Bus shelter locations are an equity issue

The state of Cincinnati’s bus stops is something we talk about frequently at the Better Bus Coalition. With greater attention being paid to the system as a whole by our elected officials and regional power players, equity in improvements to the system is important to ensure that every decision has the highest positive impact possible while stretching each and every dollar to the max.

Well-placed bus shelters can keep thousands per day out of the rain and wind, especially at high usage and transfer stops. In hot weather they provide shade and a place to sit while waiting for an infrequent or delayed bus. Many incorporate other amenities and design considerations to improve way-finding and provide more information about the system and the bus you are looking for. Bus shelters can also be a source of local pride, as communities can shape the form and appearance of them to beautify the area.

The Better Bus Coalition has completed an analysis of the placement of existing bus shelters in the City of Cincinnati to see what areas are lacking in needed infrastructure. The results were not surprising, but what was surprising was the lack of any bus shelters in nearly half of Cincinnati’s neighborhoods. 23 out of 52 neighborhoods have zero bus shelters, with many impoverished neighborhoods included in that number (see the Number of Shelters by Neighborhood - 2018 Map for the visual).

Boardings are concentrated in central and western neighborhoods SORTA 2018

Most bus shelters are concentrated Downtown and Uptown, but neighborhoods with low ridership tend to have more shelters than those with high ridership. Some of the highest ridership neighborhoods have no bus shelters at all

Why is it like this? Metro’s bus shelter database indicates that there are 122 bus stops in the City of Cincinnati with shelters (out of over 2,900), with 9 of those placed by a private organization or business. Most were built many years ago and have stood since, and these shelters are in various states of repair. In the past decade the number of new shelters built has dwindled and eventually hit zero, where it is likely to remain for the time being. The reality is that with Metro’s current budget situation, it is unlikely that new shelters will be placed in any significant number without outside funding, grants, or philanthropy.

None of this fully explains why neighborhoods with lots of daily boardings and higher poverty rates have the fewest amount of shelters, if any, nor why eastside neighborhoods generally have more shelters. In many older neighborhoods, especially on the westside and northwest part of the City, sidewalks are narrow and do not leave enough space to place a shelter without obstructing the sidewalk for pedestrians and people with disabilities. This accounts for some areas, but it does not explain why the number of shelters is literally zero in 23 neighborhoods.

This is an equity issue, as the people who would benefit the most from bus shelters specifically live in areas that do not have any or have very few. In 2019, Metro is procuring 50 new metal benches and an undisclosed amount of new shelters for the system. They ought to prioritize placing them in the areas that have no shelters and high bus ridership first. What do you think?