It’s a common phenomenon in cities all over the country: bus stops with nowhere for people to sit while they wait.
In Cincinnati, a grassroots group of transit activists, the Better Bus Coalition, is tackling the problem with a DIY bench made from $30 in materials. Two Better Bus Coalition members built the benches themselves at one member’s wood shop.
“We have identified, through our research, numerous bus stops that are heavily used where there is no place for anyone to sit,” Coalition President Cam Hardy told the Cincinnati CityBeat. “I think of my great grandmother, who rides the bus. There is no place for her to sit after she’s grocery shopped all day.”
In addition to putting down benches, the Coalition also wants to ensure that bus stops are clean, Hardy said. “The only way that we’re going to attract new ridership is if these stops look presentable to people,” he told CityBeat. “We’re letting people know that there are people out here who care about them.”
The bus-stop beautification initiative “is one part of a larger campaign the group is taking on to highlight funding shortfalls for Metro,” CityBeat reports. The Coalition is also pushing for dedicated bus lanes during rush hour in downtown Cincinnati, WCPO reports, as well as tap card payment and more bus shelters.
It’s also endorsing a 1-cent countywide sales tax to help support the regional bus system, the Cincinnati Inquirer reports. Currently, the funding model for the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) relies on a .3 percent city earnings tax. Switching to sales tax would include taxpayers in Hamilton County, not just Cincinnati proper, in funding the bus system.
SORTA’s board will vote June 20 on whether to put a tax question on the November ballot, and how much to ask. A half-cent tax hike, CityBeat wrote, would address multimillion-dollar budget shortfalls but otherwise maintain the status quo, and a 1-cent raise “could dramatically improve transit throughout the region.” The current mayor, John Cranley, supports a half-cent raise; the president of the Hamilton County Commission doesn’t support any tax hike. The Cincinnati Charter Committee, which is sometimes called Cincy’s third party, endorsed a .9 percent county sales tax on Tuesday.
“We believe .9 is a really good number,” Coalition president Hardy told CityBeat. “We’re really working to raise awareness around the fact that .5 won’t be enough. We need significant investment and we need it now.”
So far, the Better Bus Coalition has installed nine benches and is raising funding for more. The Coalition says it’s received a “flood” of requests for more benches, and has even asked bus drivers to help suggest where the benches should be placed.
Rachel Kaufman is Next City's senior editor, responsible for our daily journalism. She was a longtime Next City freelance writer and editor before coming on staff full-time. She has covered transportation, sustainability, science and tech. Her writing has appeared in Inc., National Geographic News, Scientific American and other outlets.