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Bus stops and Shelters

One of a series of street environment design guides.

Description of the element

This design guide provides information on the sitting and design of bus stops, shelters and seating; and the preferences and needs of older people who use the bus stops and shelters.

Context and existing guidance

The establishment and maintenance of connections between older people and others around them are very important to tackle the isolation that many of them experience. The key for keeping those connections is to provide access to public transport which includes the access to bus stops and shelter provision. For the effectiveness of the provision, elements such as its location, position, size/space available, shape or type, material and use of color contrast, seating, lighting and signage need to be carefully considered.

The Department for Transport Inclusive Mobility guide (2002) confirms that bus stops in residential areas should be located within a 400 meters walkable distance from anyone’s home but research has concluded than the general use of bus services decreases if the distance is more than 250 meters.

On the other hand, the provision of shelters is usually conditioned to the space available and its type depends on other factors such as weather and place of location, but as a general requirement the shelters position should allow continuous pedestrian flow.

The Inclusive Mobility guide also suggests guidelines for the overall design of public transport infrastructure and provides advice on the location, position, material and dimensions for the design of bus stops and shelters.

The information provided by GMPTE (2007) Bus stop design guidelines consists in design templates primarily used by Highway Authorities and their contractors when designing bus stops which can be altered to suit individual environments.

The JCMBPS in its Bus Stop Policy Statement refers to the general principles and specifications for the provision of bus stops and shelters such as its location, design and information systems and although is focused in the mobility of blind and partially sighted people, benefits directly older people (JCMBPS 2004).

What older people tell us they prefer and why

Seating in bus shelters

An enclosed bus shelter along a country lane with two chairs that someone has put there out of necessity

“I don’t like having to stand”
“A bus shelter with a seat is very important”
“A seat is more important than a shelter”

Bus stop without a shelter

A bus stop without any shelter on a very open space over a slope and without any safety barrier

“It is out in the open and people can see you, hence safer”
“Too open, pretty grim in winter”

Bus stop with open shelter

A cantilever type bus shelter with seating some distance apart and in the open air

“It provides shelter and it is safe”
“It does not obstruct the way for scooters”
“You can see the bus coming more easily”
“I don’t like them. You get wet if it is also windy. It’s cold and exposed”

Bus stop with enclosed shelter

An enclosed bus shelter with seating provision and good use of colour contrast

“The best protection against the weather”
“I like it because it is enclosed”
“It’s too enclosed, there’s no escape route, it’s too blocked off”
“It’s too difficult to get inside if you are a wheelchair user”

Findings from the physical audit survey

Bar chart Provision of bus stops, shelter and seating

Bar chart 1 provision of bus stops, shelter and seating


According to our survey, one of the main concerns between people is their safety. Older people feel vulnerable in enclosed shelters and are in fear of becoming the victim of crime. Research by Loukaitou et al (2001) found that the location and visibility of bus stops can have an impact on crime. The study of sixty bus stops was carried out in Los Angeles to try to understand the relationship between the incidence of crime and the diverse physical environmental factors surrounding a bus stop. Crime rates were found to be higher if the bus stop was in desolated areas such as at an intersection with an alley or next to abandoned buildings, next to off-licences, cash points, or on-street parking, or in areas where there was a lot of graffiti and litter. In contrast, where bus stops were clearly visible, well lighted, with public phone, offered shelter to the user and were on streets with high levels of vehicle traffic and surveillance, criminal activity was less common (Loukaitou-Sideris et al, 2001).

A bus shelter that becomes an entrapment for people
The lack of lighting makes this bus shelter undetectable at night time

Therefore, recommendations include a careful study of the site location for each bus stop and shelter and the following considerations:

  • Avoid the location of bus stop or bus shelters in desolate spaces or areas to avoid the isolation of people waiting for the bus.
  • Provide surveillance/Monitoring at locations where establishments such as off-licenses, cash points or abandoned buildings surround bus stops or bus shelters.
  • Enhance the bus stop or bus shelter visibility from the surrounding area avoiding features such as bulky bushes or enclosed surroundings such as walls and tunnels that can provide entrapment points for people.
  • Provide good lighting balance at day and night.
  • Have appropriate use and balance of materials and consistency of colour contrast between floor surfaces and shelter frames to accentuate the presence of both elements. This is particularly important for older people with visual impairments.
  • Avoid obstacles and reduce the street clutter on the pavement (signs, poles, bin) that decreases the functional space of the path around the bus shelter (see photo).
  • Provision of seating is very important for older people and should be provided whenever possible (see design guide on seating).
  • Restrict the use of advertising and extensive glass surface which affects mainly older people with visual impairments.

The good planning for the provision of bus stops and shelters should follow a reflective process where the effects of each elements of design used should be evaluated in response to the diverse needs of users, so the end product does not become a barrier itself.

Case Study

The use of Color Contrast in glass bus shelters in Manchester

The Royal National Institute for Blind People (2006), in its statistics specifies that there are about two million people with a sight problem in the UK and 85% of them are older people aged over 65.

In a research conducted in Manchester in 2007, the use of colour contrast in bus shelters was evaluated to establish where colour is being used, the appropriate colour contrast between surfaces, and the effectiveness of the use of colour contrast to help visually impaired people to locate features easily and to avoid obstacles for their safety.

The case studies reflected the fact that for reasons of ‘personal security’ and according to the existent guidance (DfT 2002), the current bus shelters are made of glass panels that allow in and outwards visibility. Also the advertising cantilever type shelters are becoming more popular and in most of the cases the shelter as a ‘whole feature’ was not clear enough to be detected.

Overall, the research concluded that:

  • The exaggerated use of surfaces in glass represents a problem to visually impaired people who relies on the shape of features and substantial surfaces of colour contrast to be able to navigate around.
  • There is a lack of consistency and inappropriateness in the use of contrast bands or manifestations on the glass panels and a wide range of different solutions for contrast bands can be found in glass bus shelters in the area of Manchester (photo).
  • There is not appropriate colour contrast between the floor surfaces and the shelter frames.
  • The provision of seating is not a constant and whenever is provided, the use of colour contrast is in most cases deficient.
  • The guidance for the use of tonal contrast bands on glass surfaces is specific in its minimum width and location but in the reality the bands are not wide enough and the colours are not showing sufficient contrast.
  • Decorative manifestations such as broken lines, logos or signs may appear distractive and fade against the background. The situation is worst when manifestations such as glaze are used (photo).
  • The deficient lighting at night time makes impossible to see the contrast bands or manifestations on the glass even from very short distance and the provision of advertising panels constantly changing could be misleading visually impaired people.
  • There is a potential risk for all people, including the visually impaired, to collide with the current shelters glass panels.
Glaze manifestation very difficult to detect by anyone
Colour contrast manifestation very difficult to detect at night time

Where to find further information

DfT (2002), Inclusive Mobility: a guide to best practice on access to pedestrian and transport infrastructure. London. Department for Transport. Available online at http://www.dft.gov.uk/transportforyou/access/peti/inclusivemobility or free from Enquiry Services, DfT, Ashdown House, 123 Victoria St, London SW1E 6DE. Tel: 020 7944 8300, Fax 0207 944 6589, Email: publications@communities.gsi.gov.uk

DfT (2007) Manual for Streets, London, Thomas Telford Publishing http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/sustainable/manforstreets/

GMPTE (2007) Bus stop design guidelines. http://www.gmpte.com/upload/library/07_0650_bus_stop_guidelines.pdf (Design templates primarily used by Highway Authorities and their contractors when designing bus stops which can be altered to suit individual environments)

JCMBPS (2004). Bus Stops, Policy Statement. Reading. GDBA. Available online at : http://www.jcmbps.org.uk/fileadmin/gdba/downloads/JCMBPS/Bus_Stops_01.pdf

Loukaitou-Sideris, A., Liggett, R. and Iseki, H. (2001) ‘Measuring the effects of built environment on bus stop crime’. Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design, Vol. 28, pp255-280. Available at http://www.uctc.net/papers/419.pdf

Loukaitou-Sideris, A. (1999). “Hot Spots of Bus Stop Crime: The Importance of Environmental Attributes,” Journal of the American Planning Association, 65:4, pp. 395-411
Available at http://www.uctc.net/papers/384.pdf
Abstract available at http://www.uctc.net/papers/419.pdf


This Design Guide is first printed in 2007 and is protected by Copyright Notice © Rita Newton and Marcus Ormerod, I’DGO Inclusive Design for Getting Outdoors.

Corresponding author of this Design Guide:

Rita Newton, SURFACE Inclusive Design Research Centre, The University of Salford, Maxwell Building, The Crescent, Salford, M5 4WT, UK. Email:r.newton@salford.ac.uk

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