Someone stole the bus stop bench!

9 Jun

Yesterday, on my way home from work I stopped at Whole Foods in Berkeley to pick up a few groceries and some delicious lasagna from their deli. I do this often because it’s so convenient – I just take the 1 or 1R a few stops past my apartment and then hop back on the 1 towards Oakland. Even if it’s a bit of a wait for the 1, it’s worth it because I don’t like carrying heavy groceries several blocks after a long day, usually in heels. And it’s ok because I just sit down on the bench at Telegraph and Webster and enjoy the generally beautiful weather while I wait.

So last night I left Whole Foods with my groceries and walked towards the bus stop. My heart sank when I reached the spot where the bench should have been:

bus bench footprints

All that was left of the bus bench I’ve depended on for years were its footprints on the pavement. I stared at the pavement for a bit and then looked behind me:

bus shelter

Sure, I could sit on that bench, underneath the shelter, but I knew that if I did, there was a good chance that the bus would pass me up. That bus bench is probably about 7 or 8 feet from the curb and since it’s hidden behind the shelter wall, it’s difficult for a bus driver to see someone sitting there. I’ve been passed up enough times to know that this was too big a risk to take, especially considering that the 1 only arrives every 20 minutes at best.

So I stood near the footprints of the missing bus bench and waited for my bus. The bus driver easily saw me and I didn’t have to walk a long way with my groceries.

It’s hard to say whether the bench removal is permanent (it’s possible they could be replacing it), but if it is, I think this was a poor decision by either AC Transit or Berkeley. Sometimes it makes sense to remove street furniture or trees to make space for pedestrians, but the sidewalk on this block is fairly wide. Beyond that, there should be some thought given to the particular use of this bus stop since the vast majority of people who use it are carrying groceries and would really appreciate being able to sit down for a few minutes.

If AC Transit or Berkeley don’t come to the rescue, maybe someone will save me and other shoppers with DIY bus stop furniture. Until then, I guess I’ll prepare myself for a lot more standing with heavy groceries.

9 Responses to “Someone stole the bus stop bench!”

  1. V Smoothe June 9, 2009 at 9:01 pm #

    In downtown, they took the all the benches away from the bus stops and then installed new benches like halfway down the block from the bus stop. It totally sucks. I’ve been meaning to write a blog about it for months now.

    • Becks June 10, 2009 at 7:21 am #

      I know, it’s terrible! Usually I wait at 14th Street or 20th, but whenever I wait at another stop in downtown, it’s maddening to look down the block and see the “bus” bench. And nobody ever uses them!

  2. OaklandSpaceAcademy June 9, 2009 at 10:36 pm #

    AC Transit’s whole design program is just awful. In addition to these ridiculous bus stops, there are the crummy Van Hools, the out of date timetables at individual stops, the clunky website, and the graphics, especially for their Rapid service.

    For a real laugh, stop by the offices to add money to your Translink (another graphics disaster) card. It is like being transported back to 1988. I’m sure my first ATM card was faster.

    It is as if the whole operation was designed by the 11 year old child of of one of the board members, instead of someone with a degree who also rides the bus.

    • Becks June 10, 2009 at 7:23 am #

      I mostly disagree with you on this one. Their website could use some updating, but their blog is great. And the Van Hools are a HUGE improvement over the old buses. Also, visiting the AC Transit offices is one of the highlights of my month (no, I’m not joking). The staff there are incredibly friendly and service is always very quick.

    • dto510 June 10, 2009 at 1:47 pm #

      Yeah, I also disagree about ACT’s design. It’s pretty good. Their wrap-around-the-pole map/schedule cases are very clever. The color scheme they appear to be moving to (green and silver) is also good. But of course they don’t have the funds to do a makeover.

      Bus stop location and furniture is not under AC Transit’s control, it’s ultimately the cities’ responsibility. There’s some sort of now-defunct JPA governing bus stop furniture in Oakland, Berkeley, Emeryville and Alameda, but it’s raison-de-etre is gone, and now nobody’s in charge.

  3. Aaron Priven June 10, 2009 at 6:29 am #

    If there are out of date timetables at individual stops, you should write us at signs@actransit.org and let us know. We will be replacing all of them in the next month or so due to the fare change.

  4. OaklandSpaceAcademy June 10, 2009 at 8:50 pm #

    The Van Hools aren’t functionally terrible for the kids who read the blogs, but I cringe every time I see an elderly or disabled person try to navigate the 12″ step to sit up close to the front door. Whoever designed (and purchased) those really hates old folks!

    At the AC Transit offices I was referring to the machines around the corner. It is really comical. The machine actually tells you it is dialing, as if you care why it is taking 9 times as long as any other electronic transaction you make.

    Obviously AC Transit doesn’t have any money for a design makeover. But the first step when faced with a situation like theirs is to not dig the hole any deeper. The Rapid and Translink graphics, the Van Hools, and Uptown Transit Center all dug deeper, and with big shovels.

    But of course, this would mostly be gravy. At this point, I’d be happy with buses that functioned best for the folks who need them most. And with bus drivers who could pull up parallel to the curb so folks alighting at the rear doors, as they should, don’t have to step into the gutter.

    • Becks June 10, 2009 at 8:57 pm #

      I have to disagree with you on the Van Hools. One senior bus rider said it best to me – you have to go up at some point, either to get on the bus or to get up to a seat. But that’s not even really true – I usually see seniors sit on the side seats that are at floor level. And it’s so much easier for them to get on the bus in the first place.

      Really, just go to the window at the ACT offices – I promise you it would be faster.

      You can’t blame Translink malfunctions or design problems on ACT as ACT doesn’t run Translink.

      Also, the Uptown Transit Center is awesome. It’s one of the only places in downtown Oakland that I feel safe waiting for a bus at night.

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