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Asphalt Roadway Damaged at MetroBus Stops

August 8, 2013 Featured, Public Transit, Transportation 33 Comments

City buses are great ways to transport many people, but their weight can take a toll on roads.  Bus stops, in particular, take a lot of punishment. This #11 stop on Chippewa at Hampton is a good example:

Repeated weight of buses stopping on Chippewa just east of Hampton has messed up the paving.
Repeated weight of buses stopping on Chippewa just east of Hampton has messed up the paving.

Asphalt tends to move when it is hot and pressure is applied over and over. To avoid such a maintenance headache some cities & transit agencies are paving bus stops in concrete.

Source: Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Guidelines for the Design and Placement of Transit Stops, click image for PDF
Example of concrete paving at a bus stop. Source: Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Guidelines for the Design and Placement of Transit Stops, click image for PDF

These concrete bus stops aren’t cheap though, and with hundreds of heavily used bus stops the cost to upgrade all would be astronomical.

I’ve observed damage like this at numerous other bus stops. I’m not sure how much this costs the city to repair, or if remains until the road is resurfaced. Thoughts?

— Steve Patterson


Currently there are "33 comments" on this Article:

  1. guest says:

    Now you’re really opened up a can of worms. For a city close to 200 years old, streets have been repaved and repaved many times. The original grades are way below where the top of asphalt is today. That wreaks havoc with curbs, gutters, etc, all over town. There is no easy fix.

  2. JZ71 says:

    In Denver. I’m pretty sure that the transit district budgeted for and did the work on existing streets, while the city made it a requirement when streets were rebuilt. The challenge is in setting priorities, much like in making stops ADA compliant (similar costs and responsibilities). Do you do the worst stops, the busiest stops or do you do it section by section? One of the beauties of bus routes is that they are flexible – stops can be moved based on changing conditions. Bus pads (as these are called) are, obviously, much more permanent.

    • Wump says:

      in denver people’s shits smell like roses

      • moe says:

        It’s that green smoke in the air Wump! And the altitude too. Can’t forget that!.

      • JZ71 says:

        This ain’t no pissin’ match. Steve asked for thoughts. I don’t know how they do it in DC, but I have a pretty good idea how they do it in Denver. Bottom line, it costs money, and somebody’s gotta pay. If we want to do it here, it needs to be Metro, the local jurisdiction, MoDOT and/or some sort of transportation improvement district. The adjacent property owner won’t be doing it voluntarily . . . .

  3. Ahh, this explains why the Grand Blvd bike lanes have moguls. Never made the connection before.

  4. moe says:

    Well I guess one can always move to the county where the streets are paved with gold and there is no crime of course!
    But in the City. Yes, there are a few of these spots but I’ve found most of them in the right of way before stops and due to heavy trucks sitting at lights, etc. They can be annoying sure, but I think the City does a good job of staying on top such intersections. And the bus’s lift does come down over this so there is little tripping, etc.

    If I would prioritize things at bus stops, I would put covered benches and trash cans at all stops before a small issue like this.

    • JZ71 says:

      Agree. And bus pads are not the ultimate solution, if you continue with multiple asphalt overlays, on into the future. The two bigger-picture issues are concrete versus asphalt and what should a transit agency spend its money on? Concrete lasts longer than asphalt, and doesn’t ooze like asphalt in hot weather, but concrete does crack, takes longer to install correctly and costs more per square foot – it’s all about trade-offs, hopefully educated ones. And while we’d all like a clean shelter and empty trash cans at every bus stop we use, along with concrete bus pads (if needed), money is finite. Money spent on stop enhancements is money that isn’t being spent to put service on the street. In reality, it would probably require eliminating two or three complete, existing, routes to fund an infrastructure program that would actually make a noticeable difference. And if that happens to be one of the routes you use on a regular basis (that needs to be eliminated), you might start to rethink your priorities . . . .

      • moe says:

        But would you not agree that if a bus stop is not attractive, not seem safe, not protected from the elements, who’s going to wait for the bus? It’s a catch 22.

        • Exactly, the “broken window theory” applies here. Bus stops/shelters are the urban step child. Riders will be limited to the working poor and those who can’t physically drive. The poor will aspire to get a car to avoid 2nd class transportation, even though economically using public transit makes more sense.

          This is also an argument for streetcars, the construction necessary to pace the tracks in the street reduces ongoing maintenance costs from damaged streets caused by buses.

          • JZ71 says:

            I agree, better stops attract better riders. The challenge is in balance – do you invest in one streetcar line or in three-four-five bus lines? Do you provide better service to a smaller number of riders or shittier service to a larger number of riders? The way transit funding is structured here, with annual appropriations from the various counties served, infrastructure comes up short because everyone keeps asking why the other guys are getting more than we are? Want better stops and shelters? Either come up with more tax dollars or make it easier for advertising companies to place and maintain them along major streets. (If you go to places like Des Peres and Ballwin, they’re not allowed because “they’re ugly” and “add to the visual blight”.)

          • Transit infrastructure is funded like road infrastructure, federal funds + local portion from some source. In the case of the streetcar, the local funding will be a property tax for those who benefit directly, approved by voters within the transportation district.

          • moe says:

            Thank you for agreeing Steve on the broken window theory. Interesting thought there that streetcars avoid damage to roads and reduces ongoing maintenance. While that may be possible, I don’t find that alone to be a reason to support streetcars.
            On your other comment on infra funding, what I am finding is that the U City Loop has relied on over 80% funding from tax credits and private donations and only 3.5 million of the 44 Million total from a local tax…and it is not from a property tax but from a sales tax in a special taxing district. And this ongoing tax will barely cover the operating expenses estimated at 2.2. million yearly. So really, the residents in that district are not taxing themselves but the visitors. Much like the hotel tax in many cities. So I don’t see how a downtown trolley would find the necessary funding from a route that is devoid of enough residents to support a property tax, leaving it to a sales tax instead to be primary funding of operations. And if we use the U City trolley as an example, at barely a surplus of a million a year (assuming their full projections are met)…there is no money to expand the system down the road….not when it cost 22 million a mile to build.

          • The Loop Trolley and proposed St. Louis Streetcar are very different. The St. Louis Streetcar district would be very large, 3 blocks on each side of a 9-mile alignment. All properties would be taxed, but registered voters would need to approve.

          • JZ71 says:

            So you’re advocating to essentially dismantle Metro as the regional transit provider?! Every man for themselves? We already have rail transit between the main SLU campus and the new SLU law school, it’s called Metrolink. We already have a bus line operating on this very alignment, it’s called the Route 10. That’s not “good enough”? We now need to create a transportation district to build a new streetcar line, imposing a new property tax AND competing against Metro for scarce federal transit dollars?!

            We have billions of dollars in unmet transit “needs” throughout the region. We can either attack them with a cohesive plan (and system) as the goal or we can continue to throw out various individual projects, each with their local advocate(s), along existing alignments, and see which ones “stick”. We could easily build bus pads at EVERY Metro bus stop that needs one, for the money we’re talking about spending on the SLU streetcar, but hey, that ain’t nearly as sexy as a brand, new streetcar . . . .

          • Not at all what I was saying, you’d indicated I needed to find some way to pay for the streetcar and I was saying the process is well established and used in other modes. Federal funds + local match. Takes roads, for example, the state match is usually the fuel tax but that’s coming up short so state leaders are now taking about sales taxes and toll roads as possible solutions.

  5. RyleyinSTL says:

    This has always been a huge issue at Hampton and Chipp. In that particular circumstance it is a State issue I think due to Chipp being State Route 366 at that point. At any rate, it has been repaved a number of times over the last 6 years without the switch to concrete. I have always thought concrete was the solution and wondered why it had not been done.

    The small city I grew up in, which was a Nexus for northern Canadian truck routes, redid most busy intersections with concrete for this very reason….so it can’t be that cost prohibitive.

    • moe says:

      Now that you mention it, this is the reason that the Chipp underpass near Meramec/Gravois took so long to get repaved…arguing over ownership. But I thought the City traded maint. of 366/Chip/Watson for other roads. Intergovernmental issues do tend to over-complicate things.

  6. guest says:

    Yesterday, during the Cardinal game, a homeless man made a bedroom out of a covered bus stop, directly in front the patio bar area at Mike Shannon’s. He laid out cardboard as a mattress and was laying there for hours before and during the game. This all within 20 feet and in plain view of patrons in Shannon’s outside bar area. As far as I’m concerned, this is a far more serious concern to address than a few feet of rumpled asphalt.

    • Conditions of physical infrastructure and homelessness are separate issues. Are you upset you and others had to see a homeless person?

      • guest says:

        Yeah, I would say I am upset seeing homeless people turning bus stops into bedrooms. That’s a pretty inhumane situation and a direct reflection of how screwed up we are as a society.

        • guest says:

          And further, to be brutally honest, this whole STL urbanist obsession with the “built environment”, while so many of our brothers and sisters are suffering, terribly, from homelessness, crime, hunger, abuse, and more – all very urban issues by the way – makes me wonder…are our priorities totally out of whack? In the big picture of the human and urban condition, the “built environment” is very insignificant. *Very* insignificant. The plight oh the homeless, like the man sleeping on cardboard on the floor of a bus stop, is a lot more than pretty pavement on Hampton Avenue.

          • GMichaud says:

            You don’t understand the built environment, it is the stage of mankind. A properly built urban environment would supply jobs, make getting to and from jobs accessible to all including those who have to sleep on the street. Walk anywhere in St. Louis and you will see work to do. In fact we have jettisoned concerns about the urban and built environment to the extent we, as a society build on bottom land (see Chesterfield Valley for instance) that is better suited for crops. The examples are endless.

            The lack of concern for the built environment is a central cause of poverty and homelessness. The ignorance of Americans about the built environment is almost universal. The very place, the physical environment we live in daily and its attributes and art are not taught in school including high school and even college unless someone majors in architecture or urban planning.
            Your short sighted comment is exactly why St. Louis and America is in the situation it is in.

            It is impossible to overestimate the negative impact of decades of ignorance, just look at the urban sprawl and contemplate its impact on society. Homelessness, like crime are a major outcome of these poor choices. Study cities around the world and compare their homelessness and crime to better understand the impact of the built environment.

          • moe says:

            There is also “homelessness, crime, hunger, abuse, and more”….in very rural areas as well as urban areas. But in this case, it just so happens that for years it is a known fact that the county communities would transport, shuttle, drop (or whatever term one wishes to use) at the doorsteps of the City so they could go back home and claim “we don’t have homeless people”.
            The built environment is what makes all else possible. Are our priorities out of whack? Sure, in some areas they are. As Gm points out…the flood plains in Chesterfield adding to sprawl combined with more needless shopping malls….all so that the Jones can have the next, best, latest gizmos….at the cheapest prices while ignoring “our brothers and sisters” working in sub-human conditions overseas and then complaining about no jobs in America is certainly out of whack. But should Detroit’s “urbanist obsession” ignore their built environment or work to correct and improve it or just abandon it? And then what? Move to the suburbs to add more sprawl? Or what about rural America…places like Gay Illinois (pop. 757), or Perry Missouri (pop 693), or Leonard Missouri (pop 75)…places that have been decimated by Walmarts and loss of living-wage paying jobs? Should their “built environment” be left to rot?

          • guest says:

            Well, I could agree with you and GM if you said that a good built environment ATTRACTS more homelessness, but to suggest that a good built environment helps REDUCE homelessness? That’s ridiculous! Just look at San Francisco. It’s the mecca for physical beauty, liberal causes, and a dense, wonderful “built environment”, and its got more homeless than anywhere in the country. It’s a mess and the “built environment” hasn’t helped one bit. If anything, its made it worse. The idea that a good “built environment” has any positive effect on reducing homelessness is hogwash.

          • JZ71 says:

            Unfortunately, the more you “do”, the more homeless you tend to attract. One big reason we see the homeless concentrated downtown is that is where the services are concentrated – the built environment is secondary. If the services were concentrated in Maryland Heights, you’d find a lot more homeless out there.

          • GMichaud says:

            You don’t get it do you? A well done built environment offers economic opportunities, helping to alleviate homelessness. It is true as JZ says there are more services, let’s say the Peter and Paul shelter in Soulard, but that is also the built environment.
            As I said, Americans are so out of wack, many, if not most don’t understand the value of the built environment and it’s contribution to the quality of life for all income levels, not just the homeless.
            All you have to do is look at insane sprawl of St. Louis to get an insight and and a multitude of examples that the define the ignorance of the built environment.

          • Moe says:

            Liberal causes????? Yeah, whatever bull crap. Here is a list of the top 20 cities for homelessness as determined by the National Coalition for the Homeless: # 1 & # 2 are Republican (conservative) hell hole as well as quite a few others on the list.

            1. Sarasota, FL
            2. Lawrence, KS
            3. Little Rock, AR
            4. Atlanta, GA
            5. Las Vegas, NV
            6. Dallas, TX
            7. Houston, TX
            8. San Juan, PR
            9. Santa Monica, CA
            10. Flagstaff, AZ
            11. San Francisco, CA
            12. Chicago, IL
            13. San Antonio, TX
            14. New York City, NY
            15. Austin, TX
            16. Anchorage, AK
            17. Phoenix, AZ
            18. Los Angeles, CA
            19. St. Louis, MO
            20. Pittsburgh, PA

          • guest says:

            There’s something weird about that list. Little Rock, AK is higher on the homeless list than San Francisco? The writer must either have never been to SF to put a list like that together, or IS from SF whose aim is to mask the severity of the SF homeless problem. It’s epic.

            And as far as mecca for liberal causes, it was a reference only to San Francisco: mecca for liberal causes and magnet for the homeless. The daily downtown interplay between chic office workers and skinny-jeaned-tech-hipsters and the homeless they step over and around would make a great photo essay in the sociology of eye contact avoidance.

            But gotta love that great SF built environment!

          • GMichaud says:

            Maybe this will help. The three basic needs of mankind are food, shelter and clothing. (Although in the tropics little clothing is needed). All require and/or influenced by a built environment. In the case of food, it is not only farmland taken out of production, but storage, greenhouses, and processing, ie you need a bakery to bake bread.
            Your homeless scenario, where the built environment is superfluous compared to the homeless would require that homeless person to live naked in the woods, and assuming they could find enough fruit and nuts to survive, the first thing they would likely do after that is build a shelter of some type.
            Ah, that pesky built environment. Without the built environment your homeless person would also not be able to feed and clothe themselves. And neither would you.

          • JZ71 says:

            The “built environment” encompasses many levels and meanings. Yes, we all need shelter, be it a tent, a double-wide or a penthouse. But the built environment also defines the urban experience – the CWE ain’t Wentzville, solid brick ain’t vinyl siding, and suburban sprawl ain’t dense and urban.

          • JZ71 says:

            The title of the report you’re referencing is the “20 meanest cities”: http://www.nationalhomeless.org/publications/crimreport/meanest.html . . . I’m not surprised by the top two, nor by the fact that St. Louis is #19. Another group, the National Alliance to End Homelessness, came up with their list, and it does skew more liberal:

            10. Boston, MA
            9. Denver, CO
            8. Detroit, MI
            7. New York, NY
            6. Philadelphia, PA
            5. Portland, OR
            4. San Francisco, CA
            3. Seattle, WA
            2. Tuscon, AZ
            1. Washington, DC


            You find more homeless people where the weather is warmer, where are services available, where the government tolerates panhandling and sleeping in parks and where there are more young people, places like university towns, that do “lean liberal”. And while there is usually a decent built environment, as well, any correlation is coincidental – many of the same things that attract homeless people attract people with money.

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