CITYWIDE — Bad news for bench lovers.
Big Blue Bus will not bring back the old aluminum bus stop benches, largely because they encourage loitering.
A $7 million project to replace the old bus stops with new, modern ones started earlier this year.
Residents (and City Council candidates) hate the new stops. The Daily Press has received dozens of letters and e-mails maligning the new design.
Residents say, among other things, that they fail to provide shade, they are uncomfortable, and they are ugly.
BBB officials responded with a promise to alter the designs with the intent of making them more comfortable.
Residents called for the old benches to be returned and BBB officials initially stated that this was a possibility. Not anymore, according to BBB’s website.
“In the seven to ten years since the benches were installed, BBB and the Santa Monica Police Department received many complaints about loitering on the benches,” BBB’s website states. “They were filed by riders and owners of businesses. As such, BBB was assigned criteria for evaluating design proposals … that included imperviousness to loitering by non-riders and vandalism, as difficult and uncomfortable as that may be to disclose.”
The benches, officials said, don’t meet those criteria.
Residents have complained in the past about homeless people sleeping on the benches and many of those opposed to the new seats say they were designed to keep the homeless away.
“In addition, some locations have very narrow sidewalks and the seating is very close to private residence or commercial frontage,” city officials said. “In these situations, the new seating is much more compatible to the adjacent residents, businesses, and property owners.”
Adding the old benches to the sidewalk, BBB officials said, may not leave enough space for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Residents have noted that the new, small, low-backed seats can also be challenging for those with disabilities.
“Although the ADA does not require transit agencies to provide seating at bus shelters,” BBB officials said, “we are revising the double-seat configuration to satisfy the public’s concerns.”
They will share the renderings of the revised seat design when they become available.
“We really have taken the constructive feedback we have gotten about the seats’ functionality, including the difficulty some riders have with standing up to catch the bus, to heart,” BBB officials said.