get on the bus


It is a bus stop like none you have ever seen. Curved and gleaming like a Frank Gehry structure, it anchors a neighborhood like a piece of public art. Its shape can adapt to fit different needs, emphasizing more shelter in bad weather areas or more seating in high-usage zones. The shelter is wrapped in an LED “skin” that can play video. It’s wired to a larger communications network. It features displays that tell when, exactly, the next bus will arrive. It is, in a word, intelligent.

This Jetsonian bus stop is only a prototype, built by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for a recent exhibition on the history of bus transport, but it’s emblematic of a very real, almost seismic, shift in thinking about the possibilities of the humble motorbus. In 2005, Seattle began outfitting some long-haul buses with wireless Internet access (other cities have followed). Los Angeles built America’s largest fleet of clean-burning “green” buses and initiated traffic-signal priority on many of its routes. Bus riders in Curitiba, Brazil, pay their fares at bus stops before they board, thus reducing the average stop time to about 17 seconds.

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