Friday, August 13, 2010

Bus Stops - crime hot spots or community building blocks?

Clean, good sightlines, territoriality - What is this bus stop missing?

Guest Blog

Megan Carr is a Livable Communities Specialist interested in SafeGrowth, particularly transportation’s role in shaping vibrant and safe communities. She runs her own consulting firm, Civitae, LLC. Megan recently participated in the AARP SafeGrowth programs in New Orleans and delivered a presentation to transportation authorities regarding safety and bus stops. A longer version of this article will appear in the upcoming ICA newsletter CPTED Perspectives.

Why is it that some bus stops act as hot spots for crime while others can serve as building blocks for community?

 Two studies by Loukaitou-Sideris in 1999 and 2003 examined the physical attributes of high crime bus stops in Los Angeles. What’s interesting about the findings is that of the nearly 20,000 bus stops, 18 percent of the total incidents occurred at just ten stops.

Findings at these ten stops indicated they were:

• Located at intersections involving inactive land uses such as empty lots and surface parking lots

• Lacked adequate lighting or nearby shops, public phones or police sub-stations

• Located near dilapidated and/or vacant buildings (83%)

Furthermore, movement predictors such as nearby alleys had an almost double crime incidence rate. Crime was also significantly higher at intersections near bars, liquor stores, check cashing establishments, and Single Room Occupancy hotels.

The Other Side of the Coin

In Los Angeles following the Rodney King riots in 1992, Mayor Riordan launched the Los Angeles Neighborhood Initiative designed to restore people’s sense of ownership in their communities. Recognizing that bus stops can function as focal points for communities, the organization developed community plans starting with placemaking improvements at bus stops.

Project for Public Spaces was hired to assist neighborhood groups who were each given a grant to develop a bus stop area plan. Many positive outcomes followed as a result. From the initial $100,000 seed investment, a vacant lot in North Hollywood was transformed into a beautifully landscaped transit park with illuminated bus shelters, matching benches, information kiosks and kiosk art. Eight new businesses were attracted to the intersection filling formerly vacant facilities.

An additional $500,000 was invested in property improvements and $60,000 in private funding was invested in the park. Consequently, 30 new jobs were created in the vicinity of the bus stop.

The project employed a placemaking approach that encompassed what 2nd Generation CPTED calls Community Culture. It included fa├žade improvements, pedestrian walkways, pedestrian-oriented lighting, public art and plentiful landscaping providing needed shade and defining pedestrian areas.

By making improvements to the site, riders today benefit from natural surveillance and amenities from nearby businesses in addition to a more aesthetic and comfortable bus experience.

These examples provide valuable lessons on the importance of site design at bus stops. From reducing the opportunity for crime to supporting local economic development, investing in quality public spaces at bus stops is a worthy focus for community redevelopment.

1 Reply so far - Add your comment

Gary Toth said...

Great writeup Megan!

Interesting isn't it,that almost 50 years after Jane Jacobs released the book that "revolutionalized planning", that professional disciplines still keep trying to intellectually figure out how to "fix" communities and places. Yet Megan's blog reminds us that if we take the time to observe what is working, we will find the solution right in front of our noses and not in Architecture and Urban Design studies imposed on neighborhoods: if you want the undesirables to leave, make the place desirable for the rest of us.