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Streetsblog USA runs an annual competition inviting readers to send in details of their 'sorriest bus stop'. The aim is to call out the contempt that some administrations have for public transit and its passengers and to encourage better design and facilities. What is a 'sorry bus stop'? I'd encourage you to view some examples. Common elements include lack of shelter, no paths, no way to cross busy roads, no safe place to stand out of the traffic, truck noise, fumes and no information. Imagine having to cross a multi-lane roundabout to reach a pole stuck in a muddy road shoulder and you get the idea. Especially if the bus you're trying to catch is hourly or worse. It's not just an American thing. Melbourne too has its share of 'sorry stops'. Here's my six picks: Dohertys Rd, Laverton North (Route 400)What isn't sorry about this stop (at least when Google drove by last March)? Take your pick. No shelter. No footpath. The continual stream of close-passing trucks splashing mud everywhere. And an inabilty to cross the road. Have a look for yourself here. One hopes improvements here are within scope for the Dohertys Rd upgrade project.
Fullarton Rd near Roberts St, Keilor East (Routes 465 & 476)Here you have a choice between being sandwiched between traffic and the crash barrier or standing in knee high shrubs between the barrier and a mesh fence. The latter though may be necessary to read the timetable at a straight angle. That can be important given the paper in them can disintegrate into a million pieces under harsh sunlight. The photos below were taken during a site visit in 2019 but you can pan around for yourself in this more recent street view from December 2020. The stop serves industrial area jobs. And because it's on two routes, service on it is unusually high, with 4.5 buses per hour operating weekday interpeak. Also, as mapped, it is in Transport Minister Ben Carroll's seat of Niddrie. Beveridge (Route 511)It's not so much the stops that are sorry here but the service to this fast growing area. The area around these stops is mostly built out. However stops see just a handful of peak trips, with no midday, weekend or evening service. However it's (slightly) better than it was with the service starting with just one trip each direction.
Frankston - Dandenong Rd, Frankston (Routes 789, 790, 791)Let's say you wanted to get from Frankston Station to Frankston RSL. This is the sort of trip that ought to be ideal for the bus. After all weekday service on this corridor has been an outstanding one bus every 10 minutes since the Cranbourne area network review in 2016. And, at first glance, the bus stop is opposite the RSL, with only a short walk required. In practice it's more complicated and the walk to the RSL is two or three times the distance than it should be. A barrier and a fence physically block access at the nearest point. And even if there was, signalised crossing points are a fair way either side. Police Rd, Mulgrave (Routes 631, 813, 814, 848)At first sight this residential area stop ticks several boxes for goodness so shouldn't be here. For instance there is a shelter and paths to it. It makes it to this list solely due to its poor access for the >90% of users who would walk from the north. It's located on a busy road with no zebra or signalised crossing anywhere nearby. And it's served by four routes to diverse destinations so could attract significant usage if access was better.
High St Melton (Route 456)The name of the nearby play centre is possibly a good description for how one must play chicken with high speed traffic to have any hope of reaching this stop on Melton's Route 456. Like Mulgrave's Police Rd stop it has shelter and paths but no fast and safe pedestrian access across the road to reach it. The stop's catchment includes jobs and retail and there's no alternative route or stop nearby. And the large unsignalised roundabout to the east guarantees a continual stream of traffic. Calder Freeway - Organ Pipes National Park (Route 483)Freeways typically have bad influences on public transport. They can sap patronage from parallel railways, especially if trains are slow all-stations stoppers at most times (eg Frankston and Glen Waverley lines) or are infrequent (eg V/Lines to Geelong and Melton on weekends). They encourage dispersed land use patterns that favour driving and discourage active and public transport. Freeways can impede shorter walking, cycling and even driving trips if built in place of a more permeable arterial road that would have completed the local grid. And their high costs can starve government budgets when times are tight such as during the 1990s when public transport got few capital upgrades. On the flip side freeways can provide fast corridors for commuter public transport, for instance median railways or express bus lanes. And they may enable bus routes that might not otherwise operate. While the latter enables fast travel speeds the walking access and waiting conditions to on-freeway stops are frequently dire. So much so that they easily make it onto any sorry stop list. That is if the stop still exists, which is not always the case. Sometimes making a stop accessible is so hard that the authorities give up and shut it down. For instance up to last year one could take a bus to the Organ Pipes National Park whose only access is via the Calder Freeway. Streetview shows the stop. The bus (483) still runs but the stops got pulled out a few months back, making Organ Pipes now inaccessible by any public transport.
Seven ways to make a bus stop 'not sorry'
OK, so how do you fix these sorry stops? Listed below are what's needed.
It would be nice if all bus stops had everything but even going part way would make a big difference. The cost-effectiveness of this gets better with reformed bus networks as fewer stops are needed to provide the same coverage with better directness and frequency. At the other extreme, if we go to flexible route buses then we are also removing the possibility of providing information, shelter and seating at stops since none are fixed (except for one or two main waiting areas at shopping centres etc).
We should never turn down the chance to do small bus stop improvements now. But in areas where the network needs reviewing we should only spend serious money after we've introduced the new network to avoid it being wasted. Or, at the very least, on upgrading stops we know will still be there under any revised network.
I've listed the highest priority first. The first few are essentials for every stop. The latter few are highly desirable on a civilised network, with provision at both ends of an increasingly high proportion of journeys.
1. Access and location. People make a song and dance about DDA but that's only the start. A stop might technically comply with DDA but still be inaccessible from the surrounds because there's no direct footpath to it or you can't cross the road without backtracking 400 metres or more to the nearest signalised intersection. Because you can't use a stop that you can't get to access to it at all time the bus runs is my No 1 priority. Zebra crossings is the highest and best method for quieter streets with signalised crossings on busier roads. Central pedestrian refuges can help on wider busier roads for midblock stops provided it's not too far between traffic lights that encourage traffic in bursts with gaps for walkers to cross. But large roundabouts encourage continuous traffic flow and should be removed wherever there's buses, bikes and walkers. Stops should be near intersections and central to built up areas to maximise pedsheds and interchange opportunities. And the path of least resistance, ie closing them, should not be taken if it means compromised coverage as with an example from above.
2. Information. Here in Melbourne we have a minimum standard for all stops thanks to the Metlink signage project introduced about 15 - 18 years ago. This minimum standard includes a pole and flag that shows route number and destination. In something that most other cities lack we have a timetable and basic route map at every stop along with website and phone number for further information. There are also braille bus stop ID numbers, though these (unfortunately) are not used as much as they should. We have retreated on this slightly in the last 8 or so years with local area network maps no longer provided at most bus stops.
3. Waiting space. Needs to be carved out with a concrete hard-stand away from the traffic lane. This is to provide enough separation from traffic, especially if high speed. Also to provide protection from dust and mud on dry splashed from traffic on wet days.
4. Lighting. Needed at night or early winter mornings for personal safety, so you can read the timetable and so you are visible to the bus driver. Even a well-placed street light is better than nothing.
5. Shelter. For shade during (increasingly hot) days and protection from rain during (often) long waits for the bus. A shop verandah is an excellent alternative in urban areas. Shade trees around the stop and along paths to the stop are also highly desirable to mitigate 'heat island' effects.
6. Seating. To provide relief during long waits. Also an accessibility issue as some older people are unable to stand for long.
7. Nearby facilities. Most notably toilets. Nearby retail is also desirable. A lot of the latter gets down to how we design our cities with older pre-car suburbs scoring much better than newer areas due to better walkability, grid streets, closer spacing of shops etc.
Moving away from the stop itself, another point is also critical.
8. A useful service. Includes sensible direct routes, good operating hours, good frequency and connectivity with trains like we frequently discuss on the Useful Network.
ConclusionGood bus stops is an important part of making public transport safe and attractive to use. Especially on a network with many long waits. Improvements are often relatively cheap, although, being small capital projects the fashion for mega projects has diverted attention from them. Do you know of any more sorry stops? Maybe others deserve a spot in the top six more than those listed. If so please tell us in the comments below. See other Building Melbourne's Useful Network items hereThis item was written by Peter Parker http://www.melbourneontransit.blogspot.com
This article first appeared on melbourneontransit.blogspot.com
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