Management & Operations

WMATA Installs Solar-Powered Lights at Bus Stops

Posted on April 19, 2000

Continuing with its environment-friendly trend, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority installed three solar-powered lighting devices at several of its bus shelters and stops. The lights, activated by the push of a button that needs to be pressed every 15 minutes, were installed to increase customer safety and convenience. They may also help bus drivers better spot a passenger who is present at the stop, decreasing the number of missed pick-ups, and deter vandalism. “What we know is that people feel secure if they are in a well-lit place," said Cheryl Johnson, a spokesperson for WMATA. "Some of our bus stops at night time look dimly lit, so we thought it would be a good idea to not only light up these stops but at the same time, use something that’s environmentally friendly.” Solar Outdoor Lighting Inc. (SOL) is responsible for servicing transit communities like WMATA with what it calls the OmniLight. Several transit properties approached his company with the notions of “enhancing safety at bus stops and providing light where there is no power source available,” said Matt Hollister, SOL's transit account executive. There were concerns about a possible run-in with an insufficient energy source. “One of the things that we have to see is how these lights work in a real life condition and how much power is actually stored in the batteries, especially on a cloudy or rainy day,” Johnson said. SOL claims that many of potential complications have been addressed. “The panel will charge the battery even on a cloudy day, very similar to a person being able to get sunburned on a cloudy day," Hollister said. "You still have the appropriate UV rays that are coming through the clouds to let the panel charge the battery.” The panel converts ultraviolet rays into electrical energy and then stores the energy into a battery. A battery was also designed to provide up to seven days of backup in case there is not enough UV light available for electrical conversion. SOL also emphasized that the OmniLight is vandal resistant. The lens on the light is made of a strong polycarbonate and the protective glass on the solar panel is impact resistant, designed to take two and a half inches of hail at approximately 45 mph. “We understand that within the transit industry, there is a great deal of concern regarding vandalism," Hollister said. Several other cities, including Long Beach, Calif.; Austin, Texas; and Tampa, Fla., already installed the SOL OmniLight. The cost of a single OmniLight is about $1,200. For more information on the OmniLight, visit www.solarlighting.com.

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