x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Bus shelters switch off when hot

The air conditioned shelters are meant to provide a cool refuge for passengers, but many malfunction in the heat.

People wait to board a bus outside a non-working air-conditioned bus shelter, where the inside temperature is warmer than on the street.
People wait to board a bus outside a non-working air-conditioned bus shelter, where the inside temperature is warmer than on the street.

DUBAI // They are designed to do one thing, and one thing only: provide a cool refuge from the searing summer heat. It has even been promised that the city's much-heralded air-conditioned bus shelters could help persuade motorists to give up their cars and try public transport. Yet there stood Gert Misker on a recent workday, working up a sweat as he waited inside one of Jumeirah Beach Road's glass-walled structures.

"It's like a sauna in here," said the 35-year-old from the Netherlands. A recent check revealed more than half of the shelters located along the main artery - 10 out of 17 - were not air-conditioned at all. Bizarrely, when contacted, the company that operates them blamed the malfunctions on the high summer heat, which is precisely why bus passengers need their cooling interiors now more than ever.

"Extreme outside temperatures can cause technical difficulties at some shelters, causing the air-conditioners to trip at intervals," said Right Angle Media. More than 500 of the air-conditioned shelters have been built so far in the emirate to entice people onto the bus. They will become more important once the Metro opens in September, when the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) will add 41 feeder bus routes.

Mattar al Tayer, chief executive of the RTA, said Dubai would be the first city in the world to "offer luxury of air-conditioned bus shelters for passengers" when he viewed the prototype in 2006. Naveer Pasha, from India and one of the passengers at the bus stop opposite the York International Hotel, was not having any of it. "It is all a show," she said. "None of these shelters work, and we have to wait out here all the time for buses that are late."

Along Jumeirah Beach Road, most shelters without air conditioning were empty, unlike the ones that worked. "It usually takes 10 to 15 minutes to get a bus," said Owu Homg from China, who had found one with AC, "but I am not going to walk to find an air-conditioned shelter. If it doesn't work, I will have to stand outside." Shria Khan from Pakistan was more forgiving. "Before we didn't have these air-conditioned shelters," she said from inside the chilled shelter, "and so what if they don't work? It was a lot worse before they were introduced." Meanwhile Abu Dhabi's 20 new bus shelters, located around Muroor and Airport roads and Al Falah Street, were up and running yesterday.

"It gets a little hot when the sun is hitting the [glass] walls," said one woman as she dashed off to catch her bus. "It's better than nothing." There were complaints about the doors, which require passengers to hit a button so they can be activated. "Some people don't know that to open the door, you need to push a button," said Rodel Intia, 37, a Filipino restaurant manager at TGI Fridays. "So people start pushing, or pulling, or sliding, or shouting at the door."

Right Angle Media won the Dh17.5 million (US$4.8m) per annum contract to construct the Dubai shelters and run them for 10 years in 2006. The contract included Dh3.5m a year for maintenance. For now, it has asked patrons to close the doors after them to keep the cold air in. "With assistance from commuters in using the shelters correctly, Right Angle can prevent this disruption from recurring," it said.

@Email:eharnan@thenational.ae