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Change in city policy means more shelters for GoRaleigh bus riders

This GoRaleigh bus shelter is one of two designed by the design firm Clark Nexsen that have been built along Blue Ridge Road near the N.C. Museum of Art. In early 2017, Clark Nexsen won a design competition to create a new standard bus shelter for the GoRaleigh system, but so far only two have been built.
This GoRaleigh bus shelter is one of two designed by the design firm Clark Nexsen that have been built along Blue Ridge Road near the N.C. Museum of Art. In early 2017, Clark Nexsen won a design competition to create a new standard bus shelter for the GoRaleigh system, but so far only two have been built. rstradling@newsobserver.com

GoRaleigh riders will be more likely to be under cover as they wait for a bus in the coming years, thanks to a change in policy by the Raleigh Transit Authority.

For years, the city has not built a shelter at a bus stop unless it averages 25 or more passengers a day. This month, the authority decided to reduce that threshold to 10 passengers a day.

As a result, the city will add shelters at about 100 GoRaleigh stops over the next three years. The city now has 172 passenger shelters, plus another 15 stops that qualify for one under the old policy, which should bring the total to 287 by 2023, according to spokeswoman Andrea Epstein.

That’s still only about 20 percent of the city’s 1,372 bus stops. But because it includes the busiest ones, GoRaleigh estimates that 86 percent of riders will board at a stop with a shelter, up from 72 percent today, said transit authority member Michael Stevenson.

“There are a lot of stops in the system that have a very low number of boardings, because we’re just a spread-out system,” Stevenson said.

Stevenson heads the authority’s finance and policy committee, which recommended the change. He said the primitive conditions at many stops was the second-most cited complaint among riders surveyed two years ago, after a lack of weekend service (GoRaleigh has since begun beefing up its weekend offerings as well).

Susan Harris can think of a few stops that could use shelters, particularly along Six Forks Road near the Celebration at Six Forks shopping area. Harris, who lives in North Raleigh, was out looking for a job recently and boarded several buses around town, some at stops with shelters and some without.

“It makes a difference, especially on days like today when it’s raining,” she said.

John Hillman, who works as a supervisor for a cleaning agency, lives off New Hope Road and takes the bus to and from work downtown. Hillman says the stop at Capital Boulevard and Greywood Drive, where there’s just a bench now, could use a shelter.

“When it’s raining, you don’t want to sit on a bench,” he said.

At an average cost of about $30,000 each, the city estimates it will spend about $3 million to install 100 additional shelters under the new policy, according to Epstein. She said the money would likely come from revenue generated by the Wake transit sales tax approved by voters in 2016 and from federal grants administered by the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization.

Stevenson says he hopes the city will begin to use a shelter design that won a city-sponsored competition in early 2017.

GoRaleigh’s current shelters are simply three walls of windows on a metal frame, while the shelters created by Raleigh-based design firm Clark Nexsen have angular red panels and a matching red trash can with the GoRaleigh logo. The City Council must approve their widespread use, Stevenson said, but hasn’t done so yet.

“Our hope is that the City Council will go ahead and approve that so that becomes the new standard,” he said. “It’s going to help to put the GoRaleigh brand out there citywide.”

Stevenson said most of the cost of building a bus shelter comes from site work in creating the concrete slab that’s handicapped accessible. He said shelters made with the new modern design would cost about the same as the current ones.

GoRaleigh buses carried more than 5.4 million passengers in the year ending Aug. 31, up 4.6 percent from the same period a year earlier.

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Richard Stradling covers transportation for The News & Observer. Planes, trains and automobiles, plus ferries, bicycles, scooters and just plain walking. Also, #census2020. He’s been a reporter or editor for 32 years, including the last 20 at The N&O. 919-829-4739, rstradling@newsobserver.com.
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