’.
    Which is what we want so that 100% of stops are reachable 24/7, and this happened by adding accessible streets to stops rather than removing stops from inaccessible streets (and thus harming coverage).

  3. Scott Wood July 23, 2009 at 10:02 am #

    Here in Austin, Capital Metro has a propensity for running routes on the frontage roads of freeways (though in many cases it’s hard to blame them when there’s no other parallel through road in the vicinity — if suburban planners cared one bit about buses or where they stop, the road layouts wouldn’t look like they do). Often there is a mile or more between crossings, and pedestrian conditions are awful.
    Here’s one of my favorites:
    No shoulder, no sidewalk, bordering a 50 MPH frontage road, and the grassy area is on a slope (though it’s hard to tell from the picture). But that’s OK, at least they have a patch behind the sign that’s been leveled from usage. I’m sure the slant of the sign has nothing to do with people holding on to it trying not to fall into traffic.
    Oh, and to get to that stop I have to go around fences between the properties along the road, which extend almost all the way to the road taking away the option of walking along the flatter areas farther from traffic.

  4. Desmond Bliek July 23, 2009 at 10:21 am #

    Aside from being forced to by the occasional lawsuit, I can’t imagine that most municipalities care one whit about the plight of bus riders in auto-dominated outer suburban areas with roads similar to what you describe. If the transit agency threatened to remove dangerous stops, I imagine that it would be akin to the proverbial tree falling in the forest with nobody around to hear. Heck, area drivers might even appreciate the reduced frequency of buses merging back into traffic. A huge sea change in urban design and planning would be necessary to make these environments transit-conducive; not just a crosswalk.
    The transit agency is also in a difficult position, being obliged to run what is essentially a social service for suburban non-drivers, rather than consolidating and vastly enhancing its operations in more urban areas where it could then stand a chance of actually becoming a viable and attractive form of mobility.

  5. Jeffrey Bridgman July 27, 2009 at 2:03 pm #

    So from the post, I’m imagine an highway strip with car-centered retail stores set behind an acre of parking.
    That kind of built environment in so completely unfriendly to pedestrian users, I can hardly see anyone in their rightmind using it.
    Do I seriously wanna walk several hundred yards through parking lot to get to that 5 by 6 inch sign on a post that tells me nothing about when the next bus comes?
    I don’t think so.
    Too bad suburbs aren’t designed in a manner than through-streets arise. If it wasn’t for the fact that each subdivision is closed into itself and full of cul-de-sacs, buses might be able to operate on a parallel street, close to homes, where traffic speed is more suitable to pedestrians and buses alike.