Houston Metro Prototypes Bus Shelter Fans

The agency is working on designs for a bus stop shelter with built-in solar-powered fans to keep waiting riders cool.

2 minute read

August 20, 2023, 9:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

White metal and glass bus shelter at station with separated bus lane in downtown Houston, Texas

Bus shelter at downtown Houston bus rapid transit station. | Fotoluminate LLC / Adobe Stock

“A prototype shelter aimed at addressing some of Houston’s unique needs, including solar-paneled fans, could evolve into new structures at many Metropolitan Transit Authority bus stops,” reports Dug Begley in the Houston Chronicle.

Protection from sun and heat at transit stops can be crucial in cities like Houston as heat waves grow longer and more intense, but only 3,350 of Houston’s operational bus stops have shelters. “In downtown and many areas funded with management districts, bus shelters can be spacious, shady locations with benches. In tree-line neighborhoods, stops can be shady even if they are uncovered. Along some streets in Denver Harbor, Acres Homes, the bus stop is nothing more than a sign on a stick next to a drainage ditch on the side of the road.”

Now, the agency is developing designs for a bus shelter that will help riders keep cool in the brutal Houston summers. The solar panels used to operate the fans could also power lighting and arrival time screens. 

Metropolitan Transit Authority Chief Operating Officer Chuck Berkshire says the agency has been testing one design and is already planning changes. “The focus will be on getting one shelter designed and built, then modify from there, Berkshire said, for situations where a shelter might need to be smaller to fit along a certain sidewalk segment or have two-seat benches instead of three to accommodate a wheelchair user.”

With enough planning, Houston might avoid the derision aimed at L.A.’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority earlier this year, when the agency unveiled a shade structure dubbed ‘La Sombrita,’ widely criticized as a minimally effective effort that highlights the outsized obstacles posed by the city’s building code.

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