Bus shelters are vital to a successful transportation system in Los Angeles County. Over 80% of Metro riders use our bus system, and for these riders, bus shelters provide shade from extreme weather as we face an ever-warming planet and weirder weather, create a more comfortable and safe journey for bus riders, and address the inequitable distribution of shade in Los Angeles. Shelters are also vital to seniors and parents, and are a vital climate adaptation strategy as we look for ways to keep people cool during extreme heat.
Despite this, Los Angeles was notorious for having few bus shelters due to a lack of funding, bureaucratic hurdles, and a street homeless population that used them for shelter. There was no better example than the infamous “La Sombrita” which exposed how little shade we have and why.
Starting as early as 2019, Move LA began to participate in a conversation on the future of the “Sidewalk and Transit Amenities Program” in the City of Los Angeles. A twenty-year contract on bus shelter advertising needed to be renewed and the City began to do public outreach to understand the needs of community members.
Move LA engaged in this public process along with leaders from Investing in Place, Climate Resolve, Alliance for Community Transit-Los Angeles (ACT-LA), SLATE-Z and others. We wanted to see a more equitable distribution of bus shelters but one that also increased the number of shelters. A report by the TransitCenter just a year earlier looking at what makes a bus stop found that in the same time period, with the same contractor, New York City installed twice as many bus shelters. SLATE-Z, Investing in Place, and Pacoima Beautiful received a grant for a Bus Shelter Blitz to install bus shelters in Council District 8 and 6; ultimately, less than half of the planned shelters were actually installed, due to challenges with the bureaucratic process. This was, unacceptable.
Through public advocacy at City Council meetings, community workshops, and meetings with advocates and agency staff, Move LA made the case for streamlining the process to site and install bus shelters throughout the City, focusing on communities with clear equity needs such like Pacoima, Winnetka, Boyle Heights, and South Park, but also job-rich communities like Century City, Westwood, and North Hollywood because bus shelters are needed both where you come from and where you are going.
However, we were skeptical about the City’s commitment to transforming its bus shelter program and concerned that elected officials would drag their feet on necessary decisions. So, we began to draft legislation that would require that a municipal government anywhere in California would have to site a bus shelter within 60 days. In 2021, we sponsored Assembly Bill 1975, authored by Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian. This bill proposed making bus shelters a matter of state concern and was written to require cities to include bus shelters in their complete streets plan and streamline the permit approval process.
Despite a long list of supporting organizations, municipal governments felt the language was too strong and the bill died.
We realized we had to elevate the issue of bus shelters in the public consciousness if we were to be more successful with making policy changes. We began to work with our Aging & Disability Transportation Network to identify just how few bus stops had a shelter. It turned out that LA Metro had assessed every single bus stop as part of its comprehensive re-do of the bus system, the NextGen Bus Plan (which we also played a significant role in getting passed).
We were not deterred. While the City of LA moved forward a proposed contract with a new contractor--Tranzito-Vector--for its bus shelter program, we began to re-write our bill and added key allies like the Greenlining Institute, AARP, and Streets for All. Our bill in 2023, authored by Assemblymember Isaac Bryan, proposed that transit agencies provide data on their street infrastructure to a central source so that all of us could easily find the nearest bus stop through Google Maps, Apple Maps, or another mapping program. Sadly, this bill did not make it out of the Senate due to opposition from the agency.
But leaders in Los Angeles were listening and they had read our research, conducted collaboratively with the Lewis Center for Urban Policy, that found that only 25% of bus stops in LA County have some sort of bus shelter and fewer than 40% include a bench. Climate Resolve did a "Hottest in LA" bus stop map and bracket, elevating the issue by having riders and residents vote on the hottest bus stop in the region. This led to the LA Times Editorial Board writing about the need for funding bus shelters.
Shortly after, City leaders not only approved a bus shelter program with the goal of covering 75% of bus stops in the City with a bus shelter, streamlined the siting process, and dedicated $30 million in the budget to jump start the program, which nows has the City own this public infrastructure and not the contractor. Councilmembers Bob Blumenfield, Paul Krekorian, and Nithya Raman drafted an ordinance that would dedicated a portion of ongoing revenue form bus shelter advertising to more shade and bus shelters.
We again mobilized advocates to support this ordinance and for the Mayor to sign off on the $30 million expenditure as part of the StreetsLA program, which will rehab over 230 shelters and install 50 new shelters. This major City investment will be supported by a commitment from LA Metro to install 400 new bus shelters in the North San Fernando Valley as part of its plan to increase bus service there—a Measure M funded project. You can read all about the program here on Mayor Bass’s website.
This is all very exciting news and we will be tracking both the money and the installation of bus shelters in Los Angeles as this program proceeds.
There are so many people who helped to get us to this point including Investing in Place, AARP California, CALIF, the Greenlining Institute, Climate Resolve, Tranzito-Vector, StreetsLA,