Monday, May 26, 2014

Millions Instead of Millions

My former residence of Arlington County, Virginia has announced that it found enough accounting shenanigans and scale economies from making the same foolish expenditures again and again, and eliminated sufficient unnecessaries, to reduce the cost of additional million dollar bus stops down to an average of $600,000 each.
    The 23 successors to Columbia Pike’s “$1 million bus stop” will cost 40 percent less when they are built, Arlington County officials said Tuesday, after a year-long review and redesign of the bus-and-streetcar shelters.    County Manager Barbara Donnellan said that lowering and changing the angle of the canopy, simplifying the design and using standardized parts will drop the cost of the remaining stops from $20.9 million to $12.4 million. Donnellan, speaking at a news conference at Arlington Mill Community Center where county employees outnumbered reporters, said the county will take over construction management of the glass-and-steel transit stops, formerly known as “superstops,” from the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. (emphasis added).

Bless Barbara Donnellan's heart and all the high level federal bureaucrats and highly paid federal contractors in Arlington, Virginia. Donnellan did not report the cost of the year long consultant study that came up with the new numbers and all the fancy PowerPoints and press releases.

As for the million dollar stops' functionality, when we initially reported on the million dollar stop in my old Arlington Heights, Virginia Neighborhood, we quoted one of my former neighbors.

Million dollar bus stop at the corner of Walter Reed Drive
and Columbia Pike, Arlington, Virginia.
   The roof does not shelter people well from the elements. Rain, with a little bit of wind, wets nearly the entire covered area. Today, it appeared that the roof seams were leaking because there were small puddles on the seats about the same distance apart as the roof seams.

   The structure does not provide any protection from the wind. Its open design and angles allows wind thru every part. The windy day last week was much more uncomfortable than in the structure this replaced.
   The Next Bus display board has been wrong the majority of the 7 days I've used the stop. I understand this is a function of the data feed to Next Bus, which has been having problems described in the media recently.Nevertheless, a nice big display board doesn't help folks if it's wrong.
   The seats are stainless steel slabs - very cold and uncomfortable to sit on, especially in the colder months. I can only imagine what they are like in the direct sun in summer months. I've heard speculation that they were designed to dissuade homeless people from sleeping there. If so, I would recommend instead that the operative design principle be for people to use the seats, rather than for people not to use them.
   IMHO, the design seems to be Modernist-Ugly. The look is distinctive, but not at all appealing.
   I would sure like to know who designed this, why it was felt to be superior to other designs, and what was wrong with stops having 3 walls and a roof that seem to be so popular because they are effective.
Pre installation of the new monstrosity, in the days when I used that bus stop, I was totally okay with the benches. I carried with me this modern marvel of mechanical engineering known as an umbrella to protect from the rain. The winters were mild. And during rush hour, buses came by every five minutes. There was no inconvenience at all.

Meanwhile here in Bozeman, Montana, 2,500 miles outside the DC spending bubble, our local bus authority cut a sponsorship deal with local businesses to get new stops with a roof, walls, and solar panel powered, LCD bill board for nothing.

Riders love the new Bozeman shelters. 
   Carrie Fabiano knows the routine of waiting for the bus as a regular rider. 
   "Well the bus was running a little late and that 10 minutes felt like a lot. I mean I started getting frostbite," she said.
Fabiano says, "I just think it's a matter of life and death sometimes. I've seen elderly people waiting out in the freezing temperatures and you just worry." 
Bozeman, MT bus stop

   That is part of the reason why Chandler Communication, out of Kalispell, is building bus shelters. They will be taking care of all the construction and maintenance at no cost to taxpayers.The shelters in Bozeman are unique - they are the first to have solar panels and LED billboards. Only two of these shelters have been built so far. Six more are in the works, including two more on Huffine, three in Bozeman and one in Belgrade. 
   Transportation Director with the HRDC, Lee Hazelbaker said, "This is a huge step forward. This has been in the works for years and to finally see it come to fruition is just a great feeling."
   Riders agree.
If the residents of Arlington, Virginia, who have the highest per capita family incomes nationwide, were paying for their own bus stops that might be one thing.  But they wouldn't be caught dead financing their own profligacy.  The majority of the funds come from you the federal taxpayer. That is something else and that is the way it is. Good luck to all.

Bozeman, Montana bus system map.

1 comment:

  1. If D.C. was a suburban neighborhood, the best description would be every house had teens, their parents were out of town and the parties were non-stop.

    I'm thinking this won't end until all the toilets are thrown into the pools.