At a ribbon cutting ceremony on Geary and Arguello Boulevards in the Richmond District yesterday, Mayor Gavin Newsom, MTA Chief Nat Ford and representatives from Clear Channel presented the next iteration of the city’s bus shelters, the first of 1100 new shelters that will be installed between now and 2013. The shelters combine innovative solar technology with a design that is meant to evoke both a seismic wave and the hills of San Francisco.
"San Franciscans who are waiting for their bus or streetcar to arrive will be pleasantly surprised when they see the new transit shelters we’re putting in across the City," said Mayor Newsom. "Transit shelters that use photovoltaics, LEDS, and WiFi are going to be standard in the future and I’m proud that San Francisco is once again acting like the pace car for other cities by trying and implementing these technologies."
The prototype shelter has two maps and more room to display transit information, NextMuni displays and a push-to-talk system to read NextMuni information for the visually impaired. The wave-like red roof of the shelter is embedded with photo-voltaic cells that will power the LEDs and are expected to pump the excess electricity they generate back into the city’s grid. WiFi is being tested at the prototype shelter and is expected to be included in other shelters, assuming no problems arise.
The shelters are made of materials that are meant to reduce maintenance costs and resist some forms of graffiti and etching, which Mayor Newsom said was a bane of the older shelters and an eyesore.
"We’re going to see a very stringent maintenance schedule adopted and implemented," said Newsom. "I’m looking forward to seeing this shelter looking like this four, five, ten years from now. I’ll be driving by–and riding by, because little do you know I take Muni in spite of some of those who wish I didn’t so they’d have another reason to criticize me."
As part of the contract for the shelters, Clear Channel will pay to fabricate and install the shelters and share 55 percent of revenues with the MTA for the first 15 years of the 20-year contract, what will amount to an anticipated $300 million total. Clear Channel Northern California Region President Bill Hooper estimated that each shelter would cost the company between $25,000-30,000, costs that Hooper said they expected to recoup, though it would take some time.
The polycarbonate roof structure was designed by 3form Materials Solutions with photovoltaic laminates by Konarka Power Plastic. Neither company had previously implanted photovoltaic cells into a polycarbonate base, but developed a technology that realizes negligible electricity loss, and subsequently patented the process. Because the shelters will be wired, instead of using batteries, the extra power that is generated will feed back into the grid.
Rather than use an off-the-shelf design, the MTA and Clear Channel held a design competition and selected a local architect, Lundberg Design. Olle Lundberg of Lundberg Design said that this was his first civic project, that his firm traditionally designed and constructed restaurants, including the Slanted Door. He explained that the steel used to create the structures is 75 percent recycled material; the polycarbonate roof is 40 percent post industrial recycled materials
As for the color of the roof? "I like red," said Lundberg, though he added the Market Street shelters are going to have amber colored roofs and stainless steel structures.
"It’s been fun to leave your signature on the city," said Lundberg. "We’ve done some really beautiful buildings in the city, but honestly nothing will have the same impact as  of these will. These are going to be everywhere and are going to be this kind of icon. I do hope that they become part of the street vocabulary of San Francisco."