Upping the 'Cool' Factor of the Bus

As designers, architects and planners for public spaces, we are always looking at mobility options for our communities. From a transit perspective, that means looking outside the single-occupancy vehicle.

While light rail tends to be the darling of public transportation from a public perception standpoint, it comes with its own significant challenges. A robust light rail system may not be the smartest choice for all cities, especially mid-size cities without the tax base to support the major investment light rail requires.

That’s where the bus comes in. Yes, the good ol’ bus.

Even though buses are often the cheapest, most effective means of getting more people from A to B, they tend to be lacking in the ‘cool’ department. Buses often come with a reputation (deserved or otherwise) for being crowded, uncomfortable, run-down or inconvenient. It all adds up to a serious lack of investment in a seriously viable transportation option.

And even when they do invest, cities often neglect to make transit-oriented development (TOD) a priority for major bus station centers like they would a light rail station. Equally important is that private developers rarely invest in bus-related TOD improvements. In fact, in some documented instances, conventional bus service was actually a deterrent to private development.

That’s unfortunate for a lot of reasons, the greatest of which is the reality that bus service is ultimately the answer in all but the most densely populated communities, and all but the largest metro growth areas.  

So what can be done to up the “cool” (and the investment) factor in bus transit?

Stick with us next week for our thoughts on making the bus (and TOD around transit centers) a more attractive option for riders, developers and cities alike, and let us know in the comments what you think needs to be done to improve the reputation of the bus where you live.