Cobb County commissioners will vote Tuesday on a proposal to conduct a study that would evaluate the county’s 250 bus shelters and recommend potential upgrades.
“It is anticipated that some bus shelters may need to be relocated, while some bus shelters may be damaged beyond repair or have reached the end of their useful life,” the proposal says. The study would look at developing new specifications for the shelters and would establish a strategy to sell and manage advertising.
If approved, the county would allocate about $125,000 for the study, to be performed by transit consultant Whitman, Requardt and Associates, LLP. Existing state grants already received by the county would fund 80% of the study, about $100,000 — the remaining $25,000 would be sourced from the transit department.
The plan is to conduct the study over a nine-month period and then proceed with implementation.
Interim Transit Director Drew Raessler said in an interview the county’s bus routes being altered in 2019 is one reason to review the shelters.
“We’ve got a policy that guides, based on ridership data, whether a (bus stop) needs a bench or a shelter or a trash can … we’ll also look at that policy to see if we need to make any modifications to the policy,” Raessler said.
Per Raessler, the total number of bus stops for the county’s 14 routes is between 600 and 700. Of those, 250 have shelters. Another 50 have a bench, but no shelter. The remaining 350-400 are stops with just a sign marking them.
“On an occasional basis, we need to go out, make sure that we’re assessing the condition, make sure that the amenities that we do provide our bus stops are appropriately located and serve the needs of the rider,” Raessler said.
Raessler also said the county would consider altering how it uses advertising revenue generated from bus stop shelters.
Cobb Countian Stephanie Goff takes the bus regularly. She feels the county’s bus stops are mostly adequate, but hopes the county considers adding more stops in addition to upgrading existing ones. But she would welcome more benches and shelters.
“A lot of them, especially on South Cobb Drive, don’t have this (a shelter), so when it rains, people get caught out,” Goff said.
Cleanliness is also an issue, Goff feels.
“Homeless people, they have to sleep out here because they don’t have nowhere to go … a lot of times they have to use the bathroom, you can smell the urine and stuff … they could keep it clean a little more than they do,” Goff said.
Commissioner Keli Gambrill said that while she expects the study to be approved, she has reservations. Ridership has dropped due to the pandemic, she said. Plus, the commission recently approved about $48,000 to fund a study from consultant Kimley-Horn, which will explore an expansion of CobbLinc bus service into underserved areas. Among the transit ideas the firm has proposed is an “on-demand” service, which would serve residents who don’t live near existing bus routes.
Gambrill feels the study could be avoided by focusing stop improvements on low-income areas.
“Another easy way that they could do it, and I know we don’t have our census information yet, is go and look at where your lower income housing tends to be,” she said. “Because that’s typically the population that requires or has more of a use for transit, and see how your stops correlate to where the need is.”