Needless to say, public transportation budgets are often spread thin. Transit providers often lack funding to improve or maintain stops and stations along their routes. These often overlooked components of the system are vital to promote ridership. According to transit planner Jarrett Walker, well maintained stops—specifically those that include safe and clean seating areas and shelter—are vital to improving civility of transit and can greatly increase ridership and improve a community’s transit culture.
Communities around the nation have taken unique approaches to keep bus stops clean, accessible and reliable for their community – here we will describe a few examples.
This past winter, Kalamazoo Metro asked its community members to “Help a Neighbor and Clear a Stop.” The idea is that community members will go above and beyond to help their neighbors who use public transit by maintaining bus stops near their homes and businesses, specifically by clearing snow. While this idea is great in theory and has seen modest success, it is not always the most reliable method to keep bus stops clean and usable.
Kalamazoo has over 1,000 bus stops that provide a waiting area for bus riders on a daily basis to get to and from work, school, and the store. Many of these bus stops are not directly in front of a home or business, which poses confusion about who should volunteer to maintain the stops. While helping a neighbor is always a good community practice, there may be more effective alternatives to maintain and improve transit stops in our communities.
Instead of relying on already cash-strapped transit agencies or the goodwill of citizens, other cities have come up with alternative solutions for maintaining transit stops for their citizens. The Ride in Ann Arbor has created an Adopt-A-Stop program, similar to the popular Adopt-A-Highway program. Adopt-A-Stop partners with local sponsors such as private companies, students, churches and scout troops to pick up litter, empty the trash and recycle properly at a designated stop. Property owners, transit riders and the community as a whole benefit from this environmentally conscious program.
In exchange for their efforts, sponsors receive a small thank-you gift, a one liter trash container installed by The Ride, an Adopt-A-Stop sticker on the container recognizing the group’s care for the bus stop and, if desired, inclusion on a list of Adopt-A-Stop sponsors on TheRide.org. Currently, The Ride has nearly 100 local sponsors for their Adopt-A-Stop program.
Cities around the country have initiated similar programs. The MST transit system connects the communities of Monterey and Salinas in California and has also has taken the Adopt-A-Stop approach. MST’s bus stop beautification programs allow community groups or individuals to sponsor a bus stop bench or shelter through a purchase and/or a day of volunteering for a cleaning event.
Organizations have the opportunity to sponsor a stop by providing funding for its regular cleaning and maintenance. For example, an eight-foot passenger bench can be sponsored for about $500 or a 14-foot passenger shelter can be sponsored for about $12,000 to $16,000.
Organizations that opt to sponsor MST stops through volunteer work commit to regular clean-up assignments as deemed necessary by an MST-approved beautification schedule. Volunteers are asked to provide work crews and supervision, approved cleaning materials, work clothing and materials to pick up and haul away trash. Furthermore, MST provides a “how to” training program, a list of approved cleaning materials, safety vests/stripes and follow-up feedback with volunteer supervisors. As a thank you, MST also places a plaque on the adopted bench or shelter in honor of the volunteer group’s efforts to promote a clean and accessible community.
Giving community members an opportunity to invest in their local transit systems encourages them to explore new transportation options, increase safety and cleanliness, and in turn, potentially increase ridership. Adopt-A-Stop and other programs provide environmental, economic, and community beautification benefits at little to no added cost to taxpayers. It is beneficial to the long term preservation of any community to give its citizenry an opportunity to personally invest in their community’s public space. It is also important that we learn from other models to provide such opportunities in an effort to make all of our communities more safe, clean, and accessible for all of our citizens.
Written by Alex Gravlin, Trans4M Intern