Pacifica bus riders could be left in coldBy Edward Carpenter
The county's bus operator could remove bus shelters in the city, leaving riders exposed to the foggy, coastal elements if a six-month run of vandalism isn't put to a stop.
Pacifica's seven bus shelters have had their glass walls smashed 21 times since September, costing SamTrans a total of $15,000 to repair, agency spokesman Jonah Weinberg said.
While vandalism occurs throughout the bus system, notably at a couple of Daly City locations, there has never been such a sustained and repeated case of it, Weinberg said. Without help from local police and the community SamTrans could be forced to remove the shelters, leaving in place benches or nothing at all, he said.
Shatterproof glass is not a solution, because while it is more durable than regular glass, it still needs to be replaced when smashed and costs more, Weinberg said.
The vandalism spree comes as CBS Outdoor, formerly Viacom, prepares to begin a multi-year project to install new shelters throughout the county.
CBS will pay to replace and upgrade about 200 bus shelters in the county in return for the right to advertise to drivers and commuters on the street.
CBS is expected to start installing shelters this summer along some portions of El Camino Real, but new shelters are not expected to be installed in Pacifica for at least a year.
While vandalism is certainly a concern, removing bus shelters would punish regular riders, Mayor Pro Tem Jim Vreeland said. "I think that would be a tragic mistake if they did [remove the shelters]," Vreeland said.
Rose Beebee, Pacifica senior services information referral coordinator, said seniors in particular could suffer if shelters are removed.
"I see about 20 seniors a day catch the bus right out in front of the Pacifica Community Center [Crespi Drive and Highway 1] heading to the grocery store or doctors appointments," Beebee said. Aside from senior citizens, she also sees mothers with toddlers waiting at the bus stop, she said.
The 15-year deal between SamTrans and CBS - which would allow advertising at bus shelters for the first time - is worth about $9.2 million. SamTrans has allowed advertising on its buses since 1996 and on its sister-agency trains, run by Caltrain, since 2004.
SamTrans expects to save about $144,000 a month in bus shelter maintenance costs. After rebuilding 202 shelters over three years, CBS will be responsible for repair, graffiti abatement and trash removal at all but a handful of rural shelters, officials said. A shelter costs between $5,000 and $10,000 to build, officials said.
Tobacco and alcohol advertisements are prohibited on the shelters by both state law and the SamTrans/CBS agreement, officials said.
Copyright ©2007 Peninsula Examiner. Published 02/21/2007.