LTD Tests New Solar Lighting at Bus Stop

Monday, September 4, 2006

Some Lane Transit District bus riders have begun to see the light - and it's solar-powered.

In an experiment that could expand to dozens of other locales, LTD has added solar lighting to the bus shelter at West 18th Avenue and Polk Street. If the lighting is well-received by riders and bus drivers, LTD says it could add solar lighting to as many as 100 of its 180 shelters.

Only about five bus shelters are hard-wired for electrical lighting. Many shelters are near on-street lighting, while others are more or less in the dark once night falls. The district's transit stations, however, all have lighting.

Riders often ask for shelter lighting because it provides a greater sense of safety, and bus drivers like it because it makes it easier to see waiting customers and thereby reduces "pass-bys," LTD spokesman Andy Vobora said. Lighting also curbs vandalism, he said.

Traditional lighting is difficult for most bus shelters because of limited access to electrical lines, Vobora said. There's also the cost factor: It can run anywhere from $1,000 to $3,500 to hard-wire a shelter, not to mention an annual lighting bill of around $80.

LTD chose the 18th and Polk shelter for a trial run, Vobora said, because the stop has high ridership but poor on-street lighting. LTD wants to assess the system during the dark and rainy winter months before making a decision on whether to expand to other shelters, he said.

The elevated solar units, produced by Carmanah Technologies, based in Victoria, B.C., cost about $3,500.

Carmanah's past customers include Tri-Met in Portland, which installed the company's LED (light emitting diodes) solar units in 51 shelters last year.

Carmanah says the units have a lifespan of up to 100,000 hours and are designed to be maintenance-free for up to five years.

Tri-Met expects to save nearly $200,000 in installation, energy and maintenance costs over 10 years by using the solar units, and is looking at expanding them to additional shelters in the future.