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Sweltering Cities reveals Sydney's worst bus stops amid hot summer weather

A stranded pole on a dirt strip, an unshaded grass patch and a sign in snake-inhabited long grass are among the nominees for Sydney's worst bus stop, according to Western Sydney advocacy group Sweltering Cities.

Nine places are in the sights of Sweltering Cities in suburbs including Erskine Park, Minchinbury and Fairfield West.

The group's executive director, Emma Bacon, said there needed to be better shelters as summers became hotter, particularly in Sydney's west where temperatures reached up to 48 degrees Celsius in 2020.

"On a hot day, waiting for 20 minutes for a bus with no shelter or shade can make catching the bus dangerous or impossible for some," Ms Bacon told ABC Radio Sydney.

"People shouldn't be risking dehydration, sunburn or heat exhaustion just trying to get to work or school or run errands."

Ms Bacon said people were also tired of waiting in the pouring rain during the past few years of La Niña weather.

Sunburn, soakings, snakes

One of the nominated "worst bus stops" was in Erskine Park on the shoulder of a busy highway amid long grass.

Erskine Park resident and Sweltering Cities campaigner, Kim Vernon, said residents routinely find snakes in their backyard and would likely find one at the stop.

"If you actually wanted to stand off the edge of the road, you would be in the long grass with the snakes and whatever else is in there," Ms Vernon said.

"I was just shocked to think that anyone could even stand there, you can hardly get off the road."

A spokesperson for Penrith City Council said 2022 Opal card data showed the Erskine Park stop had "little to no" patrons which suggested it was "no longer in use". 

Another stop listed by Sweltering Cities was described as "just a pole in the dirt" in Cranebrook.

However, Penrith council said only 28 passengers accessed the stop last year.

"Of course people don't use terrible bus stops," Ms Bacon said.

"If there's a minimum use level or criteria for a stop to have shelter, a timetable or a seat, I'm sure the community would love to know what that is and if it's applied consistently across the city."

Ms Vernon also photographed a coil of telegraph wires at eye-level at a bus stop in Casula, which also made the list.

Ms Vernon was particularly concerned about young people developing skin cancer from overexposure to the sun. 

"Hundreds of kids might be catching buses from certain schools and by the time your bus turns up, you could have been standing there for maybe 20-25 minutes," Ms Vernon said.

Hot surfaces

Western Sydney University urban researcher Sebastian Pfautsch said hot days in Sydney were more severe in the west largely due to its geography and a lack of sea breeze experienced in coastal areas.

"Where we really get these large differences is during heatwaves," Mr Pfautsch said. 

"Then a temperature difference can be 15 degrees, 14 degrees."

Temperatures are then higher on the ground when waiting for a bus on a hot day because of nearby unshaded surfaces.

"When you have a 35-degree day, you could feel like standing at 45 degrees at your bus shelter," Mr Pfautsch said.

"It's significant, the amount of heat that your body absorbs from radiation coming from hot surfaces."

Infrastructure inequality

Local councils are in charge of financing bus shelters in their suburbs.

Penrith council said they had a modest budget to install four new modern bus shelters each year.

Blacktown mayor Tony Bleasdale said while it was the council's obligation to provide shelters, the state government had not given the council enough funding to keep up with rising demand for services.

"The reality of it is most government budgets are not really taking on board the fact that more than 50 per cent of city's population live west, south-west and north-west of Parramatta," Cr Bleasdale said.

"State governments have not come to the party in terms of providing the appropriate resources, not just for bus stops."

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