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The Bus Stops Here ... for $1M

Monday, April 1, 2013

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After 18 months and more than $1 million, Arlington, VA, has cut the ribbon on its newest piece of infrastructure: a bus stop.

Technically, it's a bus shelter, although critics debate even its ability to do that.

With a heated concrete floor, high-performance coatings, stainless-steel benches, and dramatic glass and steel canopy, officials call the new “Super Stop” at Columbia Pike and Walter Reed Drive the future of bus-stop design.

The shelter was approved in September 2011 and has been dogged by construction delays. In a project video released in September by Arlington County, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (Metro) showed the installation of the roof canopy and said it hoped to open the project within 30 days.

Arlington County
Arlington County

Arlington County's $1 million Super Stop is the first of 24 planned for the area. The other 23 shelters are estimated at $904,000 each, officials say.

Instead, the shelter opened last week. Metro was the general contractor for the project.

“The Walter Reed Super Stop is the prototype for this project and the first bus stop of its kind in the region,” said project representative Corey Cranmer.

“Given that, there have been a number of unexpected issues regarding construction and new materials that we have had to work through with WMATA during the project.”

'Amenities of Rail Service'

Construction and fabrication of the stop cost $575,000; construction management and inspections cost $440,000. Federal and state transportation money paid 80 percent of the tab.

What does $1 million buy? Electronic LCD displays with real-time bus schedules, maps, time and weather. Shelter for 10 to 15 passengers, wind screens, lighting and landscaping. High curbs to ease accessibility for boarding. Coatings guaranteed for 50 years (although details of the system were not immediately available). Future plans include ticket vending at the stop.

A project spokeswoman says the goal was to provide passengers on the busy bus route with the "amenities of rail service."

SuperStop

A project video by Arlington County shows installation of the glass canopy. The Washington Metro transit agency was the general contractor for the project.

County officials say the area's booming commercial and residential corridor deserves the shelter. (Arlington is also planning a $250 million streetcar project.)

Super Future

The other 23 Super Stops should not break the million-dollar mark, but they will come close.

“Our goal, if at all possible, is to do it for less,” Dennis Leach, Arlington’s transportation director, told the Washington Post. With a prototype, Leach said, “you end up heavily front-loading on the costs.”

Relatively speaking, however, the savings will be slim: The rest of the stops are expected to run about $904,000 each.

Meanwhile, the county is spending just under $400,000 to renovate 31 other local bus stops in designated high-priority zones. Those stops will get improved crossings, curb ramps, new bus shelters, benches and trash receptacles, new or improved sidewalks, and landscaping, officials said.

'Is This Made of Gold?'

News of the shelter has spread quickly and sparked widespread anger in the current budget-slashing climate. Not only is the cost under attack, but riders say the shelter benches are too cold and the open design offers little protection from blowing wind and rain.

SuperStop
Arlington County

The concrete is heated, but passengers say the stainless-steel benches are cold and the open design offers little protection from the elements.

“Oh my God. How much steel? How much cement? How much glass? One million? Bring them to court,” waiting passenger Husain Hamid told a Washington Post reporter last week.

“People are hungry. People are sleeping on the street. It doesn’t need $1 million.”

Asked another: “Is this made of gold?”

Critics note that the same county recently cut funding for background checks for child-care providers, labeling them an unnecessary expense. Meanwhile, a national advocacy group recently gave the county's child-care facilities an "F" for safety and quality.

The county also has a problem with homeless residents, although the bus stop is reportedly "homeless proof."

Said Jolene Neisius, a waiting passenger from Menomonie, WI: “We don’t even have public transportation in Menomonie, much less $1 million to spend on it.”

Added her friend, Jon Fisher: “You’d think for $1 million they’d have a heated bench and a restroom. Where we’re from, they built a whole highway rest stop for $1.5 million.”

Public transit consultant Mark Aesch, called the stop the Taj Mahal of bus shelters.

"You know, they've called these things Super Stops," he told the local CBS affiliate. "It seems it would be better equipped if we maybe called them Super Soakers, because the taxpayer is clearly getting hosed here."

   

Tagged categories: Architecture; Construction; Design; Government; Government contracts; Infrastructure; Mass transit; Stainless steel; Transportation

Comment from William Cornelius, (4/1/2013, 12:43 PM)

"Arlington is also planning a $250 streetcar project?" I suspect that means 250 million. In passing, Kansas City, MO is spending $100 million on two miles of street car line. If I did the division right that works out to $789.14 per inch!


Comment from Mary Chollet, (4/1/2013, 12:47 PM)

$250 million, indeed. Good catch, thanks.


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