$1M exposed D.C.-area bus stop leaves straphangers out in the rain


(CBS News) Just outside of Washington, D.C., people are furious about the cost of a new bus stop. The price tag: $1 million.

And it may be the start of things to come.

There are some things people like about the bus stop -- it has futuristic architecture, it has an electronic schedule board, and it even has heating elements under the pavement to keep ice from forming in the winter. But when you tell people how much it costs, attitudes tend to change.

"I don't see a million dollars here. It's unfathomable to me that it could cost that much," one passenger said.

For bus rider Myer Hughes, it's not just the million-dollar price tag that bothers him -- it's that the bus stop is so exposed, giving almost no protection from the weather. Asked what it's going to be like when it's raining, Hughes said, "It's going to be like you're standing in the rain, and you can't sit down on the metal in the cold."

Older bus stops nearby do shield passengers from the weather, and they cost just $30,000, which means you could build more than 30 of those bus stops for the price of one of the newer models. A million dollars would also pay for a year of unemployment benefits for 50 people; Head Start for a year for 138 children; or a year of medical care for 845 Virginia veterans.

Nina Hunter said, "There's so many other things they could be doing with their money than spending the money -- they say they're broke, but then they spend a million dollars on a bus stop? Come on, I think that's crazy."

What makes some people even crazier is that Arlington has plans to build 23 more of the so-called super-stops at just under a million dollars a piece.

But Arlington Transportation Director Dennis Leach says the county will analyze the lessons learned from this experience before spending more taxpayer money on bus stops. Leach said, "We're looking carefully at what our riders tell us about it before we actually launch in to a much larger program. And we're absolutely committed to updating the design and driving the cost down."

Mark Aesch, who advises cities on how to make public transportation more efficient, calls the bus stop the Taj Mahal of bus shelters. "You know, they've called these things 'super stops,'" he said. "It seems it would be better equipped if we maybe called them super soakers because the taxpayer is clearly getting hosed here."

Even in Washington, D.C., which depends on government spending, some don't understand how this bus shelter could cost $1 million. Some local officials are calling for an investigation to find out exactly where the money went.

CBS News' Chip Reid noted the stainless steel seats are so cold, you can't sit on them in the cold March weather. For Reid's full report, watch the video in the player above.