Written by Better Bus Coalition member Andy Shenk
Everyone knows Cincinnati's bus shelters are in bad shape. In March, this dilapidated shelter on River Road sparked a flurry of media attention. Bus bench removal was a hot topic last October with city council squabbling over advertising ordinances.
A few days ago, John Cranley and Yvette Simpson revisited the advertising controversy during a debate in Bond Hill, arguing over whether or not the city should pay for shelters.
So what is the big deal? Why should we care about a few broken-down benches and makeshift shelters?
To begin with, bus riders pay taxes like everyone else. We deserve basic infrastructure.
Bus riders are always at risk of getting caught in the rain or dealing with blistering heat and freezing cold. A well-designed shelter makes a huge difference when you are waiting on a bus for 10-15 minutes or more.
Cincinnati is spending tens of millions of dollars to repave hundreds of miles of streets every year. People with cars benefit directly from the reduced wear and tear on their vehicles and much improved driving experience.
Why are bus riders not given the same courtesies? We expect the city to fill potholes. So why can't we keep a mom and baby dry at the bus stop?
I know why. It's because no one who makes the decisions has to rely on the bus. They don't know what it's like to get caught in a freezing downpour in late March when the bus is late and you have nowhere to go.
If the human element isn't enough to motivate our leaders, there's one other big reason to invest in shelters.
Well-designed bus shelters are some of the most effective advertising for buses you can have. Cincinnati's streetcar stops are so easy to remember precisely because of their sleek design and raised platforms.
Bus shelters do not require the same amount of investment, but they can be equally attractive. How many people notice the little green signs stapled to poles and the sides of buildings? It's not easy, even when you ride the bus every day.
Just as a freshly-paved street affects the way you perceive a neighborhood, well-lit and attractive bus shelters would change your perception of the bus.
It's really a no-brainer. Many cities around the U.S. and the world have figured out how to attract private investment in exchange for advertising to build out bus shelters. Cincinnati can do the same.
Addressing the abysmal (read: non-existent) state of our bus shelters would be an easy, low-cost way to attract higher ridership and begin the process of rebuilding our neglected system.