True love waits

September 27, 2013
dcridersept27
Illustration by Ben Claasen III

I’ve never really been in a committed relationship with a bus stop. I’ve used a lot of them, but I’m not the type to settle down. Instead of waiting around for the bus, I prefer to walk the route and see how many stops ahead I can get before my ride shows up.

So Metro’s “Love Your Bus Stop” campaign, which is soliciting ideas for improvements from riders, feels like a strange kind of couple’s counseling. Because Metro has a $2 million grant to upgrade its bus stops across the region, it’s seeking feedback through Twitter, at local events and through an online survey at wmata.com/loveyourbusstop. (Folks who complete the survey are in the running for a $50 SmarTrip card.)

But do people love their bus stops — or even like them? I wandered around asking riders to find out.

Waiting on K Street for the A9, Pat Whitley said she could love her bus stop — on one condition. “If my bus would be here on time,” the 58-year-old said. Although the bus-stop seating is fine for a short spell, the sloped benches aren’t particularly welcoming. “And I assume that’s the point,” she added, noting that she wouldn’t want anyone sleeping at the stop, either.

It couldn’t hurt to have more seating though, said Avon Burke, 41, who was leaning on the packed bus shelter at H and 13th streets NW. The one tiny bench was jammed with behinds, while a dozen people stood around wherever they could find space.

And Burke would also like easier access to information. “I want to be able to touch a button that tells you when the next bus is coming,” he said. The most common request I heard was for an electronic arrivals sign like the kind Metro has for trains. Even smartphone owners who claimed they’d never need the service thought it would help the people who do.

Maybe technology could also help address complaints people have about bus operators driving past them or not holding the doors open long enough for all the passengers to board. “It’s not the stop that’s the problem. It’s the service,” said Jerry Christian, 53, who lives in Bloomingdale. If traffic lights near stops gave signal priority to buses, drivers wouldn’t need to worry so much about rushing to beat a red light to stay on schedule.

Nancy Cooey, 25, offered a more old-school suggestion: trees. “There’s a stop at Seventh and Constitution with no shade. It’s dreadful in the afternoon,” said Cooey, who’s the only person I talked to who actually has a favorite stop. It’s near her home at North Capitol and V streets, next to a leafy cemetery.

I’m not sure that’s an amenity we want at every Metrobus stop. But it gives you some perspective on what it’s like to wait for an eternity.

Details: Metro will be promoting the “Love Your Bus Stop” campaign at the SW ArtsFest (400 M St. SW, swdcartsfest.org) on Saturday.

Vicky Hallett is a MisFits columnist and the Fit editor for Express.
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