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 get off in between stops because such requests would not be entertained by drivers.
Later, a shed with a bench was built, allowing those waiting to be seated under a roof, but they were not protected from rain or thunderstorm.
Not much has changed today, except that most roads and streets are wider. But, whenever buses stop to pick up or drop off passengers, the traffic behind grinds to a halt. This is because there are few purpose-built lay-by at these stops for buses to drive in.
People waiting at bus stops could be hit by vehicles going out of control after being rammed by another. They could also fall victims to snatch thieves and robbers.
Constructing a lay-by and placing the bus stand behind will reduce these risks.
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 with maintaining the security and cleanliness of the bus stand and vicinity, in exchange for free rental on a contractual basis, subject to annual renewal or early termination.
The concession cannot be subcontracted and ideal candidates are ex-servicemen, who could be trained and granted auxiliary police powers.
This would make such bus stops a safe haven, especially for women, children and students. Until then, they remain exposed and vulnerable.
The next phase is to build racks at selected bus stops so that cyclists can park and lock their bicycles.
The micro shop operator would also get more business by being friendly with commuters.
Candidates selected for such concessions must be eager to serve and be part of the community.
However, it would have to start with the local authorities, and none better to take the lead than City Hall, which aspires to make Kuala Lumpur world class.
But it would never be so until the first hurdle is cleared, and that it is safe to walk or wait for a bus in the city.
The government, through the Land Public Transport Commission and related agencies, transformed public transport in Greater Kuala Lumpur through extensive networks of train and bus services.
The 51km Sungai Buloh–Kajang Mass Rapid Transit Line, which has 31 stations and is the ninth rail transit line in the Klang Valley area, is 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 developments.
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 wait underground and emerge when the bus arrives.
City Hall can show the world what it can do with bus stops.