Old arguments against air-con interchanges apply to bus stops too

The announcement of the new "cool" bus stop on trial outside Plaza Singapura reminds me of when Singapore's first air-conditioned bus interchange opened in Toa Payoh in 2002 (An oasis of cool, clean air for bus commuters; March 13).

It triggered many letters to the Forum page arguing against the air-conditioning (Consider options other than air-con for interchange, by Mr Low Fatt Kin, May 30, 2002; and No need for air-con interchange, by Mr Johnny Lim Yeou Huah, June 1, 2002).

The concerns were largely over a probable increase in the cost of bus fares, wasting precious energy resources - which are finite and which Singapore does not have - and the over-dependency on air-conditioning, which could turn Singaporeans into "softies" unable to function outside a cool environment.

The Land Transport Authority then responded to say that the interchange was built as part of an integrated development, which maximises the use of our scarce land and minimises noise and air pollution from the buses, and also provides greater accessibility for commuters shopping or working in the vicinity (Air-con interchange part of larger complex, June 5, 2002).

Sixteen years later, I must agree that integrated bus interchanges are practical and no one doubts the pleasure of waiting in cool comfort.

However, the new bus stop on trial is another matter.

It is not part of any building and not even enclosed, so the cool blasts of air are quickly dissipated into the hot, humid environment.

That is a waste of precious energy needed to run the cooling system.

All the arguments made in 2002 against air-conditioning bus interchanges are still relevant today to argue against the air-conditioning of bus stops.

We must constantly remember that Singapore does not have natural resources.

With the unstable political environment in the world, there is even more reason to use precious resources only for instances of "must-haves" and not for "nice-to-haves".

Agnes Sng Hwee Lee (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 15, 2018, with the headline 'Old arguments against air-con interchanges apply to bus stops too'. Subscribe