The Passenger Experience Starts with a Stop

Aug. 23, 2022
Transit stops that balance style with function can result in bus shelters and outdoor furniture that provide modern amenities that transform a community’s outdoor environment into a memorable space.

When it comes to transit stops, it’s not enough to be durable, they must also reflect the character of the community they serve.

Tolar celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2021. How has the mission and approach of the company evolved during that time?

In 1991, our founder Gary Tolar noticed a need for safe, high-quality bus shelters and that’s exactly what he built. To this day our mission remains steadfast, to fabricate quality-built bus shelters and outdoor street furniture from our 53,000-square-foot plant.

As times have evolved so have we, recognizing that bus shelters are critical community connectors. We take pride in helping communities recognize that clean, well-lit bus shelters that provide critical passenger travel information and promote multi-mobility choices, improve access to education, social services, healthcare and more.

So, while yes, at Tolar, we produce quality products using top-notch materials, we are equally committed to creating shelters and street furniture that connect people with communities and promote a welcoming landscape in downtowns, neighborhoods, on college and work campuses and at shopping centers.

As we look towards our next 30 years, we recognize this one simple truth - a passenger’s journey starts at a stop. It’s where their travels begin and where their impressions are formed. We take our role in their journey very seriously.

The transit industry aims to weave sustainability through all aspects; how is Tolar supporting these efforts with its products?

Encouraging sustainability is critical for any business to succeed. Those in public transportation know that attractive yet functional bus shelters encourage mass transit utilization, which is an environmental positive by itself. Tolar Manufacturing takes sustainability practices further by working with recycled materials to fabricate shelters and benches and uses a powder-coat process that produces no VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds). Further, we offer LED lighting options powered by low-draw 110-volt and, of course, solar solutions have become common place. With climate change taking further hold on our planet, Tolar also recognizes the importance of providing shade equity for communities looking to provide sustainable relief for its residents.

Can you share the concept of creating a Sense of Place™ and why it should be an important consideration for transit agencies?

Our purpose-driven designs balance style with function resulting in bus shelters and outdoor furniture that provide modern amenities while transforming a community’s outdoor environment into a memorable space that creates a true Sense of Place™.

Guided by this philosophy, we design and fabricate transit shelters that connect communities and help improve the ridership experience. In Baltimore, Md., we built nine industrial yet modern modular shelters on a 3,300-acre site. The highly branded shelters incorporate amenities crucial to the Baltimore area, including double wind screen walls, under roof security lighting, and overhead infrared heaters with controls and create a Sense of Place™ for the thousands of workers traversing this diverse employment property.

We’re also proud of the 41 Papel Picado themed shelters we built for Santa Ana, Calif. These Mexican folk art themed shelters embody the delicate designs created from cutting colorful sheets of tissue paper; except we did it with steel. Not only do the shelters blend form and function to create a Sense of Place™ for this largely Latinx community, they also serve an important purpose providing seating, solar-powered lighting, shade and shelter.

We strongly believe at Tolar Manufacturing that bus shelters can serve the needs of the community while promoting a sense of pride, which we call, creating a Sense of Place™.

Technology is helping move shelters to new levels of connectedness and safety; how is Tolar working to deliver smarter shelters?

Our line of shelters has grown to include SmartPlace® technology with digital passenger information displays, charging stations, solar-powered free-standing illumination and more. Regarding passenger information, the connectivity of real-time information within bus shelters allows transit agencies to communicate beyond next bus arrivals to include broader, and sometimes critical, in-the-moment advisories.

In San Luis Obispo, Calif., our shelters are in a high pedestrian traffic area and include low-draw LED lighting and oversize back-to-back media display kiosks along with real-time bus arrival information. Rounding out the passenger experience, the shelters are surrounded by ticketing machines and bicycle amenities to help support first-mile, last-mile connections. These third-party amenities exemplify the true flexibility of Tolar-built shelters as they provide opportunities to maximize passenger comfort, connectivity and convenience.


Patrick Merrick is the executive vice president at Tolar Manufacturing Company, Inc.