Fort Collins doubles ADA accessible bus stops

Serena Bettis

In a community input survey conducted by the City of Fort Collins for the 2019 Transit Master Plan, 26% of people said public transit in Fort Collins doesn’t go either where they want or when they want.

In the same survey, 59% of people said they would support “big changes” to enhance the Transfort system. A major change demanded by the community is the updating of bus stops across the City to make them compliant with standards set by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

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“We’ve been going to City Council and ask that they just dedicated more funding to it and to make sure that it’s a priority and recognize that where we are isn’t OK,” said Cari Brown, communications coordinator for The Arc of Larimer County. “It’s a matter of accepting, ‘We are where we are.’ In 2015, around 33% of bus stops in Fort Collins were accessible.”

Brown said 67% of bus stops are accessible as of 2019. This is an issue for citizens with disabilities, especially wheelchair users.

“If there’s not sidewalks getting up to it, it’s not accessible,” said Michael Devereaux, member of the Public Transit Action Group. “There’s outlying parts where there are no sidewalks, and it’s just an island there. That probably is the biggest (issue) if a bus stop is not complete.”

Widespread transit inaccessibility and high housing costs in Fort Collins create a barrier to community involvement for people with disabilities, Brown said. Finding affordable and physically accessible housing near an accessible bus stop can determine a person’s level of independence and opportunities for work as well.

Devereaux said the northern routes are less accessible, and many stops are made up of a simple sign in the grass or dirt on the side of the road.

“If it’s something that I can’t manage, I don’t go there,” Devereaux, a powerchair user, said. “But a lot of times, I just find a way to get around it. For a normal person, it’s just a step onto the grass, and you keep going. But you don’t have that option when you’re in a powerchair or wheelchair.”

Transfort has four main bus stop types — sign stops, bench stops, shelter stops and station stops. Kari Craven, a senior construction inspector for the City, said the sign stops cost about $3,500-$4,000 to construct, the bench stops cost about $8,000 depending on size and the shelter stops cost about $12,000.

I feel like … as a society, it’s too easy to forget that, ‘Oh, if we build this bus stop without a sidewalk leading to it, that means a whole segment of our population won’t be able to use it.’” -Cari Brown, communications coordinator, The Arc of Larimer County

“There’s a lot of factors that go into that based on ridership, which is the big one,” Craven said. “There’s also the existing conditions out there of what we can actually do within the City’s right of way.”

Craven said all stops must include a 5-by-8-foot ADA concrete pad so wheelchair users can safely and smoothly access the ramp that comes out of the bus. Bench and shelter stops may be located against the curb with the sidewalk behind the stop, or they can be set back from the street with the sidewalk in between the stop and the street.

Bench and shelter stops are also required to have a hitching post or bike rack, and shelter stops often have trash cans, Craven said. A full visual depiction of all possible layouts is available in the Transfort Bus Stop Design Standards and Guidelines packet.

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Craven said bench and shelter stops are ideal because they provide more amenities for transit users, and the City tries to build these stops in places with higher foot traffic. Additionally, an area may not experience high ridership initially, but shelter stops will attract more riders to specific areas along a bus route.

Brown said community members and members from The Arc of Larimer County, the Public Transit Action Group and the Commission on Disability have been attending City Council meetings since 2015 to ask that transportation accessibility is made a priority.

The response from City Council has been incredibly positive, and improvements in bus stop accessibility and general transit access with the adoption of the Max in 2014 have helped the situation, Brown said. 

To help with this, Craven said, Transfort received a $1.5 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration in 2018. According to a March 5, 2019, City Council agenda summary, Transfort anticipates the grant will help bring 80% of all bus stops up to ADA standards by 2020.

“I feel like … as a society, it’s too easy to forget that, ‘Oh, if we build this bus stop without a sidewalk leading to it, that means a whole segment of our population won’t be able to use it,’” Brown said. “Before providing a service to people, we need to figure out a way that everyone can have access to it.” 

Serena Bettis can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @serenaroseb.