When I was a kid growing up in Asheville, bus stops were marked with stenciled lettering on utility poles. It was fairly primitive, other than perhaps at the busy downtown transfer points, Pritchard Park and Pack Square, where if I recall correctly there was some indication of which routes stopped at which points.
Although the experience was pretty basic, I took the city buses everywhere. Underage for driving, I didn’t have access to a car, and the place was big enough that many things I wanted to do – visit friends, go to school, go to the tennis courts, buy music, whatever – required transit, especially with both my parents busy working. I liked being independent and enjoyed being able to get around.
There are still bus stops that are no more than a sign on a pole, although many now have some form of shelter from wind and rain, and some have sophisticated service information posted, the most advanced ones with real-time updates. But there is still a sense of functionality about most bus stops, whose design and amenities tend to lack imagination.
That is now changing in Paris, where the RATP (Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens), the city’s dominant transit agency, is piloting “l’arrêt de bus du future” — or bus stop of the future — for five months at a stop outside the Gare de Lyon.