Bus shelter rollout hits some ‘bumps’
A bus shelter among the first of 30 going in around the city has raised mild concern in Mid-Cambridge and is intended to be among the topics considered tonight by the area’s neighborhood association.
The problem, according to one resident: The shelter, replacing one set back from the sidewalk, was put in the middle of the sidewalk.
“You basically have to walk around it. A doublewide stroller can get around it now, probably a wheelchair, but in winter, when snow piles up, it’s going to be a real pain in the neck,” said Keith McNeill, of Leonard Avenue, yesterday. Adding to the sudden obstacle course at Cambridge and Hovey streets, near Youville Hospital, is a nearby light pole.
The placement of the shelter seems particularly odd, McNeill said, because “if you look down Cambridge Street, that’s basically the only obstruction from Inman Square to Harvard Square — the only obstruction, the only place where you literally have to walk around to avoid something.”
A similar thing happened in Central Square, said city councilor Henrietta Davis, where a bench had to be moved when a shelter was installed because it was difficult for people to pass.
“There have been some bumps in their installation,” Davis said.
The design of the shelters, as well as the installation, is being done by Cemusa, a unit of a Spanish company busy doing “street furniture” from New York City to San Antonio, Texas. Locally, it ran into trouble in Somerville last week for tearing down bus shelters and being slow to replace them.
There are about 10 Cambridge shelters already in place, large structures going in at stops with heavy use — Central Square, Cambridge Street and Massachusetts Avenue, for instance — and decorated with maps and lighted ads. Although half of the revenue from the advertising is intended for the city, raising money is not why the shelters are coming, nor were they even the city’s idea. Community Development officials say the shelters are the result of the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority following a federal mandate to give disadvantaged communities the same transportation opportunities as the suburbs.
“My original complaint was wishing we didn’t have to take ads to get shelter, but it was the only way the MBTA would do it,” Davis said. “We wanted the shelters to encourage public transportation ridership and make it a better experience.”
It’s not clear how much money the city will make from shelter advertising. Susanne Rasmussen, director of environmental and transportation planning for the city’s community development department, couldn’t recall getting even an estimate from the MBTA or Cemusa.
But the real boost to city revenue will come from handing over the cost of maintaining the shelters, Rasmussen said. The estimated savings were also unknown by her department.
The biggest boost will arrive after the remaining shelters, which will be installed in the spring, she said.
In general, the shelter advertising is okay with Doane Perry, president of the Mid-Cambridge Neighborhood Association, and the maps might be a good idea. No one is saying the placement of the Youville bus shelter blocks access for the disabled or violates the Americans with Disabilities Act. Even the lighted ads aren’t offensive, “as our streetlights are a little erratic.”
What bothers Perry, though, and what will be taken up tonight by the association he leads, is that “so far as I know, there’s been no neighborhood input. I’m not opposed to bus shelters, but there’s been no neighborhood input.”