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SORRIEST BUS STOPS 2021: Québec City vs. Lower Merion Township

We're down to the Final Four in our quest to find the sorriest bus stop around — and this time, we've got an international incident on our hands.

Today, we're pitting a French Canadian heavyweight against a punishingly bad stop in Pennsylvania, and giving you a glimpse into the larger forces that shape our North American transportation landscapes. (And one of our stops is even switching up its name — more on that in a second.)

Let's get ready to rumble.

Québec City's Car Dealership Catastrophe

There's a definite juggernaut in this match-up, thanks to the apparently astonishing power of French Canadian social media ... and this stop's uniquely mauvais combination of high-speed traffic, non-existent rider amenities, and exactly one wacky waving inflatable arm flailing tube man.

Quebec City 1

Seriously: more than 3,000 people voted for this Québécois calamity in the second round (and about 300 people wrote in to let us know the one time we misspelled "Québécois.") That's more votes than any contender has garnered so far in this contest, including the strong competitor this stop bested in Queens, N.Y.

But the Car Dealership Catastrophe isn't just a ringer; it's also a legitimately bad stop in its own right. Between the 50-kilometer-per-hour (30 mph) car traffic, the shoulder with no sidewalk, and the total lack of a bench or a shelter, it checks just about every box on the "bus riders are second-class citizens" bingo card — and that's before you even talk about what this stop looks like in the winter ... or in the westbound lane.

Quebec City 3
Nominator's wife, photographed with permission.
Nominator's wife, photographed with permission.
Nominator's wife, photographed with permission.

Local media has been whipping the vote for this wack waiting area since the beginning, and in a recent article, local outlet Majeur noted that Québec's inclusion in this contest probably hit a nerve — thanks to a long-fought debate over the future of a $3.3-billion tramway project that's poised to revolutionize mass transit in the city.

"Debates about public transport have been at the heart of political life in Québec for several years, particularly in light of the tramway issue," wrote the publication, according to our probably-innacurate Google Translation. "Mayor Labeaume seeks to advance his project to build the new transit network, but he faces opposition and interference from [Québec] Prime Minister Legault."

The mayor and the PM have reportedly reached a "verbal agreement" to move ahead with the megaproject. Hopefully the city can spare a few loonies to revamp this sorry stop, too.

Narberth Lower Merion Township's Vegetation Abomination

Before we take a closer look at this round's underdog, let's get something out of the way: yes, this sorry stop is getting a late-in-the-game name change.

When nominator Ethan first made his submission, he pointed us to this truly stunning Google Maps screencap of a weed-covered waiting area with a Naberth, Pa. address. It stomped the competition and soared into the second round... and then we got a few emails letting us know that despite having an address that's served by Narberth's post office, it's actually located in the larger community of  Lower Merion Township, and that municipality is actually responsible for maintaining the stop itself. (Forgive us, we did not grasp the nuances of postal service in the Keystone State.)

SEPTA, the transit agency which runs the buses to this stop, also clarified by email that it does not service the waiting area, though the agency does have some handy stop improvement guidelines available should Lower Merion want to spruce it up.

Narberth 2

We have no interest in smearing the good name of the fine people of Narberth, so we're revising the bracket and holding Lower Merion accountable for lowering the standards for its riders.

And those standards matter. SEPTA noted that prior to the pandemic, this stop served two pretty popular routes, including Route 52, which averaged 14,628 weekday riders in the fall of 2019, and Route 44, which averaged 3,556. SEPTA couldn't estimate how many riders used this specific stop, but it should be noted that the entire line served by Québec City's stop gets just 1,400 riders a day. If the number of potential riders is a factor in who gets your vote, Lower Merion is the clear winner.

But this preposterous Pennsylvania player deserves credit for its other shortcomings, too. Much like the westbound Québec stop, it uses a guardrail to actively force riders directly into the right-of-way, but the speed limit here is a blistering 45 miles per hour on a road that provides access to a nearby interstate. No word on whether those overgrown weeds will give you a rash or not, but they look pretty itchy to us.

Okay, pals: it's time for you to let us know. Are you team USA, or should we blame Canada for having the sorriest stop around?

Polls close on Friday, April 9 at 4 p.m. ET. 

[poll id="185"]

Here's the updated bracket if you're following along at home:

SBS2021 (14)

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