Sunday, Aug. 24, 2008 | 2 a.m.
Most meetings of the county’s Bus Shelter and Bench Advisory Committee are largely filled with functionary paper shuffling, staff reports on bench widths and notes on bus stops for the next biennium.
Nothing in the experience of this group, which advises the Clark County Regional Transportation Commission and meets just six times a year, could have prepared it for Thursday afternoon.
With approval from her medical caregivers, Porsche Hughes, 26, was wheeled into the meeting by her husband, Martin.
Six weeks ago, Hughes sat at a bus stop awaiting a ride to her nursing assistant job. Patricia Hoff, 55, was there, too, when Steven Murray plowed his pickup truck into them. Hoff died.
Hughes’ legs had to be amputated from about her knees down. Wrapped in gauze and brown elastic, what was left of her legs pointed at the table of volunteer committee members.
What did Hughes say to the committee?
Read for yourself: “I listened to you speak a lot about the safety of the buses and bus stops and ... of course I’m very angry that this happened to me. As you can see, I’m a double amputee who was hit at a bus stop along with another lady who was killed July 7, 2008.
“I’m not concerned at all about the shelter and prettiness and what’s being done now. It shouldn’t take this long ... It shouldn’t take my legs to be gone, somebody to die. My life has been wrecked because of this. I’m a 26 1/2-year-old woman with two minor children and a husband. I can no longer work ... I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy ... I just hope something should be done, something should be done soon. I worked all my life so I wouldn’t have to rely on state agencies and state welfare, and I worked for my insurance.
“I have a 4-year-old son and an18-month-old daughter. We’re not going to be going outside running anymore, playing in the house, dancing. All that is ruined.”
How did the committee react?
“Saying we’re sorry is not enough, it’s not enough,” said Erin Breen, committee chairwoman.
Bill McCurdy said he warned the committee late last year that “we would be at this point.”
Another member, Larry Seitz, told the committee that after numerous discussions, county staff members always come back to them with “all the reasons that we can’t” implement new safety measures.
“The last time I heard that, I almost resigned from this committee, I was so disgusted ... How can you place a dollar value on somebody’s life?”
Didn’t the state Legislature recently clear the way for bus stops to be moved back from roadways?
In 2007 the state passed a law allowing the placement of bus shelters on public property, including public easements dedicated to utilities. Since then, about 90 shelters have been moved back behind sidewalks.
What about places where the property behind sidewalks is private property?
That’s apparently one of the snags. “Where it comes to an individual property owner, we have to depend on their good offices to do that,” Jacob Snow, director of the Regional Transportation Commission, told the committee. “If people say no, they say no, and there’s not a lot we can do about that.” At meeting’s end, Snow said the county has had problems with at least one business owner who did not want a bus stop moved off the sidewalk onto his property.
How often do vehicles crash into bus stops, injuring or killing bystanders?
For this year, the answer is three times through July 13, Metro Police reported to the committee. In one case, “debris struck two pedestrians.” In another, a pedestrian at a bus stop was seriously injured, and the third involved Hoff and Hughes. In 2007, four such incidents were reported. Though some resulted in critical injuries, no one was killed.
Is something going to be done?
The county has a contract with Outdoor Promotions to gradually replace many bus shelters. Snow said that where it is legally possible, shelters would be moved behind the sidewalk so they would be farther from the road. And after the crash that injured Hughes and killed Hoff, the transportation commission hired an engineering firm to examine every possible aspect of the more than 3,000 bus stops within its jurisdiction. That report is expected to be completed by the time the advisory committee meets again in two months.