Creating a Sense of Place™ at bus stops improves the customer experience

Aug. 22, 2019
Street furniture allows customers to be comfortable and LED solar-powered lighting provides better safety and security while supporting real-time passenger information screens.

Waiting for a bus or train can feel like an eternity, even if only a few minutes tick by. Having a comfortable, secure, well-informed place to wait for that bus or train can make all the difference for customers. Blending how that bus stop or BRT station fits within the community is key, allowing passengers and the entire community to view these outdoor spaces not as an afterthought but as part of the larger streetscape plan.

Capital Metro in Austin, Texas, recognizes the importance of delivering quality bus shelters and street furniture as part of the larger transit riding experience. In fact, the agency developed the Coordinated Bus Stop Street Furniture Program stating the goal of the program is to deliver uniquely attractive, functional street furniture of exceptional design quality that provides a variety of public services across the authority’s service area. In support of this program, Tolar Manufacturing was awarded the contract to supply 125 bus shelters to Capital Metro that incorporate improved passenger comfort through 12-foot shelters with unique weather-protecting perforated metal walls designed to be installed at either the front or rear of the shelter for best wind protection. Creating a Sense of Place™, the attractive modern shelters add to Austin’s lively downtown and vibrant outdoor atmosphere.

Another city recognizing the power of improving the customer experience by integrating well-designed street furniture within their community culture is Santa Ana, Calif. In late 2018, Tolar Manufacturing Company completed the design and fabrication of 41 custom-built “papel picado” themed bus shelters for the city. What makes these 14-foot to 27-foot shelters unique is the way the fabricator brought the city’s rich cultural heritage to life by embracing the popular Mexican folk art known as “papel picado” – elaborate designs created from cutting colorful sheets of tissue paper. Replicating the intricate details meant enhancing and softening the lines of the rugged steel structure of a bus shelter and incorporating colorfully tinted polycarbonate roof panels and intricately cut wall panels that cast artistic shadows reminiscent of the cut tissue paper designs. The result is a blending of form and function that does not lose the important durable integrity of the shelter while effectively reflecting the character of the community. Enhancing the customer experience with its beauty, the shelters also provide comfortable seating and security lighting that doubles as decorative up lighting provided by energy saving, dusk-to-dawn solar powered LED illumination provided by Urban Solar, a manufacturer of solar power systems and LED lighting solutions for transit applications with integrated, reliable and customer focused designs.

As seen in Santa Ana, solar power plays a key role in improving experiences customers have when utilizing public transit. Solar power solutions can provide night lighting for improved safety and security, important real-time passenger information and more. In Riverside, Calif., customers making connections between Metrolink and local Riverside Transit Authority (RTA) routes are served by 30-foot Tolar Manufacturing built shelters that utilize four solar-powered, UL-listed, dusk-to-dawn LED Urban Solar lighting units. Importantly, a coordinated effort was made to create a cohesive look ensuring these station shelters align with Tolar-fabricated BRT shelters located throughout Riverside that also incorporate solar to power backlit signage and station location identifiers.

In Los Angeles, students travel from a wide service area to attend LA Southwest College, also the site of LA Unified School District’s Middle College High School. Working closely with the school’s project architect, Tolar Manufacturing designed and fabricated 16-foot shelters adapted from its Signature Custom line to form a transit station at the community college that reflects the school’s powerfully branded identity while illuminating the bus stops with environmentally-responsible solar powered lighting. The well-thought out amenities ensure that students can rely on a safe, comfortable and well-lit place to wait before and after their day and night classes. The time and detail incorporated into these shelters creates a Sense of Place™ for students that transcends from the campus to the bus stop, improving their transit experience and increasing the likelihood they will be lifelong transit customers.

Improving the customer experience extends from comfort and safety to also provide timely and accurate information, answering the age-old question, “When is my bus arriving?” In Dallas, customers are getting the answer to that question and so much more while waiting comfortably in SmartPlace™ shelters throughout the city. Building on 28 years of experience, Tolar Manufacturing has been designing and fabricating transit shelters for Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) since 2008. In addition to general market shelters, the company has developed a customized SmartPlace™ transit shelter solution that includes real-time passenger information, illuminated advertising displays, night lighting and security cameras, all powered with state-of-the-art ECM-Connect® smart solar technology provided by Urban Solar.

“Our award-winning solar-powered transit lighting products are an excellent fit with Tolar’s Sense of Place™ shelters, and meet DART’s high standards for innovative, renewable bus stop amenities,” said Jeff Peters, president, Urban Solar in a February press release.

This multi-year effort to provide advanced passenger amenities is resulting in improved passenger experiences throughout the metro Dallas area.

As we look into the near future of how the customer experience can be improved at bus stops, look no further than Atlanta, Georgia. Just last month, it was announced that Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) awarded a $7.1 million multi-year contract to Tolar Manufacturing Company to build 1,000 bus shelters, benches and more for three Georgia counties over the next five years. The company has already delivered nearly 1,000 bus shelters that are currently in the MARTA service area. This newest contract, which includes shelters of various configurations to reflect the character of the different communities in which they will reside, complements the wide portfolio of Tolar-built passenger amenities currently on the streets of Atlanta including streetcar stations, and shelters with modern digital advertising. Georgia residents will soon see assorted amenities important to customers such as benches, leaning rails, solar-powered lighting and passenger information displays.

Since 2007 Tolar has been working with MARTA, as well as their advertising partner Outfront Media, to provide transit shelters across the Atlanta market. Through the actions of the staff and leadership, MARTA proves it values transit users, which is demonstrated through its daily commitment to improving the customer experience.