The remarkable evolution of bus stops from shanties to flashy marketing opportunities


A bland, garden-variety bus stop in Arlington, Va., is shown. (Dayna Smith for the Washington Post)

Bus stops are a universal part of the human experience. Whether you’re in South America,


A man waits at a bus stop in Caracas, Venezuela. (Leo Ramirez/AFP/Getty Images)

South Africa,


South African police officers seek shelter from the rain. (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Crimea,


A man rides a bicycle past a bus stop that has been sprayed with graffiti that reads: “Putin!! We are against war!!” in Crimea. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

or Iraq.


An empty bus stop is seen in Camp Adder near Nasiriyah, Iraq. (2011 photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Marketers noticed bus stops had a captive audience and started incorporating ads.


Here’s a bus stop in Kiev, Ukraine. (1996 photo by James Rupert/The Washington Post)

For example, this bus stop in India.


Commuters work on their laptops as they wait for the bus to arrive on the outskirts of New Delhi. (Parivartan Sharma/Reuters)

Technology also arrived, such as this pay phone.


People wait for a bus in Alpharetta, Ga. (1996 photo by Tannen Maury/AP)

Now some of us are alerted when the next bus will arrive.


A woman waits for a bus in North London.  (2011 photo by Mike Kemp for The Washington Post)

It’s not unheard of for $1 million to be spent on heated floors and stainless steel benches.


Arlington County’s $1 million bus stop on Columbia Pike and Walter Reed Drive features an electronic bus tracking map, is larger than the standard stop and has a more modern design. (Dayna Smith for the Washington Post). (related story)

In other parts of the world, there’s much less.


Afghan men share headphones to listen to music as they wait at a bus stop in the center of Kabul, Afghanistan. (Anja Niedringhaus/AP)

In some corners of the world, bus stops are examples of remarkable creativity.


People wait at a bus station “Eye over Brno” in Brno, Czech Republic.  (Photo credit should read (2011 photo by Radek Mica/AFP/Getty Images)

They sometimes act as hubs of religion.


Orthodox Jewish boys stand on top of a bus stop during a mass prayer in Jerusalem earlier this month to protest at a bill that would cut their community’s military exemptions. (Nir Elias/Reuters)

No matter the faith.


About 20 members of Zion Baptist and Christ Lutheran churches met in the District of Columbia to offer prayers and ashes to morning commuters waiting at area bus stops. (2012 photo by Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

Now marketers are incorporating augmented reality into the experience, like this must-see Pepsi campaign.

In one stunt, Qualcomm picked up people waiting in a Lamborghini.

It did the same with a horse and carriage.

And even a dog sled.

We haven’t seen the best a bus stop can be yet. So what’s next?

Matt McFarland is the editor of Innovations. He's always looking for the next big thing. You can find him on Twitter and Facebook.
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Matt McFarland · March 26