by Eric Ginsburg
It’s ridiculous, really, that our public transit system is so underfunded that many bus stops lack the most basic shelters. Plenty don’t even have a bench to call their own.
The Triad is home to numerous transit needs; I’m one of many who bemoans the lack of a speedy rail line that connects Greensboro and Winston-Salem, we’ve criticized the lack of sidewalks in particular areas of the Gate City and we’ve written about the ways in which highways cut off large swaths of poor, predominantly black Winston-Salem from the budding prosperity of downtown. But the bus shelters really piss me off because it just seems so simple, so elementary and basic, that it’s hard to understand why a greater percentage of stops lack any amenities save for a metal sign on a pole indicating where to stand and wait.
Waiting in the blistering heat. Waiting in the rain. Waiting on your feet — after a long shift where you also stood — and shifting your weight uncomfortably.
I recently spent a weekend in Athens, Ga., and my girlfriend and I took turns pointing out cool bus shelters we passed to each other. My favorite looked as if it had been crafted from the front of a yellow school bus, modified to wrap around a bench to provide shade and shelter. Others provided colorful interior displays. It would be cool to see more things like that back at home, we thought, and my mind went to Greensboro’s lone, funky and artistic bus shelter in front of the downtown YMCA — go look at it closely if you never have.
But then I started thinking, “You know what’d be even better than some visually compelling bus shelters? Bus shelters in the first place.”
Underfunding of public transportation is a real problem here, one that several Greensboro City Council members have run on without a whole lot to show for it. But even without diving into the much larger mess of routes, fare structures and the idea of actually expanding public transit to a wider audience or multiple formats, it just seems so darn simple to chip away at the lack of shelters, adding a handful each year. Ads on the shelters could possibly generate additional funds to offset part of the following year’s costs.
As far as I know, UNCG professor Spoma Jovanovic has been the only mainstay advocating for more bus shelters in the area (though she is focused on Greensboro). She’s worked with high school students and her college classes, and had a hand in that lone attractive shelter I previously mentioned. Are there a couple more champions willing to take up this unsexy cause?