After a study revealed that nearly 90 percent of the Loudoun’s 339 bus stops do not meet the standards of the Americans with Disability Act, county supervisors have asked for options to bring those up to code.
Those requirements range from the width of the sidewalk, to the size and slope of the landing pad where people get on and off, to the design of the bus shelter and surrounding crosswalks and signs.
Fortunately, despite needing to fix 305 stops, Loudoun can afford the work relatively easily. The consultant that prepared the study estimated a cost of $2.8 million to bring the stops into compliance. County transportation staff members cautioned that was probably a low estimate, and said the actual cost could be 20-30 percent higher.
“If we’re talking in the realm of $2.5 million to $4 million in fund balance … we have that today,” said County Administrator Tim Hemstreet.
That amount fits into the county’s typical end-of-year surplus. Last year, after balancing the books on the fiscal year 2017 budget, the county had $84 million left. Supervisors spent $71.7 million on various projects, reserving $12.3 million to forward to the fiscal year 2019 budget, which begins July 1.
Hemstreet recommended bringing up the bus stop work again during that annual fund balance discussion, which the Board of Supervisors’ finance committee has each December. He said that was likely the soonest the county staff could bring back a meaningful proposal, given the work to determine permitting and right-of-way requirements. Many of the bus stops are in public rights-of-way or on private property.
Supervisors agreed to that unanimously.
“These are some of our most vulnerable people in Loudoun County, and they are doing their dead level best to get around, and shame on us for not doing more,” said County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large).
Transit and Commuter Services Manager Scott Gross estimated about 60 people a month in wheelchairs ride Loudoun’s buses. Hundreds of people take the bus in Loudoun every day. The busiest stop in the system, in Dulles South, sees on average 622 riders a day. Other stops, particularly in less densely-populated areas of the county, may see far less, even averaging less than a rider a day.
The county took over its bus system from a nonprofit contractor in 2014, when the U.S. Census Bureau changed the county’s designation to an urbanized county. That meant the federal government would no longer pay for bus service, and the county assumed responsibility for the system’s finances.