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Two Bus Shelters Approved for Statehouse Grounds

Walker Evans Walker Evans
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The intersection of Broad & High is commonly referred to as the “crossroads” of our city, and has always been a busy commuter destination for all forms of transportation. These corners will soon become a little bit more accommodating to bus commuters as two new covered shelters will be added for passengers headed northbound on High Street and westbound on Broad Street.

“We’re also making it a priority to upgrade the rest of the shelters along High Street through Downtown,” said Beth Berkemer, Public and Media Relations Manager at The Central Ohio Transit Authority.

The announcement of these new bus shelters comes hot on the heels of the proposal for a new Downtown Transit Center as a part of the 2010 Downtown Strategic Plan. In our recent interview with Keith Myers, Principal at MSI (the firm tapped as project managers for the 2010 Plan), some of the impetus for the Transit Center came from the lack of bus infrastructure currently located at Broad & High.

We started on this project back during the winter and we were driving up and down High Street and we’d see people sitting out at Broad & High waiting on that cold stone wall,” explained Myers in the interview. “The Statehouse won’t let COTA put in a bus shelter there and instead people huddle inside the parking garage stairwell until 6pm when they lock that and push everyone back out into the cold. We say that bus riders aren’t second class citizens, but we sure as hell treat them that way. At some point it becomes sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy, but I don’t see why riding the bus has to be an awful experience where you’ve got to transfer at Broad & High be out in the cold or rain or snow for 15 minutes waiting. It doesn’t seem like the best system.”

Berkemer stated that the new Statehouse bus shelters are not a reactionary project following the Transit Station proposal.

“We’ve actually been discussing these two bus shelters at the Statehouse for about a year,” she said. “They just recently came to fruition.”

Broad and High serves as the busiest transfer point for COTA, as 16 of the 19 local routes meet here, including the busiest lines, the #1, #2 and #10. Additionally, 21 of the 40 express routes serving outlying areas in Central Ohio also converge at Broad & High for a total of 37 bus routes coming and going at this intersection.

“We don’t have a capacity estimate for how many people will be able to sit or stand inside these two new shelters,” said Berkemer. “But the one on High Street will be twice the size of the one on Broad Street.”

Planners at MSI don’t believe that these two new bus shelters will negate the need for moving forward with pursuing a larger Transit Center project.

“The new bus shelters proposed at the Statehouse are a great and needed addition that is not in conflict with the Downtown Plan,” said Chris Hermann, Director of Planning at MSI Design. “We still need bus stops on High Street, and we need nicer and more accessible ones than the parking garage stairwells at the Statehouse.”

“Our concern with the current bus transit system Downtown is the reliance on High Street as a designated Transit Mall,” Hermann continued. “The Downtown Plan recommends continued bus stops along High Street, but not the reservation of the curb lane for only buses. This lane would change to allow on-street parking as well as bus stops, similar to what exists in the Short North. Likewise, transfers would occur at a new, close-by Transit Center: similar to what has been successfully done in many of our peer cities such as Charlotte and Nashville, to name a few.”

When asked about the Downtown Transit Center, Berkemer stated that COTA hasn’t officially taken a stance on the idea yet.

“We’re in a process of studying it and listening to conversations about the Transit Center idea,” she said. “It seems that diverting transit service away from key destinations and key bus stops won’t necessarily be an improvement for our current customers or potential customers. COTA is currently reviewing all Downtown bus operations including the future impact of the 70/71 freeway improvements, and the potential future access to the proposed 3C Rail station or potential light rail or streetcar lines.”

“We’re constantly monitoring usage in all of our different service areas,” continued Berkemer. “It’s a gradual process that takes time. Our priority right now is on these two Statehouse bus shelters because right now we have none at that location.”

The two shelters will feature a new design that offer aesthetic improvements to compliment the historic Statehouse location. Copper roofs, rain gutters, new light fixtures and detailed wrought iron metalwork will help the new shelters stand out.

“The Ohio Statehouse is thrilled that COTA is working to construct the two bus shelters for transit riders; many of whom work on Capitol Square,” said Gregg Dodd, Deputy Director for Communication at the Ohio Statehouse. “The bus shelters have been designed to compliment the 1860s Greek Revival Statehouse and will positively add to our city’s urban landscape.”

No formal construction timeline has been laid out for the new shelters.

“We hope to have these installed sometime this year,” said Berkemer. “And we’re always looking for feedback on bus shelter improvements. Call or email us and every comment made is recorded and sent on to our planning department. We’re always happy to get community input.”

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18 Responses to Two Bus Shelters Approved for Statehouse Grounds

  1. Tenzo June 15, 2010 2:12 pm at 2:12 pm

    “The bus shelters have been designed to compliment the 1860s Greek Revival ”

    Good first step.   Put a board on them that tells you when the next bus is arriving and you will have 20th century technology.

  2. Columbusite June 15, 2010 2:57 pm at 2:57 pm

    And two aren’t enough, unless they are unusually long bus shelters. I’d much rather see enough regular bus shelters to accommodate the crowd here vs. spend who knows how much on a fancy design which results in an insufficient amount of bus shelters. It’s an improvement for sure, but again, another symptom of our baby step approach.

  3. johnwirtz June 15, 2010 3:05 pm at 3:05 pm

    “Put a board on them that tells you when the next bus is arriving and you will have 20th century technology.”

    I think the signs at stops are quickly becoming an outdated technology and an unnecessary cost.  I’d rather see an expansion of the Next Bus Text program at all stops.  That would be 21st Century technology.  However, I can see how signs at the busiest stops, like these new ones downtown, could still be useful too.

  4. Tenzo June 15, 2010 3:13 pm at 3:13 pm

    I’m going to get abused here. but what the heck.

    Chicago put up bus stop shelters with little  LEDs that tell, real time, when each bus is coming  (kind of what I meant by 20th century).  The sides where used for adverts (like New York) and had the ability to rotate through multiple billboards.

    The whole system paid for itself through ad revenue.
    (or so I was told)

  5. Walker Evans
    Walker June 15, 2010 3:49 pm at 3:49 pm

    I have to say… I’m a fan of the LED arrival signage idea. I enjoyed this quite a bit at bus stops in San Francisco when we visited a few years ago.

    That being said, I personally wouldn’t use it too much. I’ve gotten used to the ease at which I can check bus schedules with google transit on the iPhone, so I wouldn’t really need the LED signs. Sort of like needing a clock on the wall when you’re already wearing a watch. I do think it will be widely used by the general public though, as it’s going to be awhile before every single person has a google-transit compatible phone in their hands.

  6. JonMyers June 15, 2010 4:15 pm at 4:15 pm

    Tenzo, yes it’s true. JC Decaux is the company:

    http://www.jcdecauxna.com/pages/street/ViewMarket.aspx?mid=148

    Clear Channel does it as well: http://www.adshel.clearchannel.com/

    CBS Outdoor is another company that does it.

    My only concern with these big companies getting in the mix is that they might be able to generate more revenue with their sales force and reach then COTA. Additionally, it means that more advertisers are able to be rotated in those ad units. Again, bad news.

    That would mean we wouldn’t have to typically pay for the bus shelters and we’d make more money off the advertising.

    Not a good idea.

    Also, I know many people would be upset by not being able to view ads that tell em not to curse and encourage profanity free breast feeding.

  7. johnwirtz June 15, 2010 4:25 pm at 4:25 pm

    “Chicago put up bus stop shelters with little  LEDs that tell, real time, when each bus is coming”

    As JonMyers said, they did use Decaux to put in bus shelters.  However, the LED real-time bus info display only exists at one stop as a pilot.  It’s at Madison & Desplaines downtown.  They do have web-based bus-tracker for the whole system though.  So if you have a fancy phone (I don’t) you don’t need the signs.  They are also testing a text tracker program for people like me who don’t have fancy phones.

  8. anillo
    anillo June 15, 2010 4:37 pm at 4:37 pm

    That still leaves out people who don’t have texting, and not to generalize (although I am), but I’m guessing if you looked at who doesn’t have a texting plan, it’d probably overlap a lot more with people who take the bus than people who drive.

  9. johnwirtz June 15, 2010 4:49 pm at 4:49 pm

    Texting is available on 98% of mobile phones and 86% of the US owns a mobile phone according to this document:
    http://www.cellsigns.com/industry.shtml

    So we would be leaving out almost 16% of the population by doing texts instead of displays.  The question then is how much are we willing to pay to provide more information to the 16%, especially considering that the number will continue to shrink.

    I would also suggest that while providing improved information to existing customers is nice, the real goal is to attract new customers. So if you’re right that the non-texters are also riding the bus, then nothing else really needs to be done to get them to ride the bus.

  10. cbustransit June 15, 2010 5:20 pm at 5:20 pm

    ya but john its more about ease of use.  You don’t have to pull out your phone, its just right there.  And for those people who don’t know about texting (or people who are not good at texting) it just is easier.  And ease of use is one of the biggest reasons people pick cars over transit…

  11. ehill27 June 15, 2010 7:07 pm at 7:07 pm

    It’s about time!

  12. johnwirtz June 15, 2010 11:09 pm at 11:09 pm

    @cbustransit
    I understand.  I did say that I think these could still be useful at the busiest stops, but they are also becoming less useful for an increasing percentage of the population over time.  If I were COTA, I wouldn’t invest too much in this technology.

    Now if they could get an advertising company to provide the signs at no charge or even get some revenue for allowing advertising mixed in with the transit info, install as many as you want.

  13. Walker Evans
    Walker June 16, 2010 12:24 am at 12:24 am

    Yeah, I don’t think what we’re discussing needs to be an either/or scenario. Adding system-wide texting service would be beneficial. Adding LCD displays at the busiest stops would also be beneficial. I’d love to see both happen.

    But getting back on topic… I’m happy to hear that there will now be some shelters at this incredibly busy intersection. I’m also happy to hear that the Bus Transit Center idea is being explored. If a good central location can be found for that, I think it would be the most idea place to make the types of transfers that are currently happening at Broad & High while still leaving the major routes hitting Broad & High for those who use it as their destination point.

  14. anillo
    anillo June 16, 2010 2:07 pm at 2:07 pm

    My point wasn’t that people don’t have a mobile phone that can text, but that they don’t pay for/can’t afford to pay for texting on their phone. However, since I’m guessing it’s probably way cheaper to roll out texting for bus arrival times instead of a bunch of LED signs, I’d be more in favor of texting because COTA could cover more stops and a majority of people could still use it. I was just bringing up a point for the sake of bringing it up =P

  15. futureman June 16, 2010 2:34 pm at 2:34 pm

    “But getting back on topic… I’m happy to hear that there will now be some shelters at this incredibly busy intersection. I’m also happy to hear that the Bus Transit Center idea is being explored. If a good central location can be found for that, I think it would be the most idea place to make the types of transfers that are currently happening at Broad & High while still leaving the major routes hitting Broad & High for those who use it as their destination point.”

    What about locating a new Central Bus Terminal into the existing City Center Terminal?

    Looking here – http://www.morpc.org/trans/BikePedBikewaysCOTA.pdf

    There currently exists four primary route stops – High and Nationwide, North Terminal, High and Broad and City Center Terminal. Additionally the City Center Terminal has a surface lot next to it (I believe it’s located in the City Center Garage?) so you already have space for a new Central Terminal. The current surface lot looks like it owned either by the City of the State due to state/city vehicles parked in it so it might be easier to get rights to the land.

    Thoughts?

    The current grandiose City Center Terminal (very inspiring …) -
    http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=1392+W+2nd+Ave,+Columbus,+Franklin,+Ohio+43212&ll=39.956306,-82.998592&spn=0,0.001635&t=h&z=20&layer=c&cbll=39.956205,-82.998863&panoid=r8htP27bmL7xzoST4QS8cA&cbp=12,2.16,,0,-1.28

  16. johnwirtz June 16, 2010 4:06 pm at 4:06 pm

    ^I think that block could make a lot of sense for the location of a bus terminal.  It’s near the Capitol and the center of downtown.  It has good access to High Street and one-way pairs for quick access in and out of downtown.  Definitely worth more investigation.

    Maybe another option would be to put it north of Rich where City Center itself used to be.  I like your location better, but it could be difficult to retro-fit the garage into a pleasant place to wait for a bus.

  17. Walker Evans
    Walker June 17, 2010 12:17 am at 12:17 am

    I’m a fan of the former City Center location for a Bus Transit Center. The land is already owned by the city via Capitol South and the long term plan calls for the addition of dense mixed-use development. A multi-story Bus Transit Center could include office space and ground-floor retail. Would help add to the vibrancy of the park space as well.

  18. Columbusite June 23, 2010 3:56 pm at 3:56 pm

    I’d also like to see the Broad St stop in front of Rhodes have a shelter along with all other busy ones Downtown getting shelters along with maps and timetables posted.

    Surely, the city could speak with COTA now about adjusting routes to allow for on-street parking on High. N 4th and S 3rd have lots of empty lanes while those COTA buses clog up the right hand lane of High for their line ups starting at 9. That would address the refusal of the statehouse to allow sufficient shelters. Instead of forcing many COTA riders to be vulnerable to the elements, just move some stops over a block in either direction for some routes to eliminate congestion.

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