America’s Sorriest Bus Stop: Pittsburgh vs. Medford

sorrypittmedford

Welcome to the first match in Streetsblog’s third annual “Sorriest Bus Stop” competition.

Readers love to send us their nominations for the Sorriest Bus Stop bracket — people ask me all year round if we’re going to put on this tournament again. It’s easy to see why.

There are just too many dreadful bus stops to count in America. Everyone knows the type — uncomfortable, ugly, scary, hard to find. Places where you ordinarily wouldn’t choose to spend a single minute, but have to wait too long as you peer down the street for the next bus to come. The people in charge should know just how bad they’ve made it for bus riders. Spotting an especially bad bus stop and sending it in to Streetsblog is your chance to show them.

This public shaming has put pressure on a few transit agencies and DOTs to take better care of their bus stops. It’s an underappreciated ingredient in providing good transit: TransitCenter surveys consistently find that riders rate the walkability and comfort of bus stops as one of the most important aspects of their experience [PDF].

On to the first match. A precariously balanced Pittsburgh bus stop takes on a highway-side stop outside of Boston.

Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh bus stop

This entry in the Steel City comes from reader Noah Kahrs. He writes:

You’d think that a bus stop this close to Downtown Pittsburgh and just half a mile from a light rail station and major bike path would be reasonably accessible, but Pittsburgh’s confusing road system gets in the way. This bus stop is alongside a four-lane highway that essentially serves as a full-speed connector between two major interstates, and has no sidewalks along the road. Instead, you can access the bus stop by a footbridge across the highway from Duquesne University, or via a lengthy rickety staircase from the bottom of a sheer 100-foot cliff.

Agencies responsible: Port Authority of Allegheny County, PennDOT.

Medford, Massachusetts

Medford bus stop
Reader “Ken” (no last name given) submits this bus stop in Medford, Massschusetts, outside Boston:

I would like to nominate the MBTA Bus Stop on their 99 route, Highland Avenue at East Border Road in Medford, Massachusetts.

Highland Avenue and East Border Road are both controlled by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (which, despite the name, is more of a DOT agency) and provide zero pedestrian access to the stop. This is compounded by the lack of a sidewalk or any place to stand off the busy street. The vehicle lanes are 17 feet wide here, which encourages speed. Vehicle commuters use this route as a parallel to Interstate 93 to avoid traffic on the highway.

At one time, cycle lanes were striped, but with low quality paint which has worn away.

As this stop is primarily an evening commute home stop, in the winter, the lack of a crosswalk on either road makes travel extremely dangerous, as most of the neighborhood is across the street and darkness prevails.

Agencies responsible: MBTA, Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation.

Your vote determines which bus stop goes on to the second round.

Which bus stop is the sorriest?

  • Pittsburgh (53%, 319 Votes)
  • Medford (47%, 279 Votes)

Total Voters: 598

  • Duncan Watson

    The Medford stop seems more dangerous to me with zero accommodation for the users of the stop.

  • Jacob Lee

    Wow, Google sent somebody up that Pittsburgh staircase with a streetview camera on their back. https://www.google.com/maps/@40.4346986,-79.9892746,3a,75y,86.11h,100.97t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sisONHMhbtr2IkVvlyOLQBA!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

  • c2check

    Being from Pittsburgh, I understand the strange location of that bus stop given the topography, adjacent demand generators, and street network.
    Although, I mean, it could use a larger waiting area/shelter,
    and also the bus stop sign is completely invisible to someone on the steps.

  • HamTech87

    The walled feeling of the Pittsburgh bus stop makes me vote it sorriest, and scariest. Where do people stand waiting for bus? How do you exit the rear door?

    That Medford one is just like 3/4th of the bus stops in most suburbs.

  • Xuth

    As someone who’s been to both of those stops (I’ve lived in both cities) I’d say that neither of them are as bad as some of the more suburban stops in Pittsburgh. I agree that the one in Pittsburgh isn’t accessible but that is unfortunately the case for lots of Pittsburgh (where many streets have stairways next to them instead of sidewalks) but at least it’s relatively well protected from cars. The one in Medford looks like a typical suburban bus stop. You have to cross a relatively well used two lane 30 mph road and there is a grassy patch where one can stand. Definitely needs work.

    Here’s a bus stop on the side of a 4 lane, 45 mph signed (actual is generally 60 mph) partially controlled access highway without sidewalks and the only way to get to the stop is by crossing at a crosswalk with nothing more than a sign marking it:

    https://www.google.com/maps/@40.5118377,-80.0039128,3a,75y,185.38h,86.04t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sgdCVpndhRZWNG43QhBYi_Q!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

  • spacepenguine

    Ha. Haha. You can’t open the rear door there. That’s the best part!

  • jwcbkdc

    The Pittsburgh stop wins for dystopian environment, but it’s probably safer since people don’t have to cross traffic or stand in the street (although I imagine buses get rear ended a lot when stopping at such an unexpected spot on a highway). The Medford ambiance is sad in a more generic way, but it exposes people to a greater risk of getting run over.

    I vote Medford

  • I actually have seen the Pittsburgh stop before on one of my many walks around the great city. It has to win! There is something so baffling about it and triumphant that it is even there.

  • AMH

    That one definitely wins.

  • AMH

    Yeah, it’s clearly for the bus operator–there’s no information at all for passengers. I hate how PA tries to make every road a highway, particularly in Pittsburgh terrain, but pedestrian access is passable here and the bus stop has an excellent view.

  • Jeremiah Sullivan

    Ha! As soon as you said “suburban stops in Pittsburgh” I thought of several on McKnight. It is horrible.

  • disqdude

    Can we vote for this one instead? Because it would get my vote!

  • Joshua Grzegorzewski

    I live about 1 mile from the Medford, MA stop; the missing context that the Middlesex Fells park system of recreational trails are hidden in that wood to the right is even more of a disservice since it is a resource for pedestrians looking to recreate with nature but the handoff from (sub)urbanity is totally botched.

  • David Loutzenheiser

    And that photo perfectly shows the bike lanes that were painted there about 3 years ago have almost completely worn off!

  • c2check

    Blvd of the Allies was opened in the 20s! A handy Downtown-Oakland link bypassing the Hill. Similar deal with Bigelow Blvd.
    But yeah, state DOTs trying to make urban roads wide and speedy is, unfortunately, par for the course—though this will hopefully change as planners and engineers start to learn about what’s appropriate for urban conditions.

  • Andrew

    The Pittsburgh one looks like someone tried to make the best of an unfortunate situation. There’s a safe way for pedestrians to reach this location and a safe place for people to wait for the bus, even if it’s tightly hemmed in and even if it’s inaccessible to anyone who can’t climb stairs.

    The Medford one looks like nobody even tried.

    I vote for Medford.

  • Rex Rocket

    Haha “exit rear door”, like that ever happens.

  • jimlawruk

    The Pittsburgh stop doesn’t look that bad. It looks to be well protected and includes a pedestrian only bridge to cross the road. Not sure how the Medford stop would ever work during winter.

  • BS

    The medford stop is objectively more dangerous. For the stop on Blvd of the Allies, as another commenter pointed out, *maybe* someone rear-ends that bus, but the road design (curving from the right and going up an incline) makes that difficult. Pedestrians are protected (note the heavy duty curb cut). Building a bump-out for a dedicated bus stop involves cantilevering over a good hundred foot cliff (and probably wouldn’t do anything about the rear-ending situation, since traffic tends to flow at a rate far higher than the posted speed limit).

    I’m aware of one bus route that services that stop — the 28x, Airport Flyer (there may be some other commuter routes that I’m not thinking about). I’m not sure, but I believe the 28x only discharges at that stop, and does not take on passengers. Local access is provided by the dozens of bus routes running along Fifth and Forbes, and at the bottom of the stairs, the bus routes running along Second Ave.

    So, not especially dangerous. Bleak and incongruitous, yes.

    The Medford stop seems typical of most suburban bus stops: poorly marked, poor access, requiring a daredevil dash across an uncontrolled intersection to get to it, no shelter.

  • kidd754

    In Pgh, outbound, generally, you exit via front door. Not to mention the various times of day when that is not the case. I never did figure it out, and I lived there for 17 years!

  • Joe R.

    Seriously, that staircase at night with a few zombies would be perfect for a horror movie.

  • John French

    In my experience that’s typical of trails in Massachusetts. A recently-built rail trail (bike/ped) in the town I grew up in seems to have been designed specifically to preclude any possibility of commuters using it to get to the nearby rail station.

  • Elizabeth F

    OMG, how are you supposed to use that crosswalk? Especially in a wheelchair? Do drivers actually stop for pedestrians there? Do you need to carry a huge blinking “stop” sign on a selfie stick?

  • infinitebuffalo

    Until very recently (like, 1/1/17), Pittsburgh bus riders paid as they exited when riding away from Downtown on most routes. The zoned-fare system was finally eliminated at the beginning of this year, allowing the possibility to exit at the rear door, but until this year nobody used the back door except in rare cases.

    (As an added bonus, one of the four routes that stops here only doesn’t pick up here–it’s the route from the airport, and you can only get off at this stop. The other three are lightly-used.)

  • infinitebuffalo

    Both Allies and Bigelow were built to be parkways providing access from Downtown to the then-new Schenley Park on the far side of Oakland–note that half of Bigelow is still signed 25 mph!–and became high-speed highways much later.

    Bigelow is probably the only road I’ve ever experienced where drivers routinely approach three times the posted speed limit with no repercussion. I’ll have to remember this contest next year or hope someone else submits one of the several bus stops over there–the one on OB Bigelow at Bloomfield Bridge might be my favorite…

  • infinitebuffalo

    > “pedestrian access is passable here ”

    sure, if you’re able-bodied. there’s at least two stories of stairs ahead of you no matter which way you’re going–there’s no sidewalk on Allies itself. If you’re in a wheelchair, or just can’t handle climbing that many stairs, you’re out of luck.

  • infinitebuffalo

    It was only Pay-on-exit on outbound runs that left Downtown’s free-fare zone before 7pm. Pay on enter inbound, on outbound runs after 7pm, and at all times on routes that didn’t go through Downtown.

    (Though since the beginning of this year, it’s pay-on-enter always, and exit-through-the-rear as often as possible.)

  • EJ

    Compared to most of the stops in this contest the Pittsburgh one looks positively luxurious. There’s a space to stand, a footbridge over the highway. I guess you’re SOL if you’re disabled, but that’s true of most of the stops that show up here.

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