In the mid-1980s, buses made up nearly 44 percent of all traffic in the Soviet Union, connecting the disparate republics that spanned from the Baltic Sea to the Pacific Ocean. Buses roared into small towns, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, hauling each passenger an average of nearly 6 miles per trip. To clearly signal bus stop locations and make wait times more enjoyable, the Soviet Union commissioned local artists to design and create their own models—resulting in some of the most colorful, diverse and outlandish bus stops on the planet.
While rarely as ornate as those of the Soviet Union, bus stops now are beginning to receive the attention they deserve. Serving as the face of the bus system and the first point of contact between passengers and buses, bus stops not only play a critical role in attracting new users and tourists, but also affect efficiency and road safety. Moreover, shabby bus stops are becoming less appealing to users as car-sharing services proliferate, which provide real-time information to users and are often more accessible. Indeed, perhaps the largest obstacle facing bus stops are their volatility—at their worst, bus stops are located alongside highways, or in isolated locations with little more than a small sign marking their location. As better and more affordable options become available, users are less willing to stand out by that dingy, poorly lit bus stop. This poses a distinct challenge for public transit.
To make their bus systems more attractive and competitive, many cities are getting creative with their bus stops:
Beijing, China: An Air Purifying Bus Stop
Over the last year, air pollution in Beijing reached levels 20 times the limit recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). To protect the estimated 21 million residents suffering from poor air quality, engineers developed a bus stop that purifies air, reducing pollutants inhaled by waiting passengers by an average of 40 percent. The bus stop was first tested in downtown Hong Kong for four months, before being installed at Tsinghua University in Beijing. If the bus stop has a significant impact on bus users, Beijing has plans to retrofit its existing bus stops with similar purifiers.
Curitiba, Brazil: Introducing the Bus Station
Public buses in Curitiba are not your run of the mill buses. This Brazilian city uses bus rapid transit (BRT), a relatively new transport mode that can be found in 194 cities around the world; BRT elevates bus systems to a new level, with buses operating in exclusive, designated lanes and servicing bus stations. Bus stations in Curitiba are equipped with enclosed, glass shelters, seating, entry and exit gates, and offer users real-time information. With their distinctive, tube shape and elevated platforms, these bus stations are hard to miss.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates: Solar Powered, Air Conditioned Bus Shelters
Beginning in the early 2000s, Dubai became the first city in the world to have air conditioned bus stops on a widespread scale. This is hardly surprising, given that Dubai’s summer months are particularly hot and humid, reaching up to 113 degrees Fahrenheit. Many of Dubai’s bus stops offer users full protection from the sun, enclosing waiting passengers in aluminum, reflective stations with air conditioning. Even more exciting are Dubai’s plans to power its bus stops with solar energy, increasing their sustainability, and providing energy to stops that currently lack power; once completed, the city will have over 1,000 air conditioned bus shelters.