When a Transit Shelter is Not a Transit Shelter

Last week Metro Transit unveiled a collaboration with the Downtown Improvement District to place a new bus shelter at 3rd Avenue S and S 7th Street downtown which is a very busy stop. This new shelter doubles as an herb greenhouse to better blah blah blah I can’t believe I’m writing this.

View of the entire bus shelter

View of the entire bus shelter

Look. I can’t believe I have to ask this question again, but does anyone at Metro Transit actually use transit? As an actual transit rider, let me tell you what I appreciate in a shelter. In the warm months I want a place in the shade and cover from rain. In the cold months I want something to block the cold wind. All times of the year I’d like a place to sit, and it’s imperative that I be able to see down the street my bus is coming from so I know when to leave the shelter to catch the bus.

So let’s go down the list:

Does this shelter provide shade from the sun and shelter from rain and wind? While it has diffusers on top, its primary role is as a greenhouse, so while they lessen the sun they do not provide true shade. It does provide shelter from rain, however, with its covered top.  Unless there’s a slight wind, that is, in which case rain will blow through the sides of the shelter. While this shelter may not exist during the winter, it’s still important to point out that it would provide no shelter from the wind.

View looking up from inside shelters, with diffusers diffusing but not blocking light

New shelter: View looking up from inside shelters, with diffusers diffusing but not blocking light

Does this shelter provide seating? The shelter does have a few benches to sit in. However they require a step up into the shelter to access them. As an able-bodied rider this is no problem for me, but for someone with mobility issues, this could serve as a barrier to access.

Seat inside seating bay requiring a step up to reach the seat

New shelter: view of seating bay requiring a step up to reach the seat

Finally, how easily can the street be viewed from the bus inside the shelter? The farther towards the end you sit in the shelter, the better view you have. However there are five walls in the shelter, each one impeding vision slightly. As a final insult, while I was examining the shelter, a food truck pulled off the street onto the sidewalk, and spent 5 minutes positioning itself near the shelter. Its final position was such that it perfectly blocked my view down 7th St.

View from inside seating bay, looking down 7th st with view blocked by herbs and a food truck

New shelter: View from inside looking down 7th St with view blocked by herbs and a food truck

As an aside, the purpose of this shelter is to be some kind of herb garden, but even there it’s a failure. The planter boxes are tiny and elevated in the air. The plants will not be able to develop good roots and the soil won’t be able to hold enough moisture without constant watering.

Ultimately, this shelter fails at nearly every aspect of being a shelter. This failure is especially galling because of the good work Metro Transit is doing with the Better Bus Stops program and the excellent slim shelters that are being installed where standard shelters don’t fit. Not only that, it fails at being an herb greenhouse. It’s a complete failure and Metro Transit should be ashamed instead of proud of this shelter.

About Peter Bajurny

Peter rents a single family home in the Corcoran neighborhood of Minneapolis, which he shares with his wife, two cats, and a transient boarder roommate. He is a board member of the Midtown Greenway Coalition, and tweets very thoughtfully as @FISHMANPET. Opinions expressed are his own.