Weather affects transit usability; many times it is for a small interval of time that the effect of a rainstorm, flood, hurricane, wind or snow affect transit. For some weather conditions like heat, cold or snow or a rainy season the effects can last for long intervals. A transit system has to make allowances for weather effects and respond to usability issues, especially for weather issues that occur often and for long intervals.
Snow is one weather factor in usability, it is a major one in my town and the only one I will talk about this time, but there are other weather related transit usability considerations.
Minnesota occasionally has snow especially when it is winter, like now. Some winters there is a lot of snow, some not so much, but it is not like snow in Florida so there should be a plan to deal with a typical 4 inch snowfall.
But, it seems from the street perspective there is not a plan. People and drivers deal with the snow and plowed drifts blocking access to buses and bus stops as best as they can. This is a huge safety issue for drivers as people constantly slip back under the bus trying to get out or in, especially old, young and disabled. Watching a blind person trying to use transit and negotiate a two foot snow drift partially covering the worthless advertising bus bench is a spectator sport where you hold your breath a lot. "Well", you might say, "when the snow is coming down and the plow goes by there might be a bit of inconvenience." Well nothing is happening, it is four days later and the drifts are now frozen in place. (Update: Dec 5th snow fell, Dec 20 my bus stop shelter was cleared, Dec 24 more snow and large drifts from plowing...) No one is cleaning out the shelters or stops and the "advertising billboards" that masquerade as bus shelters and benches are the still buried in plowed snow. Sometimes there are little slippery cuts in the snow drift that never quite line up to the bus doors...
If the city gives these stupid "street furniture" billboard-bus shelters and ugly badly placed cement benches to advertising companies without any corresponding maintenance obligation then who got paid off? Meanwhile another mom is trying to drag a three year old out from under the bus before the harried driver misses the cue of a glove lost on a snow drift and runs the kid over. Yes, this is a major usability problem.
The basic usability principles of safety and access to transit are violated when the snow blocks transit. It is obvious. But there seems to be no regular "snow emergency" plan to deal with blocked bus stop and shelters with any priority of heavily used stops and routes to lesser stops. There is no plan that is discernible to me or other transit users. It seems that the only transit stops that have good snow cleanup are maintained by local businesses when they clean the sidewalk and incidentally get a transit landing pad cleared. Metro Transit seems to maintain some shelters in a lackadaisical manner. Maintenance costs money, but does it have to cost lives as well?
A transit system that crosses political boundaries such as counties, cities and regional authorities cannot have a snow emergency plan that does not hold to the same standard or is not operated in many districts. What good does it do to board a bus at a snow cleared stop only to fall beneath the wheels when exiting into an icy frozen 2 foot drift? Usage of transit will not increase noticeably unless there is a consistent system policy of quick snow removal. Of course, my analysis of transit system policy shows a consistent goal to drive down ridership so this is not surprising that the Metro Transit system cannot handle a 4" snowfall, it is just part of the overall policy objectives of destroying government services and infrastructure.
A first step to test better usability could be to get a "snow emergency" plan, just like the states, counties and cities have for roads but make one for "transit" and clear the stops on routes in a priority system. Like a regular snow emergency plan all bus stops and transit shelters should be cleared within a couple days, not when the commercial billboard operators get around to spending overhead which seems to be 2 weeks and longer.
Part of a general snow emergency plan benefit may be to actually encourage transit use to keep cars off the road and let plows do the work they need to clear streets. But now, I think transit ridership probably drops when snow makes transit difficult to use and people crowd onto the streets with the plows. To test if a snow emergency plan approach works measure the usage of transit when the snow is quickly cleared. If the ridership does not go up or there is no noticeable decrease in crushed people or on time transit schedules then maybe go back to the current snow clearing priority scheme which seems to be "wait until it melts in May".