Public transportation is crucial to the everyday well-being of individuals, families, communities and businesses. It can increase economic development, promote sustainable living, and get people to where they need to be. These impacts are disproportionately felt by lower income communities, communities of color, and people who rely on transit as their main mode of travel. Access to quality public transportation can make or break a person's chance at economic and social mobility. Even during the recent ridership drop caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, many essential frontline health workers and service industry workers still rely on transit to get to work.
But what if transit stops and stations went beyond its basic operational services of getting people from point A to point B and also served as great public spaces that fulfills the everyday needs of people? Great transit stops and stations can provide dignified waiting spaces, are easily accessible and support those who walk and cycle, serve multiple uses and foster different activities, and most importantly, are neighborhood anchors that instill pride in the community. Here we have highlighted four transit stops (three bus, one commuter rail) that show how we can transform a utilitarian portal to somewhere else into a place in its own right.
As we know, one of the most important aspects of placemaking is community participation. We believe that communities know what is best for their neighborhoods, because they are the ultimate benefactors and users of these places and services. These four stops not only serve the everyday needs of the people who use them, but their designers also prioritized engaging riders, residents, and others in their creation. At a time when funding for transit is scarce and transit-oriented projects increasingly favor the white and wealthy, meaningful community engagement is especially crucial to serving the needs of those who rely on transit the most.
In the heart of a Latino community in Oakland is the Fruitvale Transit Village, a transit-oriented development project adjacent to the Fruitvale BART Station. After years of community engagement under the leadership of a community development corporation with a strong commitment to social justice, the village now serves as a neighborhood anchor where nearby residents can fulfill their daily needs and participate in community programming that reflects the community's Latino heritage. Read more.
The Dandora suburb of Nairobi is perhaps best known as the home of the city’s largest dump site, which poses serious health risks to those who live there. But the Dandora Transformation League, a community-based organization composed of local residents, banded together in an effort to bring pride to their community by improving and beautifying the area around the Stage 41/Cinema Bus Stop, which serves multiple highly frequented routes. Read more.
Inspired by Sacramento's parklets, two business owners in Albany, California, wanted to build parklets in front of their stores. The only problem? The space in front of their stores was a bus zone. They teamed up with the City of Albany and AC Transit to build the nation's first ever bus stop parklet, which is now used by the entire community of Albany. Read more.
The bus stop in front of the Academy of Music in Northampton is one of the region's most frequently used stops, but for some time did not provide a comfortable, welcoming waiting space for the many people who used it daily. With the help of Stimson Studio, the City of Northampton engaged in an interagency effort to revive the bus stop and the park directly behind it, which now serves as the ultimate hangout spot in downtown Northampton. Read more.
Anyone can submit their own favorite public space to our international Great Public Spaces database, and we want to hear about yours! Simply visit the database homepage and click the “Nominate a Great Place” button.