While many cities have been working to green their public transportation systems, rolling out hybrid buses, electric-vehicle fleets, and the like, San Francisco is one of the first to tackle that humdrum piece of transit street furniture: the bus shelter.
Mayor Gavin Newsom has cut the ribbon on the first of 1,200 new bus shelters the city plans to install over the next five years, and a third of them will be powered by solar arrays mounted on distinctive, wavelike canopies. The transparent, LED-lit unit, by local architecture firm Lundberg Design, was the winning entry in the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s design competition for the shelters, which drew 35 submissions.
Taking its cue from the shape of seismic shock waves, the canopy is made of recycled, 40 percent post-industrial polycarbonate, with a ribbon of solar cells running down its center. The photovoltaic (PV) material supplies power to a LED arrival-time display and to a push-button loudspeaker for visually impaired riders, with extra power being fed back into the grid. The architects were charged with designing a structure in three different sizes to suit a range of neighborhoods and inclines, so the 70 percent reclaimed steel frame uses a bolted assembly that references the city’s bridges and can expand from two panels to four. Convex bench seats shed debris and moisture, while also discouraging patrons from reclining—perhaps while using the shelter’s handy, integrated WiFi.
As the remaining units are rolled out over the coming years, the city and project sponsor Clear Channel—which is funding the fabrication of the new shelters in return for a share of the advertising revenue over the next 15 years—expect them to become not only a symbol of San Francisco’s sustainable future, but also a model for public transit systems across the country. And at $25,000 to $30,000 each, they’re also a model of what the right sponsor can do for a city’s image.