The City of Houston is no stranger to heat, but this summer, temperatures reached over 100 degrees for multiple weeks. For residents taking public transit, trying to stay cool in the Houston heat can be a bit of a challenge.
The Houston Metropolitan Transit Authority is testing out solar-powered fans at bus stops, with plans to install 50 prototypes across Houston bus shelters. Congresswoman Lizzie Fletcher, who represents part of Houston like Bellaire and Alief, brought the idea to METRO years ago.
"I used to take the light rail a lot when I was working downtown," she told Craig Cohen on Houston Matters on Friday. "Of course, just being a Houstonian, I think we all know in this town, a little shade and a little breeze goes a long way – so I asked them, why weren’t there any fans in bus shelters?"
According to the Houston Chronicle, as of June 28, the agency had 8,948 operational stops, of which 3,350 had shelters, and Metro has a goal of adding 400 shelters annually.
"I just think it’s really exciting," said Fletcher. "It’s the kind of thing where they’re receptive to new ideas, and they’re always working to improve the experience for Metro customers – and I think that’s a really important collaborative partnership."
Fletcher said other cities are starting to take note of the idea and it could be a huge improvement if the fans make it out of the testing stages.
"Metro is leading the way," she said. "This is something that doesn’t exist, they can’t buy one (solar-powered fans) as far as I know, they’re not out there. So this is something metros developing and engineering themselves."
The shelters are designed to be accessible, create airflow, and improvements such as digital screens to help riders track bus arrivals.
Two Houston Public Media reporters examined how hot METRO bus stops can get in the extreme heat in a podcast called Hot Stops. They measured temperatures at 21 bus stops in late June and early August. Some of their findings revealed that 73% of temperatures at bus shelters reached levels that could put riders at risk of extreme heat.