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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Better bus shelter design in downtown Saint John

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SAINT JOHN – I spent my thanksgiving with a friend’s family in Saint John, giving me the chance to do a good deal of walking around town. One thing that struck me was the elegantly designed bus shelters surrounding King Square, City Hall and the Loyalist Burying Ground downtown.  Made of wrought-iron, these bus shelters are the nicest I have seen anywhere in Canada.  Although I only saw them downtown, I’m told they can be found all over Saint John, and not just in the places most visited by tourists, a sign that aesthetic considerations have been taken into account by City Hall when it comes to streetscapes and urban design.

Besides their good looks, they also seem remarkably functional.  The handful of designed shelters I saw all nicely protected their waiting transit users from the rain and wind; their windows, walls and roof doing exactly what windows, walls and a roof should do.  While that may seem like a pretty inane comment, in Halifax, keeping shelters working properly has become a real challenge in the face of continuing vandalism.  Here Saint John may point the way forward, providing an example of how better urban design can actually be cost-effective and functionally superior in some situations.

In the Loyalist Burying Ground, I found another bus shelter that a different design.  Built during the Irving’s renovation of the Burying ground, it’s great to see that the city doesn’t force shelters to conform to one specific mold when they are rebuilt with the help of private individuals.

photos by Jake Schabas



  1. Those are great, for protection and aesthetics. I also like the large signage (“King’s Square North” etc). Besides being functional, it adds to the unique sense of a place. I’d like to see shelters like these in Hfx..

  2. While you are right that these bus shelters a great example of urban design, unfortunately they are few in numbers are do not extend outside the uptown core. Sadly, most of the ones that you have not photographed are also in deplorable condition having not been maintained adequately since their construction in the late 1980’s. Even worse still, the transit commission has no interest in taking on this kind of initiative ever again. While completing a recent transit-related design for a large commercial client, the transit commission point blank told me that they would rather buy a product off the shelf (here is their new standard: than ever again going through the “pain,” time and expense of custom designing shelters, paying to have them built, and maintaining them on a yearly basis. For shame!

  3. I agree the bus shelters are stunning and also agree that they need care. I take transit daily and have noticed that there few shelters period.

  4. Saint John Transit is not considered part of the city unlike most other cities the same size. It has a minimal budget with no significant increase in the future. I have spoken to transit management about several ideas to improve operations to maintain and increase ridership. Unfortunately no extra funds are available to mark bus stops or maintain shelters.