Students explore stakeholder perceptions of bus stops

people getting on busPhoto: Metro Transit This spring, graduate students at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs partnered with Metro Transit to explore the perceptions neighboring stakeholders have regarding nearby bus stops. The project—conducted as part of a capstone workshop focused on integrating land use, technology, and equity into transit planning—specifically aimed to generate solutions that maximize the role of bus stops as community assets. 

In previous work, including research efforts led by U of M professor Yingling Fan, Metro Transit investigated what riders think of transit infrastructure, but less attention has been given to the feelings of the surrounding community. This project explored those missing perspectives by focusing on neighboring stakeholders, defined by the research team as nearby property owners, business managers and staff, residents, and other users of the space.

The student team consisted of Joseph Ayers-Johnson, Kurt Howard, Casey Lauderdale, Joseph Polacek, and Jake Schutt. The course instructor was Lyssa Leitner, who is a transportation planner with Washington County.

To complete the project, students conducted a literature review, interviewed subject matter experts in transit and community development, and surveyed more than 60 neighboring stakeholders. Through these efforts, the team sought to understand how Metro Transit can contribute to a more positive perception and experience of local bus stops and enhance their role as community assets for both riders and neighbors.

The team concentrated on three issues: how neighbors feel about nearby bus stops, what influences these feelings, and how neighbors can become more engaged in creating better bus stops.

Findings illuminate existing positive and negative perceptions of bus stops. Positive examples include the value transit accessibility brings for nearby residents and businesses, and the role bus stops play in contributing to a walkable environment. Negative factors are primarily related to maintenance needs and the perceived attraction of unwanted activity such as crime.Metro transit operates more than 12,000 bus stops over 907 square miles in the Twin Cities region.

Based on these findings, the students developed 11 recommended actions to help Metro Transit strengthen the role of bus stops as community assets:

  • Expand the role of community ownership models.
  • Create an outreach strategy.
  • Harness civic energy by partnering with community organizations.
  • Share positive stories.
  • Create an information hub where interested parties can learn how to customize their bus stop.
  • Collaborate on municipal improvements.
  • Contract with neighborhood groups for community outreach and engagement efforts.
  • Replicate pilot surveys on a wider scale.
  • Leverage existing community events.
  • Run a pilot program of neighborhood-led bus stop customization and measure the response from riders and neighbors.
  • Consider creating a position to act as a full-time liaison between Metro Transit agencies and community members.

The goal of these actions, according to the students, is to help Metro Transit create value that is recognized by transit riders, neighbors, and policymakers.

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