Creating Better Bus Stops in Durham County

STEP 1: The Challenge

Many bus stops that served newcomer families and their neighbors had no seats, lights, or shelter.

STEP 2: What information do we need and how can the community inform our response?

We talked to business owners, city officials, and transit officials. Then we conducted our own interviews and surveyed bus stop patrons. We found that many types of riders desperately needed seating, including parents with young children, the elderly, and people with physical limitations. Riders would sit on trash cans and overturned shopping carts or even bring their own plastic chairs to bus stops, all because there was no seating.

STEP 3: Unofficial Co-Production

Our engagement with the community taught us that you do not need decades of research to identify a self-evident truth. Riders urgently needed seats. Instead of answering this need, city and transit officials said they required more time to analyze data and provided legal explanations as to why seats could not be provided quickly. "The state won't let us do anything on their roads," the officials responded. We couldn't let newcomer moms continue to stand with their infants; so we began helping the transit authority address this issue. 

STEP 3: Unofficial Co-Production (continued)

We built our own seats and  placed them at stops where migrant parents with small children or the elderly waited for buses. These conspicuous locations could not be missed by city and transit officials. (This seat was located on Main Street, right around the corner from one of Durham's busiest refugee resettlement agencies.) To riders and community members, we explained why we had placed these seats around the city.

STEP 4:  Official Pushback 

The city took away our bus seats because they said they made the sidewalk unsafe. (This was the notice the city placed on the seats before they took them away.) But, the city did let us collect them at the bus depot.

STEP 5: Official Co-Production

The city may have taken away the seats, but both the Durham Department of Transportation and Go Triangle, the regional transit authority, got the message. We began to meet with transit officials about the immediate need for seating and how to creatively address this challenge.

STEP 6:  Better Bus Stops

The city and the transit authority soon found bus seats that could be installed quickly. They have been installing these "Simme-Seats" all around Durham, including at some of the stops we identified. They even installed a new Simme-Seat on a state owned road and then began the long and involved process of getting permission from the State.

And we're not finished yet!