Mayor Newsom and MTA Cut Ribbon on New Solar Bus Shelters

bus_shelter.jpgClear Channel’s Bill Hooper, MTA Chief Nat Ford, and Mayor Newsom in front of the new bus shelter. Photos: Matthew Roth

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 [1100] 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."

rivets_and_curb.jpgDesigner Olle Lundberg explained that the bolted construction was meant to evoke the Bay Bridge.

shelter_roof.jpgMaterials manufacturer 3form pioneered a new polycarbonate manufacturing technique that permits photo-voltaic laminate to be sandwiched between layers of polycarbonate without impeding solar energy production.
  • “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.

    “And this comes at a really good time because they are going to be waiting A LOT longer now that I’m cutting MUNI service.”

  • Just because the shelters are designed to house LED displays, does not mean they will because there is no funding (at least as of a couple months ago) to purchase any more of the NextMuni signs.

    While I’m not a big fan of the seismic wave concept for the roof, what really gets me is the bare metal frame which appears like the main, if not only, criteria was making it cheap to clean and repair. Paint might be expensive, but at least it gives the appearance you care about something besides cost like trying to show you have some pride or interest in your home town.

  • Jeffrey W. Baker

    The shelter looks nice, but whenever I see this kind of cantilevered construction using machine screws, my inner mechanical engineer dies a little. I suspect these shelters will be rattling and crooked within five years.

    Can’t anybody afford to hire welders any more?

  • Gerrard

    Maybe that’s why the mayor also cut the ribbon on $2.00 muni fare?

    Streetsblog should consider the question: how should public transportation be paid for?

    and p.s.- Newsom on the bus?! That’ll be the freaking day.

  • Greg H.

    “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.”

    Hahahaha, it’s unbelievable how thin-skinned and defensive he is, particularly when the criticism is true.

  • marcos

    Yeah, how about streetsblog doing what SPUR says it wants to do and sponsoring a series of public meetings to discuss how the MTA got where it is and how we get it where we want it to be, both from standpoints of governance and revenue?


  • Did you notice how he said that he rides MUNI?

    “I’ll be driving by–and riding by…” he totally had to catch himself and put up the defense. There is no way he rides MUNI. He didn’t even bike to work on “Bike to Work” Day!

  • Nick

    This reminds me of that saying: “It’s about the journey, not the destination.”

    Not much consolation if you actually need to get somewhere.

  • theo

    I thought there were going to be other shelter designs that powered themselves without needing to be hooked up to the grid. That was one of the points of the solar roof. Does anyone know when those will be demoed?

    @Jamison: I thought the NextBus signs were reasonably cheap, like $2000. It was the power hookup that was expensive. $2000 is chump change for Muni.

    If necessary, aren’t there a few signs that could be reallocated to stops with more passengers? Especially with stop consolidation? There’s a stop at Parnassus & Shrader which has about 10 passengers a day according to the TEP — and a NextBus sign.

  • ZA

    A good and desirable prototype to see more of in future. I hope that they evolve in time to accommodate ticketing, so that can mean more room and faster boarding/unboarding of trains & buses.

    The wavy PV roof design is eye-catching, but also bird-drop-catching too. I don’t expect maintenance costs to be reduced significantly. I suggest the city attract more Peregrine Falcons.

    This deal does beg the question though: what happened to the Velib-style bikeshare program the Mayor was going to work out with Clear Channel?

  • Jeffrey W. Baker

    Yes you would think busier stations would get them first. For example you might expect to see a Nextbus display on Fillmore at Geary, inside the huge custom shelter, but there is not one.

  • Peculiar that Newsom claims to ride Muni but still has an unclaimed prize of a free FastPass to the first person who can submit a picture of him doing so.

  • marcos

    Just back from visiting a friend up at California Pacific Hospital at Clay and Buchanan. We used a City CarShare to bring him some real food, and on the drive home, happened to be following the #12 line on Washington, a barely used spur on a line that has always been a poor performer and is slated for elimination.

    Whaddya know but every bus shelter every block had a damn NextMuni display. Along the Mission and SoMa segments of the line, I’ve not seen many.

    Why might one imagine that Pacific Heights would have Muni first class Muni facilities, the likes that you’d not see down in the flast?


  • Olle is a very good architect. What’s unusual about his office is they have steel and wood fabrication abilities as well. This is a wonderful design, inventive and elegant: good to see some of the extraordinary local talent tapped to do some civic work. The MTA and the Mayor get cudos for me on this one.

  • theo


    “Why might one imagine that Pacific Heights would have Muni first class Muni facilities, the likes that you’d not see down in the flast?”

    I’m guessing the advertising company has something to say about where shelters go. As well as which shelters get powered for back-lit ads (and more usefully, NextBus displays).

    Pacific Heights = designer clothing labels = lots of ad revenue.

    Folsom & 26th = Spanish-language PSAs = tax writeoff.

    If that’s what happened, Muni should have pushed harder to put the shelters along popular lines, not just in affluent neighborhoods. I hope the new contract will avoid such mistakes.

  • I think it’s pretty cute that at least at one shelter – in the photo above – you can see the prices for gas just above the LED display.

  • I would expect these to be rolled out by supervisorial district, just like the NextMuni signs have, and not by ridership levels at the stops.

  • marcos

    @Jamison Wieser, so rolling out Muni facilities by supervisorial district leads one to believe that there are political factors at play.

    One might imagine the order of districts to be as follows [ 2 , 7 , 4 , 8 ] , [ 3 , 10 , 5 , 1 ] , [ 11 , 6 , 9 ]. I’m glad that we passed Prop E in 1999 to be sure that, in the words of a ballot argument signed by then-supervisor Newsom we:

    “create[d] a new Transportation Agency .to run the Municipal Railway free from political interference.”


  • @marc don’t act surprised. You’re completely naive if you think the location of that shelter was anything other than politics.

    In the last memo to the Supervisors about service changes had a column for the districts effected, not the number of riders effected. The same was true a couple years ago when they rolled out additional next Muni signs to shelters.

    This really ticked off a fellow member of the Citizens Advisory Committee who noticed at 18th and Castro, signs were put up for 3 of the 4 corners and our investigation lead us to discover that while this was a major transfer point (taking the whole block together you have a major transfer point for the K,L,M,T,F,24,33,35,37 which connect many of the surrounding neighborhoods to the rest of the city) it would have given the appearance of favoring District 8.

  • marcos

    What’s naive is that the designated stakeholders in the recent MTA budget battle did not throw Gavin Newsom’s words back at him when he called for a depoliticized MTA with dedicated revenue and his budget delivers just the opposite.

    The debate got framed as a raid on the general fund, labor got cold feet, and now we’ll see fares doubling within 6 years, service cuts in the form of fewer lines with fewer stops and those fare dollars going to pay the SFPD.

    The voters are ripe for nixing these shenanigans, having voted down the gimmick package just last week. Mistakes were made in not adopting that successful framing to recapture the initiative against Newsom.


  • Jeffrey W. Baker

    The distribution of Nextbus signs is totally bizarre, marcos. There are some scattered on the 12 line, but the extremely busy 1-California stop/terminal at Fillmore in the same neighborhood lacks one.

  • iPhone – there is no substitute

  • I love this blog

  • Andrew

    When someone posts a good story about progress online, what’s the compelling human behavior that causes hundreds (sometimes thousands) of people to then critique the design, placement, government corruption, bus service, state of the earth, etc. etc. Someone is building something new + getting it done. Get off your high horses and celebrate. Or move somewhere where the debates continue on why we even need bus shelters, let alone have any information about when the next bus is due to arrive.

  • Derek

    Absolutely Andrew. The fact that people are bitching about amazing quality bus shelters amazes me. All you whiners should move to a city of 250,000 that barely even has public transit and riders get to stand out on the curb, completely unsheltered. We have the worst carbon footprint of any city in the country and we still can’t convince people that mass transit is a viable idea.

  • I disagree. Setting aside the appearance (which was agreed to the majority who got involved in the process) the open design of the shelter provides much less shelter against the rain and wind that many of the other designs that were proposed. While the city is getting something done, they passed over more functional designs.

    I’m not ready to celebrate the decision to having custom built shelters for their appearance over the most basic function of a bus shelter. While many of the rejected alternatives would not have been unique to SF, they did benefit from field testing. Also, it doesn’t look like they addressed the issue of rain gutters, which I hope means they’ve cleverly been hidden inside the frame.

  • Now that the city wifi project has died it is good to hear that they plan to set it up in bus shelters. Since people are going to wait a long time for the bus to come you might as well let people do something online.

  • Muni doesn’t have to worry about funding the shelters b/c Clear Channel is under contract to build them. Muni just has to tell Clear Channel which stops to put them at.

    Yes, the biggest problem with putting more nextmuni signs up is an electrical hook up.

  • People use bus shelter to wait for the bus to come and not to surf there online with wi fi. It is not a cafeteria where one can sit and use wi fi without waiting for anything. Implementing wi fi in bus shelter is not a great idea from my point of view.

  • Our company also made this kind of the bus shelter for San Franciscans , but now also standing in our factory ! I want to konw if it’s used on the road ?

  • I have seen one on the road !

  • If the things last 10 years, any idea what the value of the electricity that’s pumped into the grid?

  • People use bus shelter to wait for the bus to come and not to surf there online with wi fi. It is not a cafeteria where one can sit and use wi fi without waiting for anything. Implementing wi fi in bus shelter is not a great idea from my point of view.
    akon 2011

  • The pictured shelter is the only one with these PV cells. It doesn’t put anything into the grid, it just powers the illuminated advertising.

    Konarka went out of business a year ago. I guess we’ll see whether their product lasts longer than they did.


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