What can you do to make your neighborhood bus stop—and consequently your neighborhood itself—a better place? Offer seating and shelter, for starters? Could a simple picnic table foster informal conversation by day and host the occasional neighborhood potluck by night? Maybe a mini-library or community bulletin or barter board to keep neighbors informed? How about croquet, checkers, or corn hole to invite interaction? A covered bike rack would be a great amenity and help extend transit access. What about providing simple ways for young and old to be more physically active while waiting for the bus with swings, tether ball, a climbing wall or tire drill? Better yet—why not collaborate with other neighbors to install these exercises as a fitness trail at several consecutive bus stops?
The quality and design of bus stops varies enormously, but all could benefit from a loving local touch. Urban locations are frequently blessed with well-lit shelters, seats, route information, and sidewalks. Still, the surreptitious addition of a stem flower vase (and a commitment to its replenishment) can work wonders at spreading smiles and building good neighborhood mojo.
Suburban bus stops provide the greatest opportunities for healthy and convivial improvement largely because the default condition is so unfriendly to begin with. They are often simply marked by a post in the ground with a sign of the local transit authority’s logo and a well-worn patch of ground. School bus stops are the least marked of all since their locations are subject to the most change. (One can also argue that school bus systems as a whole might be put to better use throughout the rest of the day in areas underserved for transit—but that’s another discussion).
It doesn’t take much to enhance a suburban bus stop. You can easily celebrate its overlooked role as both neighborhood gateway and communal gathering space. At the same time, you can make a modest difference in the lives of the growing number of transit-users in your neighborhood.
Choose your inspiration. Browse the many tactical urbanism strategies or spontaneous interventions or try something like recycling tires for physical activity. Keep it simple and welcoming. As the idea here is to promote good neighborliness, communal interaction, and public transit, it’s best to limit interventions to publicly-owned land or property owned in common by a household association. Sometimes, it’s best to ask forgiveness after the fact rather than to ask permission. In either case, be a good neighbor and adopt a bus stop.
Hang out with your neighbors on the last Saturday of April (a day we're calling "Neighborday"). Click here to say you'll Do It, and here to download GOOD's Neighborday Toolkit and a bunch of other fun stuff. \n
Original bus stop swing photo courtesy of Bruno Taylor; second photo courtesy of the Edible Bus Stop; bus stop library photo courtesy of Flickr user Alun W.\n