CINCINNATI -- As more and more attention surrounds the state of Metro's bus stops, advocates might take bus stop maintenance into their own hands.
During Tuesday's Education, Innovation and Growth Committee meeting at City Hall, representatives from grassroots group the Better Bus Coalition proposed launching an "adopt-a-stop" program in which volunteers would donate time and funds to keeping bus stops clean and providing benches or shelters where they are absent.
Think of it like the Adopt-a-Highway program except for bus stops, said coalition volunteer Mark Samaan during Tuesday's hearing.
Samaan said most of the cost associated with bus stop upkeep is labor.
"If we can get the sweat equity, then you're looking at a much-reduced cost," he told the committee.
If implemented, the program would take a two-pronged approach to find volunteers to maintain bus stops' cleanliness and bench or shelter infrastructure. For stops in mostly residential, lower-density areas, Samaan said the coalition would seek out residents and individuals to sponsor a stop's upkeep. It would target businesses or other organizations for stops in the denser neighborhood business districts.
When it comes to involvement from the city or the transit agency, things start to get tricky. Committee chair P.G. Sittenfeld pointed to the legal ambiguity still surrounding city-sanctioned benches at bus stops.
City code currently prohibits the installation of benches at bus stops after a decades-long period during which the benches started to resemble blight across multiple city neighborhoods.
However, roughly two years ago, City Council called for a halt to the benches' removal throughout the city over concern that removing the benches could have a disproportionate impact on elderly bus riders or riders with physical disabilities.
Now, City Council wants more input from Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority about what size advertisements potential contractors would require to agree to pay for new benches or shelters at bus stops.
Councilman Chris Seelbach blamed the transit agency for the delay in obtaining new benches for more stops.
"This is a total failure of the leadership of SORTA and the SORTA board," he said.
Cincinnati Metro was a candidate for North America's "sorriest" bus stop in a national online contest this summer. The Metro stop on Daly Road near Pinehollow Lane in Springfield Township advanced through the contest to the final round before Metro ultimately moved the stop to a different, nearby location.
The "sorry bus stop" nomination jump-started a conversation around the state of Metro's stops, an issue SORTA staff and board members say they've been aware of for more than a year.