By Julie McCay Turner
Editor’s Note: Bus shelters are on the Board of Health agenda for their 7 pm meeting in Town Center’s Flint Room on Monday, September 10.
Board of Health member Ann Kiessling, Ph.D. met with the Historic District Commission on Wednesday, September 5 to introduce a discussion about bus shelters, in the hope that autumn would be a good time to address such concerns before snow flies again.
“If public transportation is to be used, it has to be possible to get on, and off, the bus safely, even with children,” wrote Kiessling in a letter to The Bedford Citizen in January 2018. “Even if the town could designate responsibility for clearing a path from the bus stop to the bus, [the paths] would be greatly appreciated by the brave souls who ride the T in Bedford.
“Bus riders in Bedford have a tough time at bus stops year-round,” added Kiessling, “but especially in the winter. None of the town’s dozen or so bus stops has a shelter, and the single bus stop with a bench, across from the Old Town Hall, is separated from the bus entrance by at least a foot of snow. The same is true with all the other curbside bus stops,” her letter continued. “There is no access to the bus from the sidewalk, even if the sidewalk has been plowed. Riders must either step through a foot of snow or walk in the street until an intersection. This is especially a problem for children.”
According to Kiessling, conversations with MBTA officials disclosed that the T is not responsible for bus stop comfort or safety; it is the town’s responsibility. Kiessling’s inquiries of town officials have not revealed which Bedford department would be responsible for shoveling bus stops, with or without a shelter in place. T officials noted that bus ridership increases noticeably when shelters are installed, and bus stops are shoveled during the winter.
Should Bedford decide to embark on a project to install bus shelters, the Historic District Commission’s aesthetic judgment on the South Road bus stop at the corner of Bedford Common would affect all the shelters since a unified design throughout Bedford would be preferable. Drawings of possible shelter designs will be considered at a later HDC meeting. The fence around Bedford Common adds complexity to a potential shelter for the South Road bus stop since it is so close to the curb, with barely enough depth to allow the current bench.
There are also questions about ADA compliance since none of Bedford’s bus stops allows easy access between the street and the sidewalk. New shelters could incorporate space for wheelchairs along with a bench, and have bicycle racks nearby.
Planning Board Chair Amy Lloyd added that any changes to the bus stop on the Common should be undertaken with an eye toward whatever modifications might be undertaken to prepare the Common for Bedford’s 300th birthday in 2029.