We are approaching the time of year when people will begin to break out their swimsuits, jet skis, and boats. It will be summer again soon. And if you ride the city bus here in Jacksonville, don't forget to take your umbrella with you every single day. That is because the sun can be harsh. Not only that, but you'll need your umbrella to protect you from the daily summer thunderstorms. Don't expect to find shelter at a bus stop. That's because less than 5 percent of the bus stops in Jacksonville have a shelter.
This is a problem that was first pointed out by the Times Union a little over two years ago in an editorial. They contrasted the number of the city's sheltered bus stops with Orlando and Tampa. In those cities, the leaders have been wise to contract with large advertising companies (who have been more than willing to oblige) that pay for the construction and maintenance of the shelters, in exchange for the right to tastefully advertise in those locations. Jacksonville builds between 15 and 20 new shelters per year. Orlando had built 190 between 2002 and 2005.
Unfortunately, such a contractual relationship could not exist here in Jacksonville because of the sign ordinance in the city. JTA officials have indicated that they would be willing to negotiate with advertising companies for such a contract if the City Council would vote to give an exception to the sign ordinance. Councilman Art Shad eventually took up the matter in 2006 and wrote up a bill that would provide the exception. Unfortunately, the bill died last year as Shad said that he "didn't have the needed support" in the Council and he wasn't willing to "go down in flames" over the issue. One of the bill's strongest opponents was Council Member Suzanne Jenkins.
When asked if he planned to reintroduce the bill, Shad said if given a 2nd term, it would be one of the first items he would introduce to the new Council. He pointed out that it would be "potentially a friendlier environment" for the bill, with term-limited Jenkins stepping down, and he felt he could get some support from some of the new Council Members.
Shad's opponent in District 6, Leslie Goller, said, "Although bus shelters are desirable... I am not in favor of allowing an exception to the Sign Ordinance in order to obtain the cost of the shelter in return for allowing commercial advertisement displayed on them." Goller suggested having a small plaque on the shelter that states the shelter's sponsor name.
However the politics play out, this is an important issue. If the city's leaders say that they recognize that mass transit is an unavoidable alternative for the near future, here is a grand opportunity for them to prove it. Following the successful models of Tampa and Orlando, tasteful advertising for free bus shelters is the way to go. And unlike many other projects, it won't cost the city a penny. JTA officials stand waiting. And so do many citizens at unsheltered bus stops across the city.
Most bus stops throughout the city are extremely inhospitable. With fast moving traffic, heat, rain, and no place to sit, waiting for a bus can be a very unpleasant experience.
Bus stop signage simply displays the route number. Several other useful things to include would be: how often it runs, where it goes, how much it costs, a route map, and the hours of operation. After waiting 20 minutes, a rider may begin to wonder if the bus is even running at all.
The majority of bus stops are just a simple sign. Compare this to the transit oriented developments that rail systems are generating all over the country.
In many places across the city, benches only exist because of charitable organizations such as The Jaycees. While these organizations do much with their volunteer work, they just don't have the funds to build complete shelters.
One of the few bus stops that provides a minimal amount of shelter for bus riders.
MODERN BUS SHELTER EXAMPLES
A large and modern design that includes space for advertising.
A standard bus shelter which includes advertising space. Ads such as these can subsidize the cost of these shelters without detracting from the environment.
This shelter includes a large amount of space for advertising, as well as a large route map with other pertinent information.
There is no limit to the creativity that can be employed when designing these shelters. Many cities have deviated from the standard shelter design in favor of something more attractive.