It's a masterwork in preoccupying the bus-riding masses.
A swing, free Wi-Fi, phone charging stations, picture books for pint-sized commuters ... what else could you want from a bus stop? (Photo: Infocomm Media Development Authority)
Bus ridership in Singapore, the prosperous and dense Southeast Asian city-state that's a notoriously rough place to live for Juicy Fruit fans, has experienced marked growth in the last several years.
Singapore’s Land Transit Authority (LTA) noted a 3.7 percent growth in daily bus ridership from 3.75 million to 3.9 from 2014 to 2015 — the 11th consecutive rise in bus (and train) ridership since 2005. In the meantime, the use of taxis — a relatively cheap and quintessentially Singaporean way to get around the "little red dot" — dipped over the same period.
Considering the continually upward trend of commuters using Singapore’s nearly 5,000-strong fleet of buses coupled with the Malay Archipelago's very wet and very mercurial weather, you'd expect bus stops on the main island to be both spacious and found in abundance. After all, Singapore is one place where you really don’t want to be stranded outside without cover when the weather turns.
Although Singapore’s existing bus stop are nothing to write home about most of them do include seating and roofs, which, as observed by Mimi Kirk for CityLab, two features that aren't just ideal for resting one's feet in the shade but for also riding out a brief but soaking tropical downpour. They're not necessarily deluxe but they get the job done — none of this nonsense.
And then there’s one new doozy of a bus stop located in Jurong, an especially dense region-cum-satellite town in the far southwest of Singapore, that can easily keep dozens of commuters dry and merrily distracted not just through a brief afternoon downpour but through an extended monsoon.
Not your ordinary bus stop: A selection of books for adults and children are on display at a 'book exchange corner' located directly next to a swing. (Photo: Infocomm Media Development Authority)
Essentially, the kitted-out structure — Wi-Fi-equipped, powered by solar panels and draped in lush greenery as is wont in Singapore — takes all the good and inviting stuff from a park (and a comfy airport lounge) and blesses it with the functionality of a bus stop. As the Straits Times noted this past summer, the experimental new bus stop — actually an existing stop that underwent an extensive refurbishment complete with new benches — was designed specifically to make “make waiting fun.”
A few ways in which this bus stop is legit:
Bus ruining late and phone running dead? Not to fret — a sizable public charging station for mobile devices is one of the stop’s most coveted features.
In desperate need of rush hour reading materials? Head over to the bus stop’s “book exchange corner” and peruse a collection of physical books — fancy that! — for borrowing that cater to commuters young and old. Or, scan a QR code for quick access to the National Library Board’s eBook portal where you can download a variety of books and periodicals.
Need to catch the bus but it’s a bit too far of a walk to get to the stop itself? Ample on-site bike parking makes bike-to-bus commutes a breeze.
Kids restless? Send them off to the swing.
Not sure which direction you’re heading, which bus stops where or what the weather will be like when you get there in an hour? A bank of interactive digital screens displaying maps, bus routes, timetables and various public transportation info along with local weather will set you straight.
Looking just to hang out, unwind and perhaps socialize for a spell in a well-shaded area filled with local art, free Wi-Fi and an array of interesting characters? This particular bus stop, it would seem, is just the place.
There's nothing like studying maps and timetables with your buds to help pass the time. (Photo: Infocomm Media Development Authority)
Envisioned and designed by Singapore-based DP Architects as a corporate social responsibility initiative and launched in collaboration with various government agencies including the Infocomm Media Development Authority, the National Environment Agency and the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), the super-fancy bus stop along Jurong Gateway Road acts as a diversion-filled proving ground of sorts to see what bells and whistles the bus-riding populace responds to in the most enthusiastic manner. DP Architects refers to the project as a "kit of parts" that "integrates slices of distinctive environments" such as parks, cafes, playgrounds, libraries, art galleries and the like.
(Singapore’s expansive bus network itself is comprised of multiple individual operators working under a Bus Contracting Model introduced by the LTA in 2014. One of them, Tower Transit, is rolling out a "signature scent" on 100 of its buses this month. The fragrance is described as having "refreshing top notes of fresh grass, lemon and orange, overlaying floral and peppermint notes, with a foundation of ylang and sandalwood.")
"We are looking forward to see how commuters use, experience and enjoy this new setting," says DP Architects director Seah Chee Huang in a press statement issued by the URA. "Hopefully, the community will appreciate how bus stops can be an extension of their social environments, as sites of possibilities, fun and enrichment."
He adds: "We also hope this project will encourage more fellow professionals to step forward and collaborate actively in the design of our everyday public spaces, as well as inspire the community to take greater ownership in shaping their own environments.”
As the Straits Times reports, particularly popular amenities that receive positive feedback from commuters will be considered by the LTA for inclusion in potential future bus station revamps geared to liven up the usually tedium-filled act of waiting. While it would seem that the device charging stations and free Wi-Fi are obvious shoo-ins, one can never underestimate the need for good, safe bike parking and a child-calming swing.
Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.