Five Steps to Solving Nuisances at Bus Stops

The new breed of Vancouver bus shelters, designed for the mild temperatures and frequent but soft rain typical of the area. Unfortunately, the glass in these shelters is a frequent target of scratchiti. Christopher MacKechnie

Five Steps to Solving Nuisances at Bus Stops


 Benches and shelters are standard amenities that when added to a bus stop make it more attractive to customers, but in some circumstances can attract loiterers.  If loitering becomes too much of a problem, then are there steps the transit agency can take to alleviate the problem?  The rest of this article describes five steps a transit agency can take to reduce problems at a stop with a shelter.

1) The problematic stop should be cleaned more often, perhaps every day or even multiple times per day.  This cleaning schedule is consistent with the Broken Windows theory of policing and CPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design) principles: people are less likely to behave antisocially when they are in an area that looks like it is well cared for.

2) The problematic stop should be visited by the police at regular but random times.  Enacting this step will be easier for transit agencies that have their own police force, although agencies with proprietary police forces often have their officers focus more on rail stations than bus stops.  Security cameras could substitute, though installing them on a widespread basis could be difficult financially and raise liability issues.

3) The amenities at the stop should be modified to discourage loitering and/or sleeping.  Benches should have arm rests inserted into the center of the bench, while shelters should have partitions removed in order to improve sightlines and to reduce the amount of enclosed space.

  Of course, doing so could make the shelter much less effective, especially in cold-weather cities.

4) The bench or shelter should be removed.  Before removing the bench or shelter, the transit agency should investigate whether the stop is used by a significant number of senior citizens.  If a significant number of senior citizens use a particular bus stop, then not only will removing the bench mean that at least some people would no longer be able to use transit – those people who are not able to stand while waiting for the next bus – but it could also bring unwanted political attention if the senior citizens complain to their local city council member.

  In addition, experience has shown that removing benches or shelter may merely displace the criminal activity to other nearby stops with amenities.  If displacement were to occur, then the end result would be a cycle of amenity removal that may not end until no more stops have amenities.

5) As a last resort, the stop could be removed or at least moved.  Removing a stop would be acceptable if the stop was not used by many people and removing it would not violate the agency’s bus stop design guidelines.  Major stops – Tier I or Tier II  – would not be able to be removed but might be able to be moved if doing so would not lead to worse problems.

Few transit agencies have developed a written procedure to deal with stop amenities that have attracted the wrong kind of customer, perhaps because a lack of money has left transit agencies with very little money for amenities in the first place.  In addition, in many cases it is the city, advertising agency, or other local jurisdiction that owns the amenities.  In these cases, the transit agency may have little ability to remove shelters that had been placed for political or advertising reasons.

From what I can tell, no research has been done as to the extent of undesirable behaviors taking place at bus benches or bus shelters.

  Until this research is completed, the industry will not know the extent of the problem or the efficacy of the suggested solutions.