One of the first things you notice about public transit, especially bus systems, is that they seem to have been designed to make riding the bus the very last option for anyone with choice.
Many transit centers, at least in New England, are located in parking garages, which are so dimly lit and unfriendly to the person on foot — as everyone is after they have parked — that the person who first built one was either incapable of feeling any sympathy to people, only to cars, or they were designing a rape dungeon on the side and accidentally brought the drawing of that to the meeting with the client about the parking structure. (And in fact 25 percent of rapes take place in parking garages, according to Women Safe Network.)
Even the ones that aren’t in rape dungeons are still unpleasant. In Springfield, Mass, the bus station is in the midst of a long-dead industrial zone and passengers must crowd together under a roof with spikes hanging down from it held together by bird droppings and rust. In Boston, even apart from the too usual smell or urine in these things, the Haymarket bus stop is in a kind of concrete half dome so that all sounds are amplified enormously. It also offers no protection from the elements whatsoever, which is a problem if you have to wait for any length of time to catch your bus.
The bus shelter at Kenmore, which looks like the Sydney Opera House (and probably cost the MBTA the same money) is a big glass thing that provides no protection from the elements. Where bus stops have shelters, the shelters are tiny and provide no protection from the elements. Just because the weather is crap doesn’t mean that people don’t need to use the bus, but bus systems punish people who use them for no reason.
It’s a lost opportunity for Modernist architects, their chance to prove they have something to offer cities aside from Corbusierian totalitarian nightmares. All you need is a glass house with a door so that people who have tickets or RFID cards can get in, but homeless people can’t use it as a toilet. Obviously you’d need some ventilation, as well. Inside you could have an LCD screen that tracks the bus, maybe even a button that would let you alert the driver that someone is waiting at the stop, so they could go by without slowing down if no one was waiting for them. It could be a first step on the path to prepaid fares.
I admit there is a space issue and you could probably never put even a small glass house at every bus stop, or at least not one that was bigger than the current coffin-sized shelter. But it could be a way of narrowing the street, especially in places where the streets are too wide already, and could be combined with those things where the sidewalk pokes out so that the bus doesn’t have to pull out and then back into traffic.
Transit needs to be as good as it can be. I don’t think cars would have gone over quite as well if Herr Benz had started with the Nissan Cube and you can’t imagine that the Model T would have sold so well if buying one involved a trip to Abu Ghraib.