Discussion continues in the comments section of this blog on the subject of Arlington County’s $1 million bus stops. I have not inquired into the precise reasons for this travesty, but I would suggest what part of the solution is — more competition. Designing and erecting a bus shelter is not like raising the Burj Khalifa or the Petronas towers. It’s something that a team of college architects or engineers could accomplish in a class project.
Arlington — hold a contest! Take submissions from the citizenry. You would be amazed at the creative ideas that gush forth.
The rendering above is a case in point. The design comes from Darlene Williams-Prades, a self-described inventor and entrepreneur from Capital Heights, Md., who saw my March blog post on the scandal and contacted me to share her own bus-shelter design. Her goals: protect occupants from the elements, make people feel safe, make it green — and make it inexpensive.
Note the solar-paneled roof, the security cameras, the panic button, the bus-schedule displays and the enclosure from the elements. Some of those are clever and innovative features. Williams-Prades estimates that a small version (two to four people) would cost roughly $30,000. Versions capable of sheltering more bus riders would cost proportionately more. Among the advantages compared to Arlington’s million-dollar fiasco, this shelter actually would protect riders from the elements! (See details here.)
Now, I don’t vouch for the design. I know nothing about bus stops. I have no idea whether Ms. Williams-Prades’ design will do what she says it will for the price she says it will cost. What I am suggesting is that there are lots of great ideas floating around out there, and local governments could benefit from busting out of their usual procurement processes. Indeed, I would go one step further. Bus stops need not be purely utilitarian. It might be fun to solicit ideas for ways to have them double as works of art. If street artists can transform buildings with murals, surely they can transform bus stops as well.
We can do a lot more with a lot less.