The information and communications ministry must be commended. They have listened to the public and have decided not to continue with the leaf shaped bus stop.
While the intention for the particular design of the bus stop was to give it a Bhutanese identity, many felt it did not achieve this goal. Many, who have travelled out and used public transport abroad also raised questions as to why a simpler design that affords more protection from rain and wind was not adopted.
Many also criticized the cost of building the bus stop which even at a more efficient production rate would still be relatively expensive, costing a few hundred thousands.
While the ministry has clarified that the model bus stop was to generate public feedback, it still invested almost a million ngultrums on it, or at least the UN did, with a significant portion of it going to train local workers to likely produce more such bus stops. So the ministry must be applauded for listening and abandoning this particular design.
But here are other elements that need to be continued like the bus bay, adequate lighting, trash bins, wheel chair accessibility, and space to display advertisements and information.
There are other elements that need to be discussed further like free WiFi and CCTV. If such additions can be sustained then such services make sense. But if not, there are other areas that require the money more urgently like better footpaths and drainage near bus stops.
Many have observed that the sheds constructed along some of our highways for vegetable vendors could serve as a model for a bus stop. It is constructed with a roof in the traditional architectural style, and panels could be added to its sides and back for protection from rain and wind.
Whatever design is eventually chosen the public have spoken. The commuter’s priority is to have bus stops that are utilitarian, that protect them from the sun, rain, wind, and snow. They would know best because they are the ones that spend their time outside, standing in the rain and wind, waiting for buses and taxis. Their priority is not attractive bus stops that symbolize a policy.
Their need is a dry place to sit after a hard day’s work as they wait for the bus home.
The intention is to promote public transport as an alternative to driving a private car. The government is already talking about new monetary measures to make it more difficult to own a car. With some families already owning many cars, it would perhaps be fair to those who don’t own a single one to provide them with the best possible public transport system we can before restricting their right to one.
With a good public transport system in place, owning a car may not become as urgent or even necessary.
An efficient, cost effective public transport system achieved by focusing on the utilitarian may even convince those who own private cars to use the public system occasionally, or, perish the thought, switch to using the bus permanently.