ZEB Building BCA_00004

Bus Stands in Malaysia: Significance, Reality, Perceptions & 10 Aspects to Improve On

I once wrote about Trains do more than just Transiting but offering a Destination, in which I think our authority or designers have ignored the significance of the stations rather than just focusing on transiting. (READ more here) The same goes to Bus station. Most people blame on public transport on various things, but to my surprise, there’s so little of emphasis done on the design of the Bus Stop.

(Disclaimer# I am writing this as an active user in public transportation and without any specific professional experience in public infrastructure design so please spare me if you think my comments are insensible and kindly comment on this post to start some constructive discussion!) Credits to GoogleImages#

THE INTENTION

It was at the recent National Forum on Public Transportation where I was trying to picture the pessimistic impression on public transport today. Well, it was a good meet with SPAD, Malaysia’s Land Transportation Authority describing the authority and legislation hierarchy behind this issue. But until when one of them in the panel is someone from DBKL who says he is the one in charged in plotting out the bus routes, I threw him the question;

“Sir so may i know who is the person in charged of designing these bus stops? What measurements were taken to study the practicality of our bus stops? Is it just a prototype being “cloned” and put in every destination thoughts?”

So well he did tell me oh yes the bus stops location are strategic covering certain radius etc, and all the answer he gave me is, “WE FOLLOW UNIVERSAL DESIGN”. After all the long explanation I gave on why our bus stop is not practical, you threw me back this short answer and I knew that there is a big issue for overlooking this little aspect.

I think this is what he meant by.. “Universal Design”

THE SIGNIFICANCE

Yes, it may be a little aspect for them because the whole masterplan is still about bus routes, connectivity and bus services. Allow me to clarify why this so-called universal design doesn’t sound sensible at all. Since he also added on that it’s the same design we normally see on the street. First of all, i don’t even know there’s such thing as universal design for bus stops, do I see the same design of bus stop in Malaysia with another country? Anyways before I start rambling on the issues of our bus stops, let me put up my notion why do I think that the significance of bus stop design has been compromised.

Most of us highlighted about the condition of bus and travelling, that’s ok, but a person could spend up to half of his journey waiting at the bus stop, and when it’s a “bench” which defined by two pipes and inappropriate sun shading design that exposes heat and glare to the users, don’t you think the “service” of the bus stop deserves the same amount of attention as to bus conditions?

Bus Stops can be landmarks, and also a resemblance of community integration, it’s a common space, and it’s meant to be respected and shared. It is to be Safe, Convenient, User Friendly, and a healthy place to be.

What If a simple Bus stand couldn’t even stand for itself? Epic Fail*

But why design a space that is such an eyesore even people just can’t understand how to appreciate it? It is the Beginning and the Ending of a journey and despite rain or shine, this simple shelter has to be seriously considered on its capability to provide a comfortable waiting area with much to offer its rider to wait patiently.

REALITY & PERCEPTIONS

But here’s the reality and perceptions in Malaysia today. Even if you are a Malaysian reading this right now, most likely you are starting to trace back the last moment you step into a bus stop (or was there even one?) or trying to illustrate what does it look like since you are stuck in the thousand tonnes of steel cage most of the time, well! Here’s something like it.

So you see, there is insufficient space for the passengers waiting for area.. the even bus stop is placed in the wrong direction. And as for most of us know, you have all kind of spams of unauthorized advertisements and shark loans on basically any surface they can find and basically almost any previous metal items will be stolen or anything like public phones or LED advertisement board will be stolen too! The Perceptions of the public towards bus stops has gone to the drain; What more to expect the design of Bus stands to respect the rights of a disabled group of people (TheStar article HERE) ?

Unsafe with the current snatch theft issue, Vulnerable to Heavy Rains, Not comfortable with glares and unnecessary heat gain, Dirty benches, damaged amenities, and poor lighting provision exposes user to potential victim of rape cases..Smokers dominate the place..  poor proximity of bus stops and poor pavement build up area to the surrounding nearby locations.. and the list goes on.

The latest bus stops at Jalan Ampang.

The current reality also appears in an academic field where I was trying to find any scholar articles but the only one seem to be associated is  Renewable Energy integrated system with the bus stop. It’s funny that I have seen that research was done in my university USM too. But beyond that, I found nothing even close to the research of design of public works such as bus stops. (Kindly share with me if you have!)  There’s still a long journey for us to understand the interaction of end users with a bus stop.

Such as,What kind of Seats for Bus Stops? What are the age range of most bus stops users, average waiting time to date etc? What I am really curious about is if there is anyone done a research on end-user usage to the seats in a bus stop, in Ergonomic terms. Are there really more people prefer to sit? How low the seat should be? How big dimensions should it be? Some ad hoc bus stops also put up swings! who knows maybe we can even put rocky chair.. or even some monkey bars.

So here, for example, you have leaning chair or the leaning rocker fitted to the wall which says to be much more “healthy” comparing to the typical office seats every day, who knows the same goes to the bus stands? But anyway the main focus here isn’t this, just a point to say that we have yet to study on a lot of aspects on these small bus stations, that is still very much underrated in the public transport industry. Another reality, at a serious note, is, some bus stops apparently don’t even have a bus stop but just a corner somewhere or out of nowhere!

And well yes you can see there is no proper rubbish trash bin available too in most bus stops.. ahh but this is a good way of raising awareness of how much trash is littered in bus stop each day. So yes the perceptions of the public towards the bus stop is, Not Safe, Not Clean, Not Convenient (also partly due to the whole public transportation performance), Even not knowing there is a bus stop behind their house! and taking a Bus is Not So Cool. thanks to the public social status that having a car is more luxurious sometimes.

Well, both of the performance of bus stands and public bus must go hand in hand to improve the public transportation sector. All of our bus stop design must be User-Friendly, Safe, Convenient, and Encouraging!  So hereby I am proposing my idea on 10 Aspects a bus stand design can be improved on, purely on designing intentions with my architectural understanding, and nothing to do with regulations policies or anything else. And most of these 10 aspects are basic benchmarks!

1. Proper Bus Stop Signage and Route Maps/ Local Maps – It’s frustrating to know sometimes even at bus stands in Malaysia we don’t have the basic indicator we need! The Bus Stop Signage! And also the two simple information maps we need, the bus routes and also the surrounding locations, like 750meters radius map from the bus stand.

2. Trash Bins – Let’s not really talk about recycling bins if we could, but Trash bins as the fundamental amenity a bus stand should have is not even widely seen in Malaysia.  Or Most probably stolen already? So the whole idea is to build an integrated safe design to prevent thief and protecting user comfort.

3. Proper Scale of Bus Stand and Relevance context with Surroundings – What I fear is when one assumes that bus stands functions the same here and there, and often leaving out the user density context, put it as simple as putting a bus stand in a residential area and compared in front of Universiti Malaya, the scale obviously has to be larger in order to accommodate the high frequency of usage, and not to mention too, the frequency of bus arrivals will need two or even three bus stops length to accommodate the traffic before you jam the traffic up in Jalan Universiti. Another important point is the relevance of Context with Surroundings! Like the above example taken in Bishan, Singapore. It’s a bus stand with respect to the residence area nearby thus they extend the covered walkway from the bus stand to the HDB flats, furthermore, they even have handicapped railings done to prove how user-friendly the bus stand is!

4. Extensive Shading and Gutter System- Then you have a bus stand that most of the time fail to function when it rains so heavily in Malaysia. The raining condition in Malaysia isn’t just illustrated by a heavy downpour but often accompanied by rushing winds that rain horizontally and wets all the user. The above two picture illustrate how shallow the depth of the sunshade roof is and without a proper seat at all. The recommended depth should be two meters. Another issue is also there should be the installation of water gutter (depends on roof design) the whole point is to divert all the rainwater and discharge them via pipes properly instead of dripping from the roof edge which will contribute to the problem overall, that wets the users too. (Wish I have a picture to prove this, though)
The above 4 aspects are the very basic mandatory aspects, or benchmark I will say, then what’s next? 
5. Elevated Platform with Extendable Deck- Elevated platform is important because you want to make sure the bus stand floor level stands out from the surrounding soft scape or landscape, because when it rains, and if the surrounding land or road profiles that are low, you can prevent the flood from intruding your bus stand perimeters. However it is also recommended to be above ground 300mm at least, and having an extendable deck, reason is that now people with disability can access to bus much more easily. Also with the extendable deck, then it is easier for a wheelchair to access it. I acknowledge current Rapid KL buses already have that capability by unfolding a deck from the bus and after lowering the hydraulics of the bus so just to give convenience for the disabled to get on bus more easily, but there’s no need this hassle to implement in all bus if we have it in the bus stand already 😉
 6. Allocating Bicycle Racks – Simple bicycle racks which can accommodate up to 5 people will be good, there is a lot can be said about the bicycle issues in Malaysia too (I have just submitted an article on cycling) , where if studied well, then can be integrated with public transport via park and ride systems or bike sharing system. However, bicycle rack must be designed precisely to improve the safety of the bike. For example is the picture on the left showing the latest bicycle rack Singapore MRT stations, where the padlock is used instead of cable lock, a cable lock can be saw off within minutes, I have tried it. Below also shows the latest bicycle rack installed beside a bus stop in Penang.
7. Public Phone/ Public Wifi – Then here comes another necessity which we used to have but however eventually we don’t see public phones near any bus stop today. In which I think it is one of the most crucial components as a baseline of design something for the public, we can’t just assume everyone has a handphone today, also with quite a high crime rate in which anyone will get snatched anytime with their handphones missing. Public wifi will be the main benefit too for public transport users, this could save the user time, imagine during the morning routine, with the 15minutes of waiting for bus, the user could update their social media, or read news, or even using some public transport app to check when is the bus arriving!
8.Vending Machine – Then here comes Vending Machine, it is not meant to substitute a mini market but at least, we could supply the basic necessities, simple snack, water, mobile prepaid reloads, and who knows we could have mobile e-commerce concept soon also where people can shop via snapping the QR Codes? But well you do have some bus stops that acts as a Vending Machine that provides you the range of grocery shopping! Check it out HERE! OR you can even have “reverse” vending machine, meaning recycling collection point via bus stops too! Check it out HERE! 
9. Energy Independence & Phone Charging Station– And what about if the entire bus is powered independently with solar power? I won’t go too far in with the details of the efficiency of energy and capability of delivering this service. (You can read more of it in this research paper) But the intention is to ensure that bus stops can be located in remote places too, and with the small amount of electricity required for the bus stand, I doubt it is impossible. Furthermore, what about a simple phone charging station that can help a lot?
10. CCTV– Lastly, upon all these 9 recommendations of aspects, this comes the most important. Having a CCTV at your bus stand can benefit a lot. Having all the public phone, wifi, vending machine and solar panels and bicycle rack installed, CCTV can monitor to prevent theft, and most important of all, the safety of the public can be monitored now. Furthermore, you can even study the frequency of public transportation usage, and also if public buses are punctual and what about the bus driver performance and all? It can be more informative than a bus GPS equip provide.
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So these are the 10 aspects of design I recommend, well I could have written even more specifically on each aspect but I will leave it to you to digest and explore yourself 😉 Nevertheless, the current condition on bus stops in Malaysia is very disappointing, even the first 4 aspects, as the benchmark, can be hardly found as a mandatory design. When I travel around other countries, one thing I have always look at is public transportation, not only because it’s significant to be a green way of commuting but it can affect communities and social system a lot too.
This is taken in Jakarta, with their Transjakarta system, a bus system with dedicated “highway” for the buses and having elevated platforms too, it works exactly like an LRT, and it’s 10 times cheaper in construction cost, and it’s highly flexible for the future expansion plan.
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While there are many aspects to be done from the local authority, various end users are coming up with their own approach to making public transportation journey more comforting, or perhaps some informative application like this. Done by MypublicTransport.  An interactive map that tells you where is the bus stop and which buses stop there.

 I do write a couple of blog post on LRT too.

But this post has motivated me to design the bus stand I am trying to illustrate with the 10 aspects of design recommendation I just wrote about.. using Google Sketchup and Vray rendering. So look out! 😉

Feel free to comment and share on what do you think about the bus stops, or anything about public transport in Malaysia! 😉