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Ask Chicagoist: Vanishing Bus Shelters

By Sarah in Miscellaneous on Dec 6, 2005 3:20AM

busshelter1.jpgDear Ask Chicagoist,
Why are the bus shelters disappearing? I live in the South Loop and, one by one, the shelters are being spirited off and the cement is re-paved. The shelters were horrible and didn't protect against wind, rain or snow, but they were better than nothing.
Thanks in advance,
Mrs. Smith

Dear Fellow Passenger,
A bus shelter is truly a wonderful thing. We love that this simple bit of glass and steel can protect us from the weather, of course. But what sends us straight to street-furniture-daydream-land is how the bus shelter's modest form announces our circumstance: “we’re pausing, momentarily, to enjoy the sights and sounds of the city, awaiting The People's Chariot*, which will whisk us away to our destination, while we happily enjoy a great book." The little structure signals all that! The bus shelter also differentiates our particular brand of ‘standing around on the corner’ from that other kind – prostitution.

Onward. Our brother Steve has a friend whose uncle goes for donuts on Thursdays with a lovely chap who works for the CTA. We called him to see if he had any info about the South Loop shelthers. He informs us that JC Decaux, the French company that has the contract to run the city’s bus shelters, is changing about 75 shelters from two-panel shelters to three. Most of the 75 shelters-in-flux are in the Central Business District. Shelters are moved or changed for all kinds of reasons, from the practical (construction on the block) to the political (the Alderman tells them to) and sometimes, well, just cuz. He says you should contact your Alderman, as he/she might be able to get your shelter back.

We know there was loads of debate on this topic when JC Decaux received the contract, but we find it unfortunate that such an important city amenity (especially here in the City Where Snot Freezes) must be fueled by advertising dollars. If the City could just pay for the dang shelters, Chicago could join other cities with groovy community-building projects that center on bus shelters. In hippy Seattle, they give art supplies to kids and neighborhood groups, to make murals on their local bus shelter. Or we could take a cue from LA, where an artist found all of the public green spaces and posted the giant map in bus shelters. We guess we're just weary of those huge, ugly ads. We wish that actual transit users had some say in the images placed so massively before our weary, commuting eyes.

*Thanks, Aaron!

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