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(Canadian midsized cities, for example, generally have about twice the ridership per capita of similar US cities, not becuase their shelters are cuter but becuase they run about twice as much service per capita.)

Or because the buses have much less competition. Specifically, those cities have no freeways going through downtown.


Eric. That doesn't begin to explain such a large difference. J

Aaron M. Renn

Nice post.

Brad T.

Interesting that you mentioned that city councils could pay for bus stop shelters, Mr Walker. It's eminently feasible but would require a close degree of co-ordination between the local council and the transport authority.

Here in New South Wales, public transport is provided, contracted or regulated by the state government. But local councils are responsible for bus shelters. It's not too difficult to find examples of bus shelters on streets where there are no bus routes.

Then there are the B-lights installed by the state roads authority at traffic lights where no bus passes through. As I said, co-ordination is the key, something Australian governments typically aren't terribly good at!


I saw Reid Ewing present this book at the APA conference in Chicago this April. He was very thoughtful and humorous, and was primarily presenting the checklists for his intended audience: planners whose focus is on the streets and sidewalks themselves, and not transit per se. The recommendations to transit agencies should be more directly about how to collaborate with the cities that maintain the streets and sidewalks that ultimately have to host these hypothetical adorable shelters-- rather than put words in their mouths! Anyway, I'd assume in this book that Ewing/Bartholomew are driven to make the experience holistically better for the everyday pedestrian-- of which transit riders are arguably a subset-- by suggesting improved transit shelters, but you're right, Jarrett, in that there are problematic implications in their some of their choices of quotes and passages to justify that very provision-- for the transit-oriented AND pedestrians. Good post.

Robert Wightman

Eric Said:

"Or because the buses have much less competition. Specifically, those cities(Canadian) have no freeways going through downtown."

Thank God for that. When I travelled for a year in the US by boat I was constantly amazed how much of the urban fabric was given over to the car. In many cities transit ran once an hour from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 or 8:00 p.m. except Sundays and holidays. If you didn't have a car or someone to give you a ride you couldn't get a job unless it was within walking distance.

My experiences reminded me of Margaret Thatcher's line that any man who was over 30 an rode the bus to work was a loser.

It is hard to build up a transit system when most people only look up on it as a necessary evil for the "less fortunate." For a transit system to be useful it has to run when and where it might be needed and not just when it can maximize revenue. Since most transit line recover less than 50% of their cost from the fare box it is probably perceived to be an advantage to run the minimal possible service rather than try to build up ridership to maximize benefit.

It might be time for someone to actually cost out the true cost for each for of travel; plane,boat train (intercity and commuter) bus, HRT, LRT, BRT, street car, monorail, bicycle, pedestrian etc. and charge the true cost for each. It would be interestin.


My experiences reminded me of Margaret Thatcher's line that any man who was over 30 an rode the bus to work was a loser.

While there is much to criticize Thatcher for, there is no evidence she ever actually said such a thing. (A Labour MP once accused her of saying this, and did so in Parliament, but no actual record of her uttering these words has been found).

Dexter Wong

One blog post on San Francisco transit I read mentioned a transit shelter destroyed in an accident and someone worried about the cost to the City. Then it was pointed out that the shelter had been provided by an advertising company in return for the advertising revenue, so the company would pay for repairs.


Do we have any idea what Reid and Bartholomew think of this critique?


The City of Vancouver ran a competition about a decade ago to relace its ugly former bus shelters city-wide. CBS Deceaux won the competition over local competitor, the Jim Pattison Group.

The deal was awarded on the merit of the shelter design, guarenteed maintenance schedules and financial solidity of the company. The vendor keeps most if not all the advertising revenue; I believe the city charges a small fee for the sidewalk space. There is also a power supply to most shelters.

The result was a dramatic improvement to the public streetscape at no cost to any public agency, urban or transit. It appears to be a roaring success and could possibly be used as a model for other cities.

Andre Lot

One of the problems with whole "high-urbanism" contemporary conversation is that, at least on its mainstream circles, it seems to attempt to ditch all the hard talk on numbers, measurable outcomes, costs etc.

It is a mindset that extends beyond transit, by the way.

Robert Wightman


"While there is much to criticize Thatcher for, there is no evidence she ever actually said such a thing. (A Labour MP once accused her of saying this, and did so in Parliament, but no actual record of her uttering these words has been found)"

And Kirk never said "beam me up Scotty" but if it gets repeated often enough it is a factoid if not a fact. Anyway it represents an attitude of many in power that needs to be changed. Keep the comments coming; I appreciate yours along with many others.


In Vienna, which most people seem to agree is the gold standard for public transportation as well as an exemplar for modern urbanism, the typical bus stop is just a sign on a pole. To be sure, it's an attractive, well designed sign (all public transit in Vienna features elegant design), but there's no fancy shelter, usually not even a bench.

It works because the bus is timely (a smartphone app even tells you accurately when the next bus is coming), frequent, clean, and comfortable.

Miles Bader
In Vienna, which most people seem to agree is the gold standard for public transportation

Ah, just what this thread needed: a bit of humor!

Eric O

Andre is right. It extends also to a mindset that is curiously lagging, and even seems uninterested, on the questions about process. (Except when that process becomes, how should I put it, stuff hipsters like.) They seem to miss the big picture on abundance. They talk about retrofitting strip malls so much, you'd think they would perk up. Landscape urbanists do get the importance of going beyond the vignette urbanism, but are not generally interested in making themselves understood. You planners should ply them more. They like things like food-webs. They would at least appreciate the concept.

tacony palmyra

Well you need fancy shelters because you'll be waiting so long for the bus with its new, lower frequency...

The problem is that for people who don't actually take transit every day, frequency doesn't really look like anything. It's not an exciting photo in a book. A fancy bus shelter is fancy even to people who don't use it!


Eric, my impression is that Landscape "Urbanists" (at least the academic ones from Penn and GSD speaking in idiotic archibabble) are pretty much into reviving the transit-hostile Radiant City all over again - by claiming that it's "green" this time! (i.e. the renderings all suggest that the slabs in the park will be coated over with lots of "native grasses" this time). I find it impossible to take them seriously as anything other than just another greenwashing academic ideology (non-engineering design schools go through endless ideology-driven fads and fashionable stunts, with arch schools probably being the worst).

But anyway, I simply think transit planners should simply "ply" more transit riders more frequently! It's easy to admire (and demand better) transit aesthetics as an urban designer if you don't have to take the transit yourself but think it's nice "for other people." (Kinda reminds me of 90s-era designers who were hostile to buses but loved stylish streetcars.)

Admiring (and calling for better) high-art transit shelters and stylish rolling stock is less important if you're a regular rider and simply want the bus to show up reliably and frequently enough so you don't have to strategically plan every could-have-been-spur-of-the-moment trip on a schedule!


I do find it kind of mysterious that anyone could openly champion aesthetics over functionality when discussing public services, and yet still be taken seriously by anyone at all.

Isn't that sort of like arguing that the most important thing about Social Security is that the checks have a pretty background, not that they arrive on time? Or that the program suffers because money is "utilitarian" and really we should send beneficiaries a smaller amount of cash, along with a nice bouquet and fancy chocolates every week?

That's the very definition of elitism right there. But I trust from your description that the authors mean better, that they just don't realize how using their recommended source for funding improved aesthetics would affect the usefulness of the system.


"My experiences reminded me of Margaret Thatcher's line that any man who was over 30 an rode the bus to work was a loser"

Someone posted his research on this recently on the internets. Apparently the fact of the matter is that the quote attributed the Maggie T was actually an offhanded comment by a young aide of hers, and the age mentioned was 26, not 30. Of course, I'm not methodical enough to have the link to said research.

I don't think Thatcher herself would ever have uttered such a thing, being the poster girl for frugality (however hollow) that she was, never mind the effects of her policies on transit riders.


I am inclined to think Ewing and Bartholomew were pumping for more BRT. There is a sort of 'sunk cost' argument--where you put expensive shelters defines where you put your good bus service.

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