Wednesday, November 23, 2011

How many bus stops does the city really need?

Earlier today, Prince of Petworth posted an article about a bus stop that has been removed from 14th Street, NW, in front of a Columbia Heights Dominos. Here in Shaw, we've lost bus stops (hell, even entire blocks of sidewalk) to development projects - the Marriot, City Market at O, and the nearby City Center projects all come to mind on 9th Street alone. With so many major throuroughfares running through Shaw (11th, 9th, 7th, Rhode Island.... the list goes on) we have a lot of bus lines here as well.

I agree that for this particular circumstance that moving (or eliminating) the stop is probably wise. It did completely block the storefront, and there are too many here in the city. Several commenters on his article pointed out the high number of elderly and/or handicapped individuals who use this particular bus line. Several others commented that having bus stops barely a block apart in many neighborhoods makes the lines run very slow, as merging in and out of traffic once a block means hitting more red lights, more delays, and in the end, longer trips.

I agree that moving or eliminating the stop can be a real inconvenience for handicapped / elderly people who live in *that* particular building. And for them, I do really feel bad. That being said, if I didn't or couldn't drive and relied on public transportation to get around to everything, I'd have to question why I'd choose to stay in the city at that point. As a young, able-bodied person, I can live blocks from the Metro with no trouble. I love urban living, and I'm going to stay until I'm a wrinkled old person who looks like a Sharpei, but at some point, I'll have to recognize that city living is something that can't be done by the very elderly, frail, or handicapped without some level of help (which, obviously, varies considerably). I think the day I couldn't walk / wheel / hobble two blocks away on my own would be the day I realized that.

Some are lucky enough to have friends or family who can provide that help, others are very fortunate and can pay for it. If I wasn't in one of those two groups, though, I'd probably move to the suburbs and get myself a Towncar and live where I have my own parking spot and every business I went to had a private lot.

Is that a decision that's really that bad? People make decisions about their circumstances and how that impacts residential options all the time. People with pets pass up great apartments to find something pet friendly. People with kids have to give up great one bedrooms for something big enough for a family. People who are deaf or blind or wheelchair bound find accommodations that meet those special needs. The elderly forgo walk-ups for elevator buildings.

So here's my question: how obligated are we as a society to customize mass-use products like transit beyond basic service levels (ramps, elevators, sounds, lights, etc) to the higher level of "Bob lives on this block and is over 90 so we need a stop right here?"


  1. Agreed. Trying to be all things to all people (especially elderly/handicapped individuals) is something dc can no longer afford. Problem is, no city leaders ever have the motivation to promote efficiency over pandering. A rrview committee with representation from the elderly/handicapped demographic should be formed to see what can be reasonably pared down.

  2. I agree except with your point that elderly people who can't walk a few blocks to the bus stop should move to the suburbs and drive their towncar everwhere. If you're too frail to walk a few blocks odds are you have slow reaction time and I'd hate to have you behind the wheel of a two ton chunk of steel with slow reflexes. In fact, I think urban living is probably the best bet for elderly people who are more or less on their own. Groceries and the like can be delivered or are near by and transportation is more accessible (metro, bus, taxis). And if you can't walk far call Metro Access.

    Really, in my opinion, your question should instead be even more narrow: how obligated we are as a society to provide transit options like metro access (which is essentially a personal bus/taxi), or elevators at metro stations for the extreme minority of people who cannot get around independently.