Stop vs Shelter
Bus shelters in the Twin Cities need to be redesigned. The function of a standard bus shelter is not adequately adapted to the Midwest environment. They only act as a place to stop and wait for a bus and neglect to provide any real shelter.
Currently ‘bus stops’ do not shelter people from the cold. To protect people against the cold of winter the more bus shelters could have electric space heaters. The electric heaters are 100% efficient and require from 400 to 1500 watts of energy. The energy demand is high, however the heaters do not need to remain on. If the shelters were heated insulation would need to be taken into consideration, it would not be intelligent to put heat into a building that would lose it as quickly as it was provided. Either multiple panes of glass could be used or the building material could be reconsidered completely.
‘Bus stops’ have flat roofs to shelter people from precipitation. If the bus shelters were heated then any accumulation would melt and create runoff. The frozen runoff would be a hazard; therefore the roof design would have to be reconsidered. The roof could be slanted or arched to collect the melted snow and transport it away from the sidewalk. Ideally the runoff could be purified there and used as drinking water.
‘Bus stops’ provide minimal protection against the wind. The open doors and bottoms allow freezing drafts to blow through the ‘stop’ with ease. The shelters could have sliding doors to keep out the wind and retain heat. In the winter they could be closed and in the summer they could be left open. Along these lines adjustable ventilation along the sides could be emplaced to prevent drafts yet maintain cross ventilation. In the summer the cross ventilation is important to keep the shelter from over heating.
‘Bus stops’ are poorly lit. The shelters could have small solar powered LED lighting to allow reading while waiting for the bus in the evenings. In the Midwest solar power might not be efficient enough to provide electricity, small-scale wind turbines may also be taken into consideration.
The standard rectangular shape does not provide enough seating or standing room. If the backs of the shelters we curved it would increase the seating surface and create additional space for people to stand. Another approach would be to expand the shelter to incorporate the whole sidewalk. The incorporation of the sidewalk would unify people instead of isolating them.
The ‘bus stops’ are not designed with comfort in mind. If they were designed with comfort in mind riding the bus would become a more pleasurable experience. Bus shelters could even act to attract people to public transportation instead of repelling them. The shelters could become a place were people wanted to wait.
Also as part of the design process we can consider what happens when the bus shelter is disposed of. Can the materials be used again at the same quality? Can the materials biodegrade? Can the materials be recycled and what would this process require? Or does the whole shelter need to be tossed into a landfill. Finally, what will give us shelter from the chemicals we used to create it?
The ideal bus shelter should go beyond providing comfortable protection from the elements, it should give back and become apart of the community it is located in. In addition to becoming an active social center the shelter could act as an educational media center as well? The ‘bus stops’ we currently have are used for ugly advertisements. Inside they have the bus schedule on a piece of tattered paper. What if bus provided access to newspapers, radio, television and even digital media? Giving people something to do and a means to stay well connected to the world. Instead of just a piece of paper what if the walls were interactive digital display of all the bus routes, times, and real time locations of the busses. The walls could have interactive maps that would revolutionize city travel. You don’t know where you are going, that’s okay! A bus stop could become a start to an adventure. The maps could have lists of parks, restaurants, stores, movie theaters, hospitals, libraries, museums, and even events. You could make a dinner reservation, cheek store hours and show times all while waiting for the bus.
Do we have the technology? SURE.
Weather or not we acknowledge the broad environmental impact of emissions from combustion engines; we have to address the fact that traffic, air quality, and limited natural resources are reason enough to look for change. Improving the quality and availability of public transportation seems like a logical step in the right direction. However, it is just a step. It is important that we continue to evolve our transportation instead of getting comfortable with a flawed system.