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If City Hall had to Ride Busses We’d Have Shelters NOW!

VOICE OF LA’S BUS RIDERS - I have been pursuing the replacement of covered bus shelters ( called street furniture along with bus benches and trash cans) along Santa Monica Boulevard from the San Diego Freeway east to Moreno for the better part of three years. Before Santa Monica Boulevard was rebuilt, I petitioned the City of Los Angeles for covered bus shelters at Santa Monica and Sepulveda Boulevards, and they were installed. I was very grateful.

During construction of the boulevard, the existing bus shelters were understandably moved, and with the completion of the newly configured boulevard I expected they would be replaced.

I was mistaken. They have not been replaced, and we bus riders are left to stand in the rains, winds, dampness, searing sun and whatever else is thrown to us by nature as we wait for a bus on Santa Monica Boulevard.

Covered bus shelters are a humane and decent way to treat bus riders by offering protection for those waiting buses: women with children, senior citizens, people in wheel chairs, people going to and from work.  

If we are alleviate gridlock, and the pollution and global warming gases from vehicles, mass transit must be used much more by a greater number of people. Offering decent protection for transit riders is one sure way to entice people out of vehicles onto buses and trains.

In my pursuit to have the existing bus shelters replaced I contacted three agents involved: the office of the current and past councilmen for Council District Five under whose jurisdiction this stretch of Santa Monica Boulevard falls and who have the authority to install the covered bus shelters; neighborhood representatives and for a while an anti-billboard advocate who oppose covered bus shelters with advertisements; and the advertising company, CDB/Decaux, which maintains the covered bus shelters in exchange for placing ads on them.  

The advertisements are human scaled and are not billboards. The ads measure forty-five inches wide by sixty-eight inches tall.

After months of back and forth between the agents I’ve become lost in a labyrinth of poorly conceived, written and executed agreements by the city with the advertising company, and no covered bus shelters, and told conflicting and questionable reasons why the covered bus shelters cannot be placed along the boulevard.

I was told by the neighbor representative that Santa Monica Boulevard was given a Scenic Highway designation, the covered shelters with ads were not be permitted. This despite the existing billboards and business signs along the boulevard. My research of state websites and files does not confirm this state highway designation.

CSB/Decaux has been most responsive to my inquiries on the issue. They are willing to put up covered bus shelters now, but are prevented by the neighbors who object to the ads on the shelters who say they will mar the scenic quality of the boulevard despite a boulevard already hosting billboards and business signage.

As a bus rider I use bus shelters where ever they are whenever I can. These covered bus shelters are operated by CBS/Decaux and are maintained, clean and comfortable.

Adding to the confusion, the bus stops at north-south crossing intersections are covered bus shelters with ads, not more than fifty yards from Santa Monica Boulevard and are seen from Santa Monica Boulevard.

After more weeks of inquiries, I was told that the city had entered into an agreement with the CBS/Decaux that when the covered bus shelters with ads are ever erected on Santa Monica Boulevard, the company has the right to also erect pylons with advertisements. I find no objection to this, but the neighborhood representatives take great umbrage at this, and consider it a deal breaker.  
It appears that covered bus shelters with ads will never exist along Santa Monica Boulevard as long as the agreement for the pylons remains.  

I have been told repeatedly that the city council office that this issue is being worked on. We are now going will into year three of this situation.

I wait for these shelters, and they are not on Santa Monica Boulevard.

In this time of limbo between the recurring “No” to the shelters and the hope the reappearance of covered bus shelters I came across a startling, and very disturbing sight: Currently, along Santa Monica Boulevard between Sepulveda and Westwood Boulevards are bus benches-street furniture. And on those bus benches are advertisements. There are none of the highly contested advertising pylons along Santa Monica Boulevard. This negates every argument I’ve heard about not placing covered bus shelters along Santa Monica Boulevard.  

It is only reasonable that if there is street furniture with ads along Santa Monica Boulevard-bus benches-and there are no pylons with ads, then covered bus shelters with ads (street furniture) can be erected along Santa Monica Boulevard now.

(Matthew Hetz is a bus rider and transportation advocate. He lives on LA’s Westside.)
-cw

Tags: Santa Monica, bus shelters, CBS-Decaux, street furniture

CityWatch
Vol 9 Issue 44
Pub: June 3, 2011

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