Bus stops can be pretty basic, or pretty elaborate. Aaron Antrim points me to a Utah-based project, Next Stop Design, that collects ideas for bus stop design from the public, then allows users to rate them. Such a project on a large enough scale could start to generate some “wisdom of crowds” about what kinds of bus stops people like. (This currently leading design, a “covered-wagon” theme for Utah, is by “hopkimp,” details here.)
It’s a fun site, but it raises two cautions.
First, we’ll all naturally like the more expensive ones. Some of the ones now being favored are so elaborate that you’d only use them at a major stop. How do we sort ideas into tiers representing approximate cost, so that we can put the crowd-wisdom to work on the real problem: How do we design something that we can afford thousands of?
Second, sometimes the design of a bus stop should be driven by the need to brand the service. The Los Angeles Metro Rapid stops, from a concept by my friend Doug Suisman, are all about creating a consistent look across the system, so that these high-frequency, relatively fast red buses stand out from all the visual pandemonium of Los Angeles. The point was not to make each stop stand out, as the Next Stop Design favorites tend to do, but rather to make the whole system stand out as one system.
A humbler example is this “Blue Line” bus stop, an outgrowth of a project I did in Bellingham, Washington. (Click to enlarge.) They had lots of infrequent lines that overlapped on a few major segments, and on those segments those lines added up to a frequent all-day service. So they created a brand just for the common segment, so that we could make that service visible as something better than all the individual numbered lines that contribute to it. The bus stop design is fairly basic, but an overly flamboyant stop architecture would have distracted from the message about the service.
And ultimately, it needs to be about the service.
I like the Blue Line stop… Basic, clean and bold.
Jarrett, I was in Montreal recently, and they had some bustops there made of lucite [or some such clear plastic], and the lucite part formed a shield between the street and the persons in the shelter. To exit the shelter you went out the back [one panel of three left open] and around. I guess the thinking was to protect people from winter slush slosh, but I was not inclined to go inside, even though it was raining, because I felt I would feel trapped once inside. No one else was inside either.
I think that bus shelter design needs way more emphasis on functionality and much less on “branding”. Bus riders generally couldn’t care less about whether there’s a “consistent look around the system” or anything of the sort of the bus shelter doesn’t meet its basic functions of sheltering people waiting for the bus and providing information about service. In particular, the LA design is really bad: it provides pretty much no shelter from the sun (a major concern on hot days) and does little for wind or rain (yes, it does sometimes rain there). It seems like the main purpose of the stops was spending money because someone’s performance was being measured by inputs rather than outputs. Interestingly, I don’t think the “Rapid” style stops in LA have been installed anywhere outside the original two Rapid lines.
Anonymouse is right. Those canopy stops for L.A.’s Rapid are only on the two demonstration lines (Wilshire/Whittier and Ventura). Now that Metro has 28 Rapid lines, it’s going to become impossible to deliver any improvements.
Next, we have to work on fully decoupling the notion that Metro is any sort of bus rapid transit. It’s limited-stop bus service with marketing.
I have the impression that bus riders only care about the stop when it’s raining (or there’s a cold wind). I have been in a position to talk to a great many riders about this issue.
I believe in joining marketing and operations, but that has to be done from the perspective of improving service to match people’s desires, not from currently fashionable ideas to “brand” it or otherwise dress it up.
(I’ll submit that Jarrett’s project to call attention to service density is in fact the former, a project that improves the information delivery which is a key part of improving service)
We’re currently undergoing a similar exercise in Philadelphia, as our bus shelters have reached the end of their life cycle. Our main objectives revolve around performance and financing. There is no shortage of enlightened ideas ranging from digitally informing users when the next bus will arrive, to touch-screen access to other kinds of information ranging from historical and cultural information about that immediate community, to information about other resources important to those particular riders. Solar power, local art/design features, and information about the environmental importance of public transportation are some other ideas. Making them look cool is the easy part.