Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Please Give Us Shade... (No, Really.)

Last night I was waiting for a bus at Wilshire Blvd. and 26th Street at a major bus stop that serves local and rapid buses, and here is what I saw:

Notice something interesting?  Here is another view.

People are not sitting in the hot sun in the pretty, artistic seating.  They are standing in the shadows of poles and trees.  This is how too many people wait for the bus in Southern California.  If you are a big and tall guy like me, the pole may not be big enough.

My question is. why isn't there a bus shelter?  Why isn't there shade?  It makes for a very uncomfortable wait.  When it rains, and we know from this year that it actually does rain in Southern California, we basically get wet.

Here is an example of a London bus shelter design  I love -- that has shade, seating, a map, a digital screen, and is ADA compliant -- that I would like to see all through Southern California.

Isn't this pretty?  Why don't we have adequate bus shelters throughout much of Southern California?   Don't blame Metro for this.  The quality (or lack thereof) of bus shelters and bus stops is largely the responsibility of  the cities in which they are located.

Also, are bus stops designed based on how aesthetically pleasing they look or for the benefit of the transit user?  Ideally both, but functionality is essential.

By pointing out this stop, I am not ragging on the transit-supportive city of Santa Monica here, or its terrific Big Blue Bus system.  This one stop is just an indicator of a county-wide deficiency.  I should also add that my city of West Hollywood is currently upgrading its bus stops and shelters, which is terrific.  But, if you don't have adequate bus stop shade where you live, work, and play, then go to your city's Transportation Commission meeting, or even its City Council meeting, and insist on quality bus shelters that offer real shade from the sun and rain during public comment. 

As I stated in my last blog, there are two basic views of public transit and its components that I run across:

(A)  "Public transit is method of moving masses of people of all classes and demographics conveniently from place to place, increasing mobility, cultural opportunity, and economic prosperity, while helping the environment and quality of life for all by providing an reliable alternative for people who would otherwise exacerbate traffic problems by driving more cars on our already clogged roads."

(B)  "Public transit is a form of "transportation welfare" meant to provide a subsistence level of mobility to poor people who would, of course, get their own automobile as soon as they have the means and opportunity."

Too many people think of transit in Southern California solely as (B) and therefore don't see the problem here.  If you only think of transit as just transportation welfare for poor people who would rather be driving a car, then you probably don't care about investing in or improving the system, or the experience of the transit rider. 

Having lived in New York, and other Metropolitan cities, I envision transit as (A), and that is why I seek to improve it for everyone in the Southern California region, because I see everyone as a potential user.  I absolutely reject the limited, outdated idea that "this is Southern California and we have a car culture, so mass transit will never work here."  Millions of people already use the system we have and voters passed Measures R (2008) and M (2016) to improve and expand our system.

One person has told me dismissively, "if we build transit shelters, the homeless will simply camp out in them".  Not if we adequately address the issue of homelessness, which is a whole other blog topic.  I also reject the idea that the severe issue of homelessness in Southern California should limit or be dumped on our transit system and its components.  Let's solve BOTH issues.

I don't write this blog post to complain.  I truly believe in mass transit as a public good, and a public good right here in Southern California.  If there is an amazing bus shelter in London, we here deserve no less.  If there is any amazing transit feature (signage, maps, technology) in any other city around the world, Los Angeles County deserves it too.  This a world class metropolitan capital of culture and commerce and we should have a transit system that is top of the line, and in the front of innovation -- not as an afterthought because, of course, we'd all rather be driving an automobile.  Let's have a world class transit system for everyone worthy of a City and County of Angels.

In order to have the robust, user-friendly rail and bus transit system we all want, please give sunny (and sometimes rainy) Southern California adequate shade at all its transit stops.


Edited to Add:  Please read this excellent Places Journal essay on "Shade", which explains who in Southern California gets shade (and who doesn't) and why.  Please click here to read.

1 comment:

Rick Cole said...

Excellent points. The design for Big Blue Bus was, as I've come to understand the history, driven by two laudable but in retrospect unfortunate factors. The first is our City's longtime aversion to commercialization of public spaces and facilities. Where most cities and transit systems long ago made the trade-off of accepting ad sponsorship on bus shelters to underwrite the cost of installation and maintenance, Santa Monica chose not to (and received a substantial grant instead.) Second, the desire to "brand" the bus stops with a distinctive design was placed above rider comfort. And as we receive frequent complaints about people sleeping on bus benches from both riders and those living or owning businesses adjacent to stops, there was an effort to facilitate seating rather than lying. When we do it over again, I'm sure our designs will look more like the London example but it is hard to imagine junking what in retrospect was not the optimal approach.

Rick Cole
Santa Monica City Manager