In our continuing examination of Omaha’s Metro Route 22, and its bizarre bus stops, we examine this particular gem at 108th and Charles. Far from the wilderness outpost the above photo leads one to believe, this stop is across from a dense suburban neighborhood and an apartment complex, and just up the road from a major commercial center.
While woods, creeks, and tall grass are pleasant features to a landscape, they are not the ideal backdrop nor setting for an accessible transit pick up and drop off location. On the day I photographed the stop, I did see a rider board at this stop, but he did not wait there. Instead, and I imagine this is common practice, the rider waited on the opposite side of the street to hail the bus and only crossed over when the bus had effectively stopped south bound traffic.
From the photo above, you can see there is no shoulder, much less a sidewalk, on the west side of 108th. Standing at the side of the road, I could feel the wind of the passing cars. There is nothing safe or practical about this particular stop. I understand that placement and siting of bus stops is more complex than the average person expects, but there is no justification for a stop as dangerous as this in the heart of a city. Only the bravest (or dimmest) of souls would dare to actually stand and wait for a bus at this stop.
All things being equal, are a three conditions that build transit ridership in an established system, two of which are beyond the control of the transit agency. Conditions one and two are economic downturn and an increase in gasoline prices – not the best contingencies upon which to hang your growth prospects. The third, and perhaps most crucial, is to make transit easy and welcoming. Requiring riders to bring a machete in order to clear a standing place at a bus stop does not say to the average person, “Welcome to the bus.” Indeed, what this stop says is, “Children: stay away; mobility challenged: not here; sensory challenged: no chance — this stop is only for adult riders with no other alternative. Everyone else can take a hike.”
The message received by the rider, and I can’t imagine this is the intent of Metro, is “we don’t care about you, because we don’t have to.” This stop illustrates perfectly the gap in which bus stops fall. The environment of the bus stop is not the responsibility of Metro, they focus on location and frequency. The city isn’t in charge of the transit system and has no control over where they site a bus stop. Private property owners are under no obligation to provide a safe environment for transit infrastructure adjacent to their land.
If we want more people to use our transit system, we must make the system welcome and accessible to all. The above stop, and the others in this series, illustrate the limited accessibility of Metro’s bus stops. More than just unwelcome, many are unusable, and improvements to the infrastructure must be made if we have any hope of encouraging broader use of the system.