Gimme (Green) Shelter

UMD-Grown, Plant-Packed Bus Shelters Debut Near Campus

Anyone who’s waited for a bus on a scorching July day, a dark winter evening or in a skin-soaking downpour knows the disappointment of finding an unsheltered bench—or worse, a lonely bus sign left open to the elements. In fact, less than one-fifth of bus stops in the U.S. offer any shelters for riders.

But an outgrowth of a University of Maryland-born business, Living Canopies, is helping riders seek shelter from the storm—or sun—with plant-packed, energy-producing eco-transit oases. The inaugural batch of Cool Green Shelters was installed this summer in Hyattsville, just a few miles from UMD’s campus.

“We wanted to find a way to not just get people out of their cars, but bring value to communities,” says environmental science and technology Associate Professor David Tilley, CEO and co-founder of Living Canopies with former student Nick Cloyd ’13, M.S. ’17. “We see a lot of potential in the bus stop.”

The Cool Green Shelter swaps the standard metal roof of a traditional transit stop for one overflowing with hardy native plants that harvest rainwater into a reservoir below, provide evaporative cooling and reduce the urban heat island effect. Solar PVs make each shelter self-sufficient and power USB charging stations and LED lighting.

“We need more bus shelters to promote the use of mass transit,” says Lesley Riddle, director of public works for the city of Hyattsville. “This is a really innovative, sustainable way to do that.”

In the future, Tilley hopes to outfit Cool Green Shelters with technology to collect environmental data like temperature, humidity and ozone levels. Tilley also sees the untapped benefits that a free-standing space—like a bus shelter—can offer to host urban agriculture, mini food pantries, lending libraries and public art.

“It’s not just a stop to get the bus; it has the potential to be a real neighborhood amenity,” he says.


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