DUBAI // Mohammed el Badri opened the door to a bus shelter on Jumeirah Road, walked in and immediately rushed out. Then, he did the same thing at the next one.
He chose to stand in the hot sun until his bus arrived rather than suffer the suffocating heat inside.
"Neither of the air conditioners are on," said Mr el Badri, 33, an Egyptian pharmacist. "In the winter months, they were working marvellously, but they suddenly stopped working about a month ago and haven't been fixed since."
With the summer months quickly approaching, bus passengers are demanding that the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) move quickly to repair air conditioners at a majority of Dubai's bus shelters. They are also calling for more shelters.
This week, The National visited 21 bus shelters at random in the Deira, Jumeirah, Bur Dubai and Ghubeibah areas of the city and found only six with properly working air conditioners. Another six had running air conditioners that were not cooling, with the temperature inside the shelter equalling the temperature outside.
Nine shelters had no air conditioning whatsoever, with inside temperatures reaching over 40°C — producing a feeling like that inside a vehicle left in the summer sun all day, with the windows up.
At all but the six cool shelters, people like Mr el Badri stood out in the sun or sat inside with the shelter doors open, hoping their buses would arrive soon.
The lack of comfortable shelters may compromise the RTA's ambitious plan to convince 30 per cent of Dubai residents to use public transport by next year, a marked increase from the current 8 per cent.
An RTA representative said this week that the agency would look into the lack of air-conditioned shelters, adding that there may be a technical problem.
However, Mr el Badri said he believed the RTA's goal was too ambitious, especially during the summer months, if cool shelter is not provided.
"I would prefer to drive in a car that's air conditioned than stand in the heat and sun," he said.
At a Deira bus stop in front of the Flora Park Hotel, a walking distance from the Deira City Centre Metro station, Mohammed Yousif stood in the sun for 25 minutes waiting for a bus, without a shelter.
Only a pole indicated that buses stopped there. The Sudanese translator, 34, said that if the RTA was not up to the task of building more bus shelters to match the increase in demand, it should allow the general public to do what was customary in his home country.
"In Sudan, you and I can build a bus shelter as a charitable act," he said. "We can build one ourselves, or pay the municipality to build one in memory of a martyr or a loved one who has died. It serves as a memorial to that person and earns him and the builder blessings from Allah. The RTA should consider letting people do that here."
Others have their own suggestions on ways to fix the problem.
One reader of The National, who asked not to be named, suggested in a letter to the newspaper that the RTA should subcontract the maintenance of the shelters, perhaps even to the companies that advertise on them.
"It has become an ignored or neglected problem," he wrote. "It is not understandable, as [to] whether the A/C services in the bus shelters are sublet by RTA to another agency, and whether they are saving on electricity, or is it the RTA cutting down costs, at least let them inform the passengers and let the shelter doors be kept open rather than have the suffocation without air inside it."