Silver Spring recently snagged first prize in an extremely undesirable competition.
The “America’s Sorriest Bus Stop” contest began with a field of 16 competitors, which online voters winnowed down to just two: Silver Spring and Kansas City, Missouri.
The Kansas City stop, which serves Kauffman Stadium, easily could’ve topped the rest of the competition. It has no shelter or signage, is poorly lit and sits next to a highway requiring riders to cross four lanes of traffic. But for the sheer danger factor alone, voters in the contest recently chose the Silver Spring stop in a blowout — more than 850 votes compared to approximately 200 for Kansas City.
Bus Patrons ‘Fear for Their Lives’
It’s difficult to know where to begin in describing the shortcomings of the “winning” Maryland bus stop, located on Colesville Road, also known as Route 29, in Silver Spring.
Some of the problems include:
- The location on a busy, six-lane, dangerous road.
- No crosswalk or sidewalk.
- Lack of any crossing signage or signals to provide protection from speeding vehicles.
- Tiny space to house people waiting for the bus.
Silver Spring resident Dan Reed nominated the bus stop for the competition; he’ll win a Streetsblog T-shirt for his efforts. Reed told The Washington Post that the stop, which he passes daily, is “pretty awful.” There’s “literally no way” to get to or from the stop, he noted.
Many area residents took to the Streetsblog site saying they fear for their lives because of the state of the Silver Spring bus stop. One resident commented that getting to the bus stop is the “scariest, craziest thing.” Some residents simply won’t use the stop or let their children use it for fear of a serious accident.
Residents note that the stop could be improved with a pedestrian bridge to get across the busy highway — or at least a street light to improve the abysmal lighting situation. They also say the reason for the stop’s low ridership — only about 13 people per day — is the dangerous positioning and lack of safe access.
A Montgomery County spokeswoman argued that the bus stop is ADA-accessible — but getting to the stop is difficult at best because of the extremely dangerous road.
Government Officials Point Fingers
Montgomery County improved the bus stop about six years ago by building a concrete pad for riders to stand on while they wait. Why haven’t further improvements been made, especially considering the complaints from residents and the nomination for the “Sorriest Bus Stop” contest?
Part of the answer lies in the fact that Silver Spring is an unincorporated community, and three different agencies bear some responsibility for the bus stop:
- The road is owned by the Maryland State Highway Administration.
- Montgomery County provides bus stop maintenance.
- Buses serving the stop are run by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.
However, officials from the three agencies disagree on which agency owns the stop and which bears ultimate responsibility for any upgrades. An SHA spokesman told The Washington Post that his agency does not have full responsibility for the stop “by any means.” He added that there are two other bus stops nearby.
Although the road is a state route, the spokesman said, “it is not always SHA’s responsibility” to build sidewalks on state roads because SHA does not own or maintain any other sidewalks throughout the state.
A spokeswoman for Montgomery County said that WMATA operates the bus stop and has responsibility for the signage and the pole. While the bus stop is within the right of way of SHA, the county is responsible for maintaining the stop for ADA compliance. She said SHA has responsibility for building sidewalks along the road.
The fact that every county in Maryland has a separate sidewalk ordinance — and counties are allowed to construct sidewalks on state roads — complicates the issue of responsibility for the Colesville Road bus stop.
We at DuBoff & Associates, Chartered, feel that “winning” this competition for the nation’s sorriest bus stop is unconscionable, and we intend to hold our government officials accountable. The people of Silver Spring deserve bus stops that not only comply with the letter of the Americans with Disability Act but that can be safely accessed by all citizens.
We’re launching a petition to have the bus stop increased in size and to build a pedestrian walkway that allows riders to cross busy Colesville Road safely. Will you join us in supporting this important cause? Please consider signing our petition today.