By YS Chan
More than half a century ago, bus stops were nothing more than a sign by the roadside indicating the spot where stage buses would stop to pick up and drop off passengers.
The public would not try to flag down a passing bus or passengers attempt to get off in between stops, as such requests would not be entertained by the driver.
Over time, a shed with a bench was built at bus stops to allow those waiting, to be seated under a roof though not shielded from the late afternoon sun or thunderstorms.
Not much has changed today except most roads and streets are wider. But whenever a bus stops to pick up or drop off passengers, the traffic behind usually grinds to a halt. This is because there are few purpose-built lay-bys at these stops for buses to drive in.
People waiting at existing bus stops can easily be hit by a passing vehicle that goes out of control after being bumped by another. They could also fall victim to snatch thieves and robbers.
Constructing a lay-by and placing the bus stand behind it would help reduce these risks considerably. If space is available, building a small room and appointing a concessionaire to operate a micro-shop would be ideal.
The operator could be tasked to maintain the security and cleanliness of the bus stand and its vicinity, in exchange for free rental on a contract basis, subject to annual renewals or early termination.
The concession should not be subcontracted and ideal candidates could be ex-servicemen, who can easily be trained and granted auxiliary police powers, if necessary.
This would make such bus stops a safe haven, especially for women, children and students. Until then, they remain exposed and vulnerable, especially when alone.
The next phase is to build racks at selected bus stops, so cyclists can park and lock their bicycles under the watchful eye of the concessionaire.
Candidates selected for such concessions must be eager to serve, and be part of the local community. Those who are entrepreneurial could easily become agents for various products.
However, it has to start with our local authorities, and who better to take the lead than Kuala Lumpur City Hall, which aspires to make Kuala Lumpur world-class through the delivery of working, living and business environments that are central to city governance.
That said, corrective action must be taken to overcome the first hurdle, and that it is, being safe to walk or wait for a bus in the city.
The government, through the Land Public Transport Commission and other related agencies, has already transformed public transport in the Greater Kuala Lumpur area through extensive networks of train and bus services.
The recently launched MRT Sungai Buloh–Kajang 51km line with 31 stations, the ninth rail transit line in the Klang Valley area, is truly world-class.
But the many bus stops in the city are not much better than those five decades ago. On its own, it may be too challenging for City Hall to keep pace with rapid development.
But it could tap the expertise of others, including government agencies, to design 21st century bus stands. For example, if space is a constraint, waiting passengers can remain underground and emerge when the bus arrives.
City Hall has branded Kuala Lumpur as “A City of Contrasts & Diversity”, which is exciting, surprising and enticing. It is time to show the world what it can do with bus stops, which can also be safe havens for visitors who require assistance.
YS Chan is an FMT reader.
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