Bus Stop Amenities - What Kinds of Things Should We Be Placing at Bus Stops?

A stop on Brampton, Ontario's new ZUM bus rapid transit network. Although the network runs on the street with not even lane segregation, it does feature upgraded bus stops. Christopher MacKechnie

Bus Stop Amenities – What Kinds of Things Should We Be Placing at Bus Stops?

Standard bus stop amenities include shelters, benches, and safety enhancements and are placed at stops which have enough usage to warrant their expense.  It is helpful to classify your bus stops into different categories to ensure that amenities are placed effectively. 

In September 2015, Medium.com had an article describing two new Los Angeles bus stops </a>.

  These bus stops, located near City Hall, have been outfitted with WiFi hotspots, a USB charging station, transit information displays, and LED lighting.  In fact, upon pushing a button the shelter will tell you the next bus departure times, so there is no need to call a number, text a number, or look at an app to get vehicle information.  I welcome any advance in transit information provision over the traditional phone call, which often results in convoluted phone trees that makes one wish you were calling the cable company customer service line instead.

I am less excited about the provision of charging stations.  First, a good public transit system will never leave you waiting more than about five minutes for a bus – far too little to recover more than one or two battery percentage points on your phone.  Note that a bus shelter is far different from an airport departure lounge in terms of phone charging needs, with a five minutes wait and twenty minute bus ride compared with a three hour layover and up to fourteen hour airplane flight.

  Second, the charging station adds a new maintenance element that existing bus stop cleaners need to deal with and may not have the skill to deal with.  Even if we are not concerned with the electricity costs of the charging itself we should be concerned with higher maintenance costs.  Finally, the presence of charging station gives individuals an excuse to loiter.

  Loiterers have a tendency to scare passengers away from a bus stop, which already gives the criminal element an excuse to be hanging out.  Many if not most transit agencies have removed at least one shelter or bench because of complaints it was being used by people engaging in criminal activity.

Similar arguments apply in terms of the bus stop being a WiFi hotspot.  While I am in favor of anything that makes waiting for a bus less onerous, the priority should be to minimize the time waiting for a bus.  Considering that most people have data plans robust enough to allow for emailing and casual web browsing, a WiFi hotspot really seems to be only necessary for sending or receiving large files or for viewing video.  How much of the latest episode of Game of Thrones will you get through while waiting ten minutes or less for your bus and how attractive will your latest phone look to others during your wait?

Lighting at bus stops is a huge issue and LED lighting, by reducing electricity requirements to a level that can be satisfied by installing roof-mounted solar panels to the shelter, is allowing for stops to be more welcoming at night without the large hassle of installing and maintaining hardwired connections to the local power utility.

I am strongly in favor of increasing the use of technology in the transit industry.  However, we should be spending our resources on stop essentials that will make daily use of transit more bearable.  The best people to ask what kind of amenities we should have at bus stops are the passengers themselves, not planners (who do not also take transit), not technology people, and not advertising companies who located shelters based on where they will attract the most revenue and not necessarily where they would be the most beneficial to transit riders.