Metro Transit is currently seeking public input on station design for the A Line. While encouraging public input is commendable, the proposed choices leave something to be desired. Unfortunately it seems the A Line station designs are stuck in the ‘sometimes the end result is not so great, but we tried’ attitude already seen throughout the system. “What causes this to happen?” well here’s my educated guess on what the design teams have to work with:
For starters the rules, or at least what seem to be the rules based on my observations, regarding shelter design and placement:
- When possible the shelter should be placed on the curb so as to be extra prone to snowplow damage, and to block the rear door of the transit vehicle.
- The shelter should be positioned with the opening towards whichever direction has the most wind and precipitation.
- There needs to be an adequate gap between the ground and the bottom of the shelter wall to ensure extra airflow through the shelter, and to allow snow and road slop to better infiltrate the floor of the shelter.
- When feasible there should also be a gap between the top of the walls and the roof of the shelter. For example, the bus shelters adjacent to the train platform at 46th Street Station.
- Benches in the shelter must be metal, to provide the customer with a complete outdoors experience, as though they are sitting on a block of ice.
- If heaters are installed in the shelter they must be placed as high from the ground as possible. Ideally a customer with above average height should just barely have their hat warmed when standing directly below the heating element.
- If extra money is available to spend on the shelter, it must be used for a feature that does nothing to further protect patrons from the elements, such as an exotic stone floor or copper roof trim.
(Examples of some of the not so nice bus shelters found at various stops. These are maintained by CBS Outdoor, with the CBS apparently standing for Crumby Billboard Shelter.)
From these rules one can understand why the shelter concepts are all basically the same. We can pick between four shelters that look as though they are designed by someone who has never had to wait at a stop for 20 minutes in a subzero wind chill, or a horizontal rainstorm, during a weather delay.
Now how about those station identifiers, or pillars, or pylons, or whatever the tall box things are? Well these are certainly an improvement over the traditional bus stop sign, but again they are fairly uncreative. Sure, they can probably pick those up cheap on the BRT Lite aisle at Transit Depot, but we can do better than a box with a curve on the top. Heck, boring old Inver Grove Heights put a similar style of pillar along Cahill Avenue years ago to notify passerby that Cahill is ‘Main Street’. (Suburbs have to label that stuff.)
We need to get creative with those station identifiers; we need something that screams, MINNESOTA! Ooh, how about a giant Paul Bunyan statue for each station? That would be unique. No, wait, if Paul hung around the stops on Snelling too much he might start wearing baggy pants dropped down to his crotch and a wifebeater shirt, and that look just wouldn’t suit him. Hmm, a giant green Adirondack chair? Nah, then Metro Transit would start getting angry calls from riders waiting by the original ones wondering where the bus was. Minnesotans like big things though, mcmansions, SUVs, Target stores, we have the biggest shopping mall, a giant spoon... Bingo! Put a huge bus stop sign at each stop, it can complement our oversized art, house a NexTrip screen, and meet ADA font size requirements.
Better yet, we could just accept the design given and just bundle up for the weather. Really, what is more Minnesotan than a modest transit stop, with some hardy natives bundled head to toe, waiting for a ride to the hockey game?