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By way of developing technology, it is becoming clear that the bus shelter industry is changing. From the classic standbys to brave and bold new trends, transit shelter companies are offering products that run the gamut of both traditional design and technological breakthrough. Shelters are being equipped with real-time schedule updates, modern advertising techniques, art and commerce, as well as eco-friendly elements. With these new elements, it is no longer just a bus stop.
Powered by the sun
Now more than ever, technology is playing a greater and greater role in the transit shelter market. Perhaps the greatest leap forward is being taken by Edison, N.J.-based bus stop and shelter manufacturer, Trueform LLC. Its solar-powered, air conditioned shelter is the first of its type to be put out on the market today, according to company VP of Operations Saundra Lautenberg. “With solar-powered air conditioning, there are no electricity costs after you buy the shelter,” she says.
This cutting-edge unit is fully customizable and comes with an array of options, including heating or restroom facilities. Larger-sized units, with room for a newsstand, are also available. Despite the initial cost, Lautenberg explains that it’s more than worth the startup price. Some agencies have even gone so far as to integrate features that reduce the cost altogether. “We have customers who install ATMs, and by doing so, get revenue from the local banks, which in turn helps them to offset the cost of the shelter.”
In addition, the unit is pre-fabricated, arrives on a flatbed truck and can be installed in a matter of hours, without considerable construction, street permits or labor costs.
Detroit-based manufacturer Brasco International Inc. is another company implementing solar elements into its latest products. “Although a solar-powered unit itself may be more expensive initially, it doesn’t require any trenching to get regular power to it,” says Brasco Sales Manager Tim Ryan.
Going the solar-powered route is also a good choice for safety reasons. When you connect 110-volt or 240-volt power to a metal shelter, you always run the risk of something going wrong, such as electrocuting somebody, but using solar-powered shelters essentially eliminates that risk, adds Ryan.
Like Lautenberg, Ryan agrees that although day-one costs of a solar shelter can be high, the long-term savings more than a justifies the expense. In addition to requiring a qualified electrician to hook up a shelter, some projects may require trenching, which involves cutting into the concrete and digging down to put in a conduit. “You’re talking $2,000 to $5,000 just for the trenching, then somebody’s got to pay for the electricity on a monthly or yearly basis.”
In addition to solar power, Tolar Manufacturing Company Inc.’s VP of Sales & Marketing Patrick Merrick says the use of LED lighting is more economical from a long-term maintenance standpoint, with the latest improvement in LEDs providing a life expectancy of 50,000 to 100,000 hours.
Lautenberg agrees. “We don’t use fluorescents because they’re not cost-effective or eco-friendly.”
Push for green
While the use of new, long-term and cost-saving green technology is an exciting prospect, are industry customers asking for more eco-friendly elements to be incorporated into their designs despite the initial costs?
“When they can,” says Lautenberg, who adds that Trueform strives to “incorporate the best combination of lifecycle savings and value engineering cost savings to the client, while still giving them the unique design that they’re searching for.”
According to Merrick, the demand for green has never been greater. “Customers are absolutely looking for sustainable, or green, whichever buzz words you want to use at the time,” he says. “They want those options, not only because it’s the right thing to do, but also because it provides a long-term economical solution.”
Ryan says that the green movement is “full throttle.” He is also aware of the costs, though, and says that Brasco has a tempered approach. “Green is very important, but it has to go hand-in-hand with the economics,” he insists. “The transit authorities, municipalities and park authorities don’t have extra money. But, if they can justify the expenditure and couple that with going green, everybody wins.”
John Duthie, sales and marketing manager for Daytech, based in Toronto, Ontario says the call for eco-friendly designs hasn’t been as strong. “We have had that come up a little bit, but I can’t say it’s a big issue for us,” he says. “At the end of the day, I think the function of our shelters is the driving factor. People want places that are dry and wind-free at the right price point.”
Phoenix-based Lacor/Streetscape has found that customer requests for eco-friendly designs has been minimal. “There has been a slim increase in specific eco-friendly elements,” says Marketing Manager Janice Drake. “Requests for solar lighting and recycled plastic amenities are most common,” she says, adding that the shelters need to be, first and foremost, “durable and safe.”
President and Owner of Jamaica, N.Y.-based Columbia Equipment Arthur Cohen says it still doesn’t happen much, but that his customers are asking about eco-friendly elements much more these days. “Very rarely would anybody ask, ‘what’s the recycled content of your product?’ Now, I see it a lot more than I used to.”
When it comes to eco-friendly designs, Lautenberg says that there’s always tension between what the agency would like to do and their funding availability, but believes that customers like the idea of having cost-effective materials that are long lasting and, therefore, save on the everyday expenses of maintenance.