Fans at bus stops get some hot and bothered

While some commuters feel it's a waste of money, others welcome the cool respite

Electric fans at bus stops - a good idea or an unnecessary expense?

This is what some have been asking after it was reported that since last month, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) has been testing the use of such fans at five bus stops. If all goes well, it could install the fans at more stops.

But some people have argued that commuters are not expected to spend a long time waiting at bus stops, which are already naturally ventilated, given their open design.

In a letter to The Straits Times Forum Page, Madam Koh Kha Eng wrote: "Is it not possible for commuters to endure the 10 minutes of heat as they wait?"

Instead of fans, why not put in more seats, asked another.

But experts argued that this is one in a series of measures to make bus commutes more comfortable.

Government Parliamentary Committee for Transport deputy chairman Ang Hin Kee highlighted that up to 90 people can be gathered at any one time at a large bus stop, such as the one along Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3, near Ang Mo Kio MRT station. This is one of the five bus stops where fans have been installed.

"At such a bus stop, it may get stuffy sometimes. I think LTA is trying to provide a respite (in such cases), " he said.

Transport researcher Lee Der Horng from the National University of Singapore said commuters used to complain about the discomfort at open-air MRT stations, prompting the LTA to install mega fans at some stations. He says similar fans are needed at some bus stops.

However, Mr Ang believes that time should be given for the LTA to assess how useful the scheme is, as fans may not be needed at bus stops with good airflow.

"Where it's a breezy place and there aren't major crowds, then something like this may not be necessary."

In response to queries from The Sunday Times, LTA said it will assess the feasibility, effectiveness and cost of installing such fans during their six-month trial, to determine if they should be installed at more bus stops.

SIM University senior lecturer Park Byung Joon agrees with those who say that fans are not needed as Singaporeans should be used to the heat and that waiting times should be relatively short.

He believes that extending the initiative should hinge on whether commuters feel the enhanced experience is worth the cost. "We have to let them know the costs of the fans... to help them assess if it is worthwhile spending that much money for their comfort."

When The Sunday Times visited the bus stop at Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3 yesterday at 3pm, most of the commuters - whose numbers grew to as many as 40 - welcomed the cool air the six fans brought. The fans are activated for 15 minutes at a time at the press of a switch.

While one commuter, 66-year- old cleaner Tan Boon Hock, complained that the fans were noisy, 24-year-old Kyle Koh, a Singapore Institute of Technology student, welcomed the respite.

"It used to be very stuffy in the afternoon, Without the fans, normally I'm sweating. Now I don't mind sitting for a while more because of the fans."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 31, 2016, with the headline 'Fans at bus stops get some hot and bothered'. Print Edition | Subscribe