SORRIEST BUS STOPS 2021: Chicago vs. Waltham

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This is the fifth first-round matchup in the Sweet 16 round of our annual Sorriest Bus Stop contest (voting continues through Wednesday at 4 p.m. Eastern). In our previous first-round bouts, Narberth demolished Trenton, Quebec City advanced to the Abominable Eight with a complete destruction of Philadelphia and Queens devastated Lynchburg. Voting is still open in our fourth matchup (but only for a few more hours!), Pittsburgh vs. Littleton, Colo.; You’ll find the full bracket at the bottom of the post. 

If there’s one road design feature that should be banished from the face of the earth, it’s probably the slip lane. And if there’s one place where you should never place a bus stop, it’s right next to one.

Called “the quintessential embodiment of what happens when speed is the number one priority and safety becomes secondary” by advocates at Transportation for America, toxic turning lanes are a recurring theme of pedestrian-vehicle crash reports — and yet a hefty chunk of our submissions featured stops right next to them. These two stood out as particularly bad examples, but you’ll spy a few more throughout the Substandard Sixteen, including this recent round-one victor in the Flushing section of Queens, N.Y.

We can’t let comprehensive transit safety keep slipping through our fingers. Here are two turning lane terrors that deserve to be rethought.

Chicago’s On-Ramp Outrage

Slip lanes are all over American cities, but some of the worst ones around feed directly into urban highways — including this one in the Windy City:

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Located in the Mayfair neighborhood directly across from a major forest preserve and close to Chicagoland’s largest Filipino grocery store, this “stop” is little more than a sliver of concrete directly astride an on-ramp for Interstate 94. There are crosswalks on each of the five-lane roads adjacent to the ramp — the one on Cicero Avenue, pictured here, looks pretty good, though the one Elston Avenue, out of frame, is almost erased on the Streetview image. But there’s nothing to mark the walking path across the ramp itself, which is arguably the most dangerous segment of the route.

“I’ve regularly seen cars clip that curb in their haste to make the light & get on the highway,” said nominator Lena. “It’s just north of a speed camera at 4909 N Cicero, which issued the sixth highest number of tickets of all the city’s cameras 2013-2015 — and it was fifth highest for fines, showing how fast traffic regularly flows here, because fines are more expensive for faster speeds. Obviously the highway on-ramp invites even faster speeds and more reckless turns on that corner by Elston, as cars often race to catch the light.”

But wait, you might be thinking. This is Chicago we’re talking about! That’s a great transit city! Isn’t there another stop nearby that riders could just use instead?

Indeed, there is another stop a few hundred feet from this nightmare … and it looks like this:

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No sidewalk, no crosswalk and barely enough grass to stand on, the only thing this back-up bus stop has over its neighbor is that it’s slip-lane free.

“I was just so angry even walking down the block to take a picture of it,” Lena adds. “@CTA should be ashamed.”

(For the purposes of voting, we want to hear your thoughts on the first bus stop only, but we couldn’t resist sharing this terrible twofer with you.)

Waltham’s Worst Pedestrian Island Ever

From Nantucket to Martha’s Vineyard, the state of Massachusetts is home to some of the most beautiful islands in the United States.

This … isn’t one of them.

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Located in the small city of Waltham, Mass. — go Brandeis Judges! — this botched bus stop was ostensibly granted the privilege of a narrow traffic island, but it’s quickly sinking into the surrounding sea of pavement as the curb crumbles. There is a sidewalk to the stop, but only on one side of the intersection, and it’s not even ADA-accessible because of the utility pole smack dab in the middle.

And if your destination is the large office park up the steep, curving hill behind the stop? Then you’re stuck walking in traffic all over again, because there’s no sidewalk there.

After this sorry stop was submitted, nominator Shaul reported that it’s since been moved to the wheelchair-unfriendly sidewalk in recent months … but per the most recent Streetview, the sign on the island is still there, tempting riders to make a visit to Slip Lane Island. And there’s still no crosswalk to reach it on either side of the road.

We still thought this stop deserved a place in the Sorry Sixteen as a reminder that not all pedestrian infrastructure is created equal, and that there’s never a good reason to put a slip lane near your bus stop (or anywhere, for that matter.)

Before we turn to the next match, let us know: who’s got your vote?

Which slip lane screw-up deserves a spot in the Atrocious Eight?

  • Chicago's On Ramp Outrage (79%, 169 Votes)
  • Waltham's Worst Pedestrian Island Ever (21%, 44 Votes)

Total Voters: 213

Here’s the full bracket for everyone following along at home.

SBS2021 latest

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