By the Light of the Silvery... Bus Stop?

Thursday, June 9, 2005

The high-intensity light beaming from atop Edmonton's first bus stop illuminated by solar powered light-emitting diodes might not inspire romantic thoughts, but it may keep people waiting for buses safe and ensure transit drivers don't pass them by.

Edmonton Transit installed the i-Stop Wednesday at 111th Street and 54th Avenue for a six-month test, during which it will gather feedback from the public.

The $1,300 bus stop is designed to improve safety by illuminating waiting passengers in areas that have no street lights. The LED light lasts about two minutes after a button is pressed.

"Even a small candle in a big room is comforting and that's the thought here," said Dan Godlewski, an Edmonton Transit special projects engineer.

Edmonton Transit also wants to curtail the incidence of "pass-bys" - those times when bus operators inadvertently miss waiting customers. Users can press a button that activates a LED beacon that can be seen up to 1.5 kilometres away.

"It's noticeable but not irritating," Godlewski said.

Passenger safety and drive-bys are among the top complaints faced by public transit systems. If adopted, the bus stops could be placed in poorly lit areas or at stops where pass-bys are a problem, he said.

Another feature would allow users to press a button that would light up a transit schedule.

A solar panel imbedded in a globe on top of the pole charges a lead-acid battery pack that powers one of three sets of LED lights, depending on which buttons on a control unit are pushed.

The city bought two of the units - one will be used for spare parts - from Victoria-based Carmanah Technologies.

The company turned its experience making solar-powered maritime buoys toward transit lighting about three years ago after an enquiry from Britain.

London officials were looking for a flexible, environmentally friendly and economical way to light up bus shelters, improving nighttime ridership.

Company spokesman David Davies said Carmanah is responding to a movement in North America and elsewhere to improve transit by upgrading safety and service.

Godlewski said the city is also looking at testing solar-powered lights for bus shelters.

PHOTO CREDIT: Larry Wong, The Journal

A new solar-powered bus stop device is being tested at 111th Street near
54th Avenue.