In 2003 the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority received a grant from the United States Department of Transportation to sponsor a competition for the design of a dozen or more bus stop benches. From the bits and pieces I’ve been able to find on the Internet it appears that Springfield’s downtown “Business Improvement District” played a role in administering the grant. The program was called “Butt Stop Art”; not the worst cutesy name ever created.
I went to the unveiling of the new benches at the Springfield Museums. While it was understood that these “Butt Stops” were to grace “bus stops”, as their whole raison d’être was “Transit Enhancement”, it was thought that presenting them all in a space like the Quadrangle would make it easier for the public to see all of them. At least in retrospect, I disagree. To me it seems as though displaying each piece only at its selected destination would encourage people to venture out…perhaps even ON A BUS…to see them all.
It turns out that many of those “Butt Stop” bus stop benches…maybe half or more ARE STILL AT THE QUADRANGLE. They’ve been moved around and re-situated within the “museum’s property” (more on that soon!), but over a decade later, here they remain, nary a bus in sight:
I think we have the classic “don’t let the kids play on the play set, they’ll break it” mentality. I once had a department chair at school who discouraged use of the language lab; too much use might damage the equipment! Yes, these benches might be somewhat worse for wear by now, exposed to behaviors of a non-museum going public, but the entire point of the exercise…what with the D.O.T. funding and all for BUS STOPS… was to enhance the transit experience and show bus riders a little TLC for their tushes. As I recall there were only two, maybe three templates which artists could choose from specifically because it was thought those designs could hold up to the difficulties of being out among the general public.
It’s time for these benches to do what they were created to do: give tired PVTA riders a place to sit while waiting for the bus.