D.C. Shows Off New Bus Shelters
At more than 40 spots across the District, bus passengers await their rides under new aluminum and glass shelters. More than 600 of them are on the way under a deal the city signed with Clear Channel Adshel.
On Tuesday morning, Mayor Adrian Fenty and Transportation Director Emeka Moneme showed off one of the new ones outside a Popeye's near the intersection of Benning Road NE and East Capitol Street. The new style has great curb appeal. Moneme pointed to one of the old brown, glass-less shelters across Benning Road, and the contrast was immediately obvious.
The new one has a modern, urban look. Plus, it has information. The big new bus map is another breakthrough in shelter design. And someday, we all hope, the panel that runs along the top of the shelter will display Next Bus information, giving riders a realistic idea of how long they'll be waiting. (In October, Metro announced that it was pulling the plug on the system because it wasn't accurate enough. It probably will take more than a year to fix.)
Improving bus service may be our best shot at improving mobility in this region. We can't build enough new roads and we can't build enough new train lines. Buses are cheaper and easier to redirect as needs change. One challenge is getting more people to try the buses. That's why I always praise the D.C. Circulator bus. It's approachable. And that's why I like these new shelters.
Wish we could see a similar effort across the region, not just in the District, though they will be well-used in the city.
The 20-year deal that makes them available is similar to ones that Clear Channel Adshel has entered with cities across the country. The company builds and maintains the shelters in exchange for control of the advertising on them.
The style of the D.C. shelters is unique to the city, and was introduced following a round of community meetings to solicit comment. Alice Kelly of the District Department of Transportation said there was a lot of discussion about the benches, for example. Some people wanted no benches and some wanted heated benches. But the consensus, she said, was to have benches that were comfortable but didn't encourage long term occupancy. (The one at Benning Road has space for three people and is groved in such a way that you wouldn't want to lie across it.)
Also, Kelly said, the original design had sides extending down to the pavement, and people were concerned that trash might collect inside. So the final design has raised up the sides, so debris is unlikely to get trapped inside.
To the District, the shelter contract is worth about $150 million, money it says it will use to finance the Great Streets Initiative to improve the appearance of some of the capital's main transportation corridors.
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