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Putting the Brakes on $1M Bus Stop

Friday, June 28, 2013

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Public outrage over a million-dollar bus stop built by the Washington, D.C., transit agency has prompted the facility owners to audit the project and slap a hold on future stops.

Authorities in Arlington, VA, the D.C. suburb that owns the stop, say they will review the design, construction, performance and cost of their now-infamous million-dollar stop before building the 23 other stops planned.

Both the cost and design of the so-called “Super Stop” prototype triggered an outcry by taxpayers and riders alike when the stop was unveiled in March. One consultant derided the project as the "Taj Mahal" of bus stops.

SuperStop
Photos: Arlington County

Critics say the "Super Stop" is not only overpriced but offers little shelter for riders.

The general contractor for the project was the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA, also known as Metro). 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.

In addition, 23 future Super Stops were estimated at $904,000 each. A typical bus shelter costs $10,000 to $20,000, according to county transportation officials.

Review Steps

The county's review, first announced in April, will take a three-pronged approach and is set to be completed in late fall 2013, according to a release Monday (June 24) .

The review will consist of a financial and performance assessment; a community consultation process aimed at users of the stop, and a design review. The financial and performance review and design review will use independent third parties to ensure unbiased reporting and focus, the county said.

System riders are invited to provide feedback on the design using this survey. Non-riders interested in providing feedback may also submit comments by email.

Eugene BRT Stop Norfolk LRT Stop
Photos: Arlington County

Transit Tabs: Eugene, OR's Bus RT stop (left) cost $445,000; Norfolk, VA's Light Rail Transit shelter cost $762,000.

After the review process, the county manager will consult with county board members and Metro officials, then announce the fate of the other stops.

“The goal of the review… is to facilitate the construction of the remaining stops faster, at lower cost and with improved functionality where necessary,” the county said.

Costly, Cold and Wet

The unveiling of the Walter Reed bus stop was greeted by a chorus of complaints.

Besides the Super Stop’s price tag, many claimed the design had flaws. The stainless-steel benches were too cold to sit on, and the architectural glass and steel canopy offered little in terms of shelter from the elements, reports said.

Walter Reed under construction

Set-up, construction delays, and design refinements increased the project cost, officials said.

Initially, the county officials defended the prototype, saying it was an investment in infrastructure to support renewal and anticipated growth, as the stops would also accommodate a streetcar system planned for the area. They also defended many of the costs as front-loaded, one-time expenses.

Later, however, they conceded that “set-up costs, construction challenges and delays, and design refinements” had increased the total cost of the project and announced plans for review.

The county’s website lists a number of other similar transit stations and costs, including a $762,000 shelter in Norfolk, VA; a $757,000 station in Charlotte, NC; and $1.755 million light rail transit stop in Minneapolis, MN.

Other Super Stops on Hold

As the review of the prototype proceeds, its successors face an uncertain future.

"[D]ue to the higher-than-expected cost and functionality concerns, the County Manager placed construction of the future 23 Super Stops on hold pending completion of the review,” the county said.

Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan said, “We look forward to the findings of these reviews and will take steps necessary to ensure the construction of future stops at a significantly lower cost, while maintaining functionality and the amenities needed for a high-capacity station."

   

Tagged categories: Architecture; Construction; Design; Government; Public Transit; Transportation

Comment from David Cerchie, (6/28/2013, 7:11 AM)

I think someone should do a follow-up article on this bus stop situation to actually elaborate on the various costs involved in the price tag. If there were substantial infrastructure changes required to accommodate the facility that might bring a better perspective to what currently appears to be a hugely over priced project.


Comment from josh hutcheson, (6/28/2013, 7:41 AM)

no one has money cities are almost broke yet someone finds a way to waste a ($1,000,000.00)and now want to spend another large amount on a study this kind of actions is what is breaking this country what ever happened to doing the right thing???


Comment from Mike McCloud, (6/28/2013, 8:08 AM)

We (The People) should investigate other projects including schools libraries, town halls, fire, police stations, etc. There are so many that are built like castles for no reason other than someones ego. Why do we need $50m-$100m schools never mind $1m bus stops. What a waste!


Comment from Jeff Longmore, (6/28/2013, 9:21 AM)

The main driver of these ludicrous expenditures is that public service bureaucrats with large budgets receive more recognition than responsible bureaucrats who actually reduce their departmental expenditures.


Comment from William Feliciano, (6/28/2013, 11:35 AM)

It's easy for a transit authority to conjure up $1M bus stops when the state and feds are paying 80% of it. Had they had to use their own $$, i doubt that it would have been so expensive a design. I understand that the price of everything has gone up in this economy. But if you must shell out $1M for a bus stop, at the very leaset make it functional. That way, you have ammunition against your detractors. A prefab glass hut with heat and a/c would have done more for commuters than an expensive, fancy looking stainless steel umbrella.


Comment from John Fauth, (6/28/2013, 11:42 AM)

This project is one of thousands that are utter wastes of taxpayer money. But it's only a symptom of the problem... namely, the system is broken. There's no sense of ownership within the bureaucracy because they're spending someone else's money. What sense of fiscal restraint does a municipality have when 80% of the funding comes from state and federal budgets and 100% of the money spent (some might say wasted) comes from taxpayers. How does a waste like this even get through the planning stages? Because they have no skin in the game.


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