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Monday, March 31, 2014

A Meager Bus Stop

The Bedford Park Boulevard subway stop on the 4 train serves as a significant multimodal center, despite a complete lack of design or any attention to the comfort of the passengers. Looking at this site, three questions come to mind:
  1. Don't the passengers deserve to be treated better?
  2. Would better accommodations result in more ridership?
  3. Are there economic development opportunities at this hub?

The bus stop serves as a main transfer point for Bee-Line bus passengers from Westchester County connecting to the New York City subway system. There are also three New York City Transit Authority bus routes that connect here. Although it effectively operates as a terminal, it is configured as a few signed locations along the curb. The Bee-Line bus stops are located on the viaduct above the Concourse Yard for the subway cars, while the NYCTA stop is located next to a gas station.

The only amenities for passengers have emerged with a newsstand on the gas station's property and a mobile vendor or two. The newsstand has grown accretions over the years to expand and grow its business by meeting more passenger needs. The only shelter for the passengers is provided by the elevated subway structure.

Located on a desolate stretch of sidewalk with no adjoining uses, the Bee-Line bus stop receives scant cleaning. Windblown trash accumulates. Snow removal is inadequate. Yes, the MTA does clear the sidewalk to maintain pedestrian passage, but the piles on the curb become hazardous obstacles for the passengers trying to get on and off buses. The bus staging seems cramped as well, squeezed by free curbside parking, despite the vast expanses of parking in the surrounding blocks.

These conditions seem like enough to drive away anybody with alternatives. While it is difficult to forecast any potential ridership gains, even the most rudimentary consideration of sensitivity suggests that the most basic improvements should be able to pay for themselves. Let's assume that if Bee-Line decided to undertake additional snow removal, it would have to pay for two hours of labor to clear this stop after a major snowfall, at a net factored rate of $35 per hour. It would require only 28 additional paid fares of $2.50 to cover the cost.  These snow piles would discourage people from taking the bus for several days until they become more manageable. Some trips may be discounted fares or monthly cards, but it doesn't seem like it would be difficult to recapture 14 round trips over the course of two-to-four days affected by the snow piles.

Consider the unlikely event that the fares don't break even. The incremental cost of clearing the bus stop is still cheap insurance to avoid a costly slip-fall lawsuit.

Whether more improved conditions would result in greater ridership is somewhat more tenuous. That may depend on how much this aspect of comfort factors into the total trip, and the crowding and delays on the Lexington subway line pose a significant problem. The rather isolated and exposed character of this bus stop could certainly discourage use later in the evening, after the crushing loads of the evening commute have dissipated, especially for women.

Yet while the transit agencies might be able to provide some marginal cosmetic improvements, enlivening a dead streetscape is well beyond the power of their regular operations. What this location needs is a real transformation with new development. The true question is what potential would ever be feasible for construction over a portion of the subway yards. That could make for an interesting study some day.

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