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82-year-old sits on buckets to wait for bus in Raleigh. Why doesn’t she have a seat?

Anna Johnson
·3 min read

Overturned shopping carts. Electrical boxes. Fire hydrants.

Sometimes there’s nowhere to sit at a Raleigh bus stop but on the grass and dirt.

Lenora Southerland uses two white buckets as a makeshift seat to wait for the bus near her Walnut Terrace home.

She even wrote a note on an index card asking people not to take them away.

“An 82-year-old lady put them here so she could sit on them until the bus comes,” the note says. “I got arthritis in my right knee. There is no seat to sit on out here till the bus comes.”

She’s not the only one without a seat.

Of Raleigh’s nearly 1,400 bus stops, more than 1,000 have no bench and no shelter.

‘I thought this was trash’

Jessica Peacock, a middle school teacher, found one of the buckets on her family’s property across the street from the bus stop on Levister Court on Monday. She stops by to make sure the former convenience store is tidy to avoid city citations and originally thought the bucket was trash.

“And I’m like sobbing,” Peacock told The News & Observer on Tuesday. “Because I thought this was trash and instead it’s something that’s been helping somebody out.”

She keeps a fold-up red camper chair in her car and decided to leave it for Southerland to use instead of the buckets.

“She said, ‘You know what, I’ve got you a chair,’ Southerland said. “I said, ‘God is with you.’”

Peacock also tweeted at the city asking if they could get a bench out at the bus stop.

“On Twitter I made sure to let people know that this is not a feel-good story,” Peacock said. “This isn’t something where you go, ‘Awww, that’s so cute.’ No. Because she should not be sitting on a bucket waiting on a bus.”

The city says there are no plans for a shelter or bench at the stop on Levister Court but there are plans to add one nearby on McCauley Street that’s on the same route.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” Peacock said.

“We are doing a great job of talking about investing in Black communities. We are doing a great of making plans to invest in Black communities,” she said. “But I am really excited to see the actions that are happening from those conversations.”

By Wednesday the chair was gone. But the buckets remained.

Bus shelter can top $30,000

There are 93 bus shelters ‘in development,’ according to a February presentation to the Raleigh City Council.

Raleigh plans to add 30 to 40 shelters this year, similar to the 31 installed in 2020.

Raleigh changed its bus shelter policy in 2019 to target bus stops that had at least 10 boardings per day. About 85% of boardings happen at just 310 bus stops, most of which have a shelter and bench. But still, 73 of the city’s busiest bus stops don’t have benches or shelters.

“By fiscal year 2023, 86% of all ridership will be served with a bus shelter,” said Andrea Epstein, senior spokesperson for Raleigh’s transportation department.

The average cost of a bus shelter and bench is $30,900.

Southerland has lived in Walnut Terrace, a 145-unit Raleigh Housing Authority neighborhood, for nearly two years. Very few people use the bus at the stop she frequents, she said. But she thinks more people would if they had a place to sit.

“It’s been a problem for a long time, but I hadn’t expressed it before,” she said. “How come people think Walnut Terrace don’t need no seats to sit in? No one’s going to walk down there just to stand up.”