News

Most Palo Alto Shuttle stops don't accommodate elderly, disabled

Seniors want more benches for residents who can't stand while waiting

Palo Alto residents are questioning the lack of benches at Palo Alto Shuttle stops, which they say discourages frail or disabled people from using the free bus service.

The shuttle's two bus routes — the Embarcadero and the Crosstown — have a combined 71 stops, but there are benches at just 20 of them, according to city planning staff.

That lack has prompted one resident to wage an email campaign seeking a remedy to the problem, which at least one disabilities-rights group said might violate the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Resident Werner Wadensweiler has lobbied the city for two years to add benches at key locations, such as Rinconada Park, the Lucie Stern Community Center, the Main Library and the Palo Alto Art Center. Wadensweiler, who has a disability, cannot stand for long without pain, he said.

"There are many Palo Alto citizens, especially the elderly or those with an injury or disability, who would love to use the shuttle to visit Town and Country Shopping Center and the library and Art Center but cannot because it is too painful to stand while waiting for a bus.

"Using the shuttle instead of their cars would also help reduce the traffic problem," he said.

Cicely Coetsee, 90, said she struggles to get to the Avenidas senior center for lunch three or four times a week. Sometimes her son drives her to the shuttle stop on Newell Road; at other times she walks. Two weeks ago, she had heart surgery and now takes the shuttle exclusively, which comes once per hour, she said.

But waiting without a seat, even if it's only five minutes, makes the trip burdensome, she said.

"I find myself leaning against the hedge to support myself while I wait, or I lean against the shuttle-bus signpost. I'm an ex-nurse, and I know that I could fall quite easily," she said.

The city has not added more benches along Embarcadero because it borders residential neighborhoods, and some residents are opposed to having benches in front of their homes, said Ruchika Aggarwal, an assistant engineer for the city.

The same issue exists along the Crosstown shuttle route, which runs from the senior-housing complex Stevenson House on Charleston Road, along parts of Kipling Street in south Palo Alto, to Midtown along Middlefield Road, and along Newell Road, Channing Avenue and Lytton Avenue, ending at the downtown Caltrain station.

Benches do exist at key stops: Stevenson House, near the Mitchell Park Library; the Lytton Gardens senior housing and the Avenidas senior center. But large swaths of Kipling, Channing, Newell and Webster Street, where the shuttles pass through residential neighborhoods, lack seating.

Some downtown stops, including one of the closest to Avenidas, also lack a place to sit.

The city has taken some action, however. It added a bench on Newell near the art center about a month ago, Aggarwal said. A bench on Embarcadero Road near Palo Alto High School was added last year. Four benches will be added along the Embarcadero Shuttle route in the next three to four weeks: on Embarcadero westbound at Geng Road, on Iris Way, at Newell near Rinconada Park and at Lytton and Alma Street.

Staff will also assess the need for benches along the Crosstown shuttle route.

But one of Wadensweiler's requested spots, in front of Town & Country, remains under review. The city must assess if it can build a cement pad to support the bench, Aggarwal said.

In addition, the city wants to expand its 14-year-old shuttle service by later this summer, upgrading shuttle stops with new signage, benches and bus shelters, according to city documents.

Brandi Childress, spokeswoman for Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, said the VTA provides benches at many of its stops throughout the county for customer convenience. VTA installs seating at stops used by a good number of people or where two or more routes intersect.

But she added a caveat.

"Benches can cause obstruction to customers with mobile devices, so benches are placed at bus stops that provide an accessible pathway and include wide-enough sidewalks," she said.

Palo Alto City Attorney Molly Stump said the ADA requires that bus stops be placed on firm, stable surfaces with minimum widths and clearances to allow a safe and unobstructed path of travel to board and alight from a bus.

"The relevant standards and guidelines do not speak to seating, and there is no specific requirement for benches or seats at a bus stop. ... The city often goes beyond the minimum requirements of the ADA to ensure access to city programs when it is practical to do so," she said in an email.

"The Palo Alto council and staff are supportive of an effective network of public-transit options throughout the community and have been working actively with VTA and other transit partners to increase routes and ridership," she said.

But if the absence of benches precludes a person's ability to access public services, that could be a violation of the federal act, said Kara Janssen, an attorney with Disabilities Rights Advocates, a Berkeley-based nonprofit organization advancing the civil rights of people with disabilities.

"The ADA does require that all persons with disabilities be able to 'meaningfully access' all (public) programs and services, including bus service. ... If you can't wait for (the bus), you are no longer able to access those services. The ADA covers access to anywhere the bus goes. An even stronger argument is that it could cover where people likely need to go. Would that not mean also a shopping center?" she said.

Seniors represent about half of the average daily ridership on the Crosstown shuttle, according to city data. Combined, the two shuttles serve 140,000 riders annually.

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Margaret Fruth
a resident of Ventura
on May 3, 2014 at 9:43 pm

Margaret Fruth is a registered user.

I agree; as I wrote to the Palo Alto City Council on /27/2014,

Palo Alto Benched

Apr 27 at 9:42 PM


There have been a number of requests for benches at bus stops. Aren't these covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act?

Margaret Fruth


 +   Like this comment
Posted by NIMBYs
a resident of Downtown North
on May 3, 2014 at 10:09 pm

[Post removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Some-Numbers-Please
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 4, 2014 at 9:49 am

For the most part—the shuttles pick up most elderly people near group housing—such as Lytton Gardens, and Stevenson House. Other locations where shuttles pick up people are near intersects with VTA buses—such as on Middlefield.

The shuttles have historically not been all that well utilized, so putting benches in places where there is little traffic doesn't make much sense. The argument that more seniors and disabled would use the shuttle if there were more benches also doesn't carry much water without some real evidence that a significant number of these sorts of people are remaining in their homes because of the lack of benches at shuttle stops.

And what about other means of transportation for elderly and disabled? The shuttle only goes to a few places in Palo Alto. How do the elderly and disabled get to Stanford shopping center, or the San Antonio shopping complex? Not on a Palo Alto shuttle.

If there is a demand for benches—then by all means put them out. But this campaign for more benches is coming close to ludicrous, given the low use of the shuttles.

So --- how about some numbers, please.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Senior
a resident of Midtown
on May 4, 2014 at 10:01 am

I would really appreciate a stop at town and counrty village. I could get everything done that I need! Groceries, pharmacy, books and my hair done! Please consider this Palo Alto!!! I'm just not comfortable driving around the crowded parking area anymore! I've witnessed many fender benders, and yet it's a very convenient shopping area. Thank you for considering this PA!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on May 4, 2014 at 10:54 am

To "Some Numbers Please"
It's hard to believe that one of the richest communities in the U.S. won't spring for benches at bus stops. Such a simple and basic quality of life issue for local citizens.

Newsflash --most older people do not live in group homes with access to van service....even, or especially, in Palo Alto where people stay in their longtime homes at a high rate.

Also bus stop benches are not just for carless older people, People of any age can have a medical condition that make standing difficult. Anyone can have an injury and/or need to use the bus for any number of reasons.

Palo Alto seems to be getting meaner and stingier as it gets richer. New stories revealing such attitudes are becoming commonplace here. I hope a national news-service picks up on this kind of local story.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 4, 2014 at 11:27 am

I too am surprised at the backlash against the reasonable idea - being requested by seniors who reside here - of installing more benches near shuttle bus stops on main routes. OK, make the benches with the iron arm rest dividers so homeless can't go to sleep on them. Or make a SMALL bench that can accommodate ONE person; that should assist the individual seniors who need to sit down for a few minutes while waiting without having a full-sized bench taking up too much room. At times the shuttles ARE utilized from what I have seen, so I don't quite get the idea they aren't used that some have stated.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 4, 2014 at 11:30 am

"Palo Alto seems to be getting meaner and stingier as it gets richer" posted by neighbor

I'm with you on this one. It's not like this city doesn't have the money!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 4, 2014 at 11:39 am

Meanwhile SF has been removing benches because it attracts the homeless. SF bus stops contain single backless seats about the size of a swing seat which flips up when not in use.


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Posted by Some-Numbers-Please
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 4, 2014 at 11:41 am

> Newsflash --most older people do not live in group
> homes with access to van service

And why not? Van service could easily be provided by the management of the homes. Why isn't it? Vans go where shuttles can not. And given a small fleet of vans, that could run into the evening--far more mobility would be afforded people who feel they need this sort of service.

Just because something does exist today--why do you feel it can never exist?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on May 4, 2014 at 1:10 pm

TO: Some Numbers Please
You state that "Just because something does exist today--why do you feel it can never exist?" Strange phrase. Did you leave something out?

Are you saying that nursing homes should be the only residentlal/transportation option for the elderly? Or, that nursing facilities should provide transportation to all elderly in PA, even those living not living in those facilities? As stated earlier -- most elderly live in their own homes and apts. Do you have a problem with that?

The question is quite simple. We want as many residents as possible to use the bus, and some residents need to sit while they wait for the bus. Bus stops all over the U.S. and all over the world provide seating.

Only the wealthy in Palo Alto argue about cost of bus stop benches. It always amazes me how convoluted (and also totalitarian) the arguments from the anti-government folks get about the simplest public good. It is absurd, and just plain mean, to argue against bus stop seating.

What an embarrassment. Did the "anti-everything" PA letter writers learn anything at church this morning?





 +   Like this comment
Posted by Palo Alto Nana
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on May 4, 2014 at 1:27 pm

Isn't it time to replace the splintering damaged bench in front of Jordan, at the intersection of Middlefield and N. California near the VTA stop? PAUSD spent our tax dollars to remodel Jordan and did a great job, but the dangerously damaged bench suggests city neglect and contempt for pedestrians and VTA users.

People of all ages may need to sit, not just the elderly or lesser abled, but school kids doing homework, moms with hungry toddlers, or people carrying heavy loads.

This bench could also serve people waiting for the shuttle, which currently stops around the corner.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Some-Numbers-Please
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 4, 2014 at 3:29 pm

> You state that "Just because something does exist today--why do you feel
> it can never exist?" Strange phrase.

> Did you leave something out?

Yes. Should have been: Just because something does not exist today--why do you feel it can never exist?"

> We want as many residents as possible to use the bus ..

Who says "we do". Has this question ever been put to a vote? (I'm guessing you are one of the people who won't be using the shuttle, right?)

> Bus stops all over the U.S. and all over the world provide seating.

What a silly thing to say. Of course there are some seats are some bus stops all over the world, but to suggest that every bus stop in the world expect those in Palo Alto has seats is unprovable.

> It always amazes me how convoluted

Amazing! To suggest that before public money be spent on something that has very little use, at present, is convoluted thinking is itself beyond convoluted!

>(and also totalitarian)

And now we've moved into the stratosphere. Most people might use the word "totalitarian" to describe the governments of Nazi Germany, Communist East Germany, the Former Soviet Union, Communist China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Cuba .. and who knows how many other lesser dictatorships, over the past centuries. How in the world can anything found in this thread remotely resemble the totalitarian governments of these horrible governments? The use of that word should be offensive to anyone with the remotest sense of history, and a belief that common sense should have a place in a democracy.

Oh, and why should the City be the only source of funds for this sort of "public good". Why couldn't a group get a fund together and collect the money necessary to buy this seating. Groups like the Rotarians, or the Chamber of Commerce, or any of the various churches in town could be solicited for funds. Assuming that everything costs at least $1,000 (materials, labor and etc.), the cost of all of these benches would come to about $50,000. Seems like a nice project for one, or more, Palo Alto civic group. People seem to find money for the library--so what makes buying benches so out-of-line.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by MP Resident
a resident of Menlo Park
on May 4, 2014 at 4:14 pm

[Post removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 4, 2014 at 4:27 pm

As I posted earlier (see above...), benches could be installed that have the wrought iron armchair dividers, so each seat is for one person sitting upright OR a single-person small bench could be installed for the occasion, which some posters believe is so rare, that an individual needs to sit down. I HAVE read a number of appeals here and previously from elderly Palo Altans indicating they would indeed use the seating. It doesn't mean the seats would be occupied around the clock waiting for the bus. Sheesh! These few benches seem like a sensible city expenditure compared to a lot of the nonsense coming out of Palo Alto city government at top dollar...


 +   Like this comment
Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on May 4, 2014 at 5:29 pm

TO "Some numbers please"

Actually I am one of those people who need the bus, and I am also disabled. But, even if I weren't, most rational people (without a political ax to grind) see a need for public transit. Everyone can't drive --- and those who don't are mostly kids and old people who ride the bus.

Note that I never suggested EVERY bus stop in the WORLD has a bench -- you are just trying to provoke me with such an argument. But note that many public facilities and utilities right here exist 24 hrs. even though people might not be using them....i.e., stop signs just sit there even though there are no cars on the road.

Bus benches definitely fall into local government's health, safety, and welfare responsibilities. Your suggestion for private funding is nice, but no one is stepping forward for this or any other project these days. Maybe it's because Palo Alto's community spirit has sadly waned. Maybe they believe the city can afford it so they don't have to donate.

Anyhow, waiting for the "private sector" to step forward to produce public goods isn't working these days for bus stops.

And I'll defend my use of "totalitarian" -- used it because your argument reminded me of the Soup Nazi. Sometimes the laissez-faire libertarian claptrap gets very close to the complete other side. More important...why do you folks make EVERYTHING political?

[Portion removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on May 4, 2014 at 5:29 pm

TO "Some numbers please"

Actually I am one of those people who need the bus, and I am also disabled. But, even if I weren't, most rational people (without a political ax to grind) see a need for public transit. Everyone can't drive --- and those who don't are mostly kids and old people who ride the bus.

Note that I never suggested EVERY bus stop in the WORLD has a bench -- you are just trying to provoke me with such an argument. But note that many public facilities and utilities right here exist 24 hrs. even though people might not be using them....i.e., stop signs just sit there even though there are no cars on the road.

Bus benches definitely fall into local government's health, safety, and welfare responsibilities. Your suggestion for private funding is nice, but no one is stepping forward for this or any other project these days. Maybe it's because Palo Alto's community spirit has sadly waned. Maybe they believe the city can afford it so they don't have to donate.

Anyhow, waiting for the "private sector" to step forward to produce public goods isn't working these days for bus stops.

And I'll defend my use of "totalitarian" -- used it because your argument reminded me of the Soup Nazi. Sometimes the laissez-faire libertarian claptrap gets very close to the complete other side. More important...why do you folks make EVERYTHING political?

And -- I didn't see a response to the last comment in my previous post: namely "Did the "anti-everything" PA letter writers learn anything at church this morning?"


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of University South
on May 4, 2014 at 6:42 pm

I'd like to see more shuttle routes. How about a shuttle that goes from say Middlefield and Homer to Paly.


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