Phoenix to install shadier bus stops designed by ASU students

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Student project turns into a city contract. 13 Nov. 2017 (Source: 3TV/CBS 5News) Student project turns into a city contract. 13 Nov. 2017 (Source: 3TV/CBS 5News)
New bus stop design keeps riders in the shade. 13 Nov. 2017 (Source: 3TV/CBS 5 News) New bus stop design keeps riders in the shade. 13 Nov. 2017 (Source: 3TV/CBS 5 News)

Waiting at a bus stop in Arizona's blazing summer sun can be pretty miserable, but starting next year, the City of Phoenix will begin installing hundreds of bus stops designed to cast more shade.

The new steel structures cast shade 12 hours a day. Perhaps the coolest part, however, is that they weren’t designed by some fancy firm – they were created by four industrial design students at Arizona State University.

ASU sophomore Erlend Meling and seniors Ethan Fancher, Dan Duquette and Derek Smoker won a design competition that landed them an internship with the City. They spent two months working on the project.

"One of the concepts we played around with was that of a sundial. Where, no matter what time of the day, there's always shade," Duquette said.

The students ran high-tech computer simulations to maximize shade while ensuring the structures were ADA compliant and vandal resistant.

"We're proud to say that we're casting shade in some capacity at all times of the day. And not just a little shade. It's a good amount of shade," said Smoker.

The City plans to install 400 of these new bus stops over the next five years. They'll start by replacing stops that are damaged or particularly crowded first.

The quartet’s bus stop consists of two pieces: a rectangular structure they call the “standard shelter” and a square structure they call the “extension.” The modular design allows for easy customization based on the footprint of each bus stop.

"Not every bus stop is the same," Meling said. “So depending on the location and the way it's facing, we can use this design and optimize it for that location.”

Seating at these next-generation stops is still up in the air, but Phoenix police representatives told the team to avoid bench seating because it encourages people to sleep at the bus stop.

“If we do do seating, it will be a single-person seat because we also found in our research that even if there is one person sitting on a bench of say three people, two more people won't sit down next to the stranger," Fancher said.

Last year there were 32 million bus rides in Phoenix, meaning what started as a classroom competition will have a big impact.

“Being industrial designers, helping people is the dream,” Duquette said.

Added Smoker, “Just being able to tell somebody, ‘I made that’ when we drive by it is a very humbling but also really cool experience too.”

The quartet was paid an hourly intern rate to develop an “open source” design, meaning other cities could adopt it for free – and the students like it that way.

"I want my designs to affect the most people in the world. So if the design gets adopted in Las Vegas and Mexico City, and then across the world that would bring more joy to me than really any money," Fancher said.

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Derek StaahlDerek Staahl is an Emmy Award-winning reporter and fill-in anchor who loves covering stories that matter most to Arizona families.

Click to learn more about Derek.

Derek Staahl

This once-uncompromising "California guy" got his first taste of Arizona in 2015 while covering spring training baseball for his former station. The trip spanned just three days, but Derek quickly decided Phoenix should be his next address. He joined CBS 5 and 3TV four months later, in August 2015. Before packing his bags for the Valley of the Sun, Derek spent nearly four years at XETV in San Diego, where he was promoted to Weekend Anchor and Investigative Reporter. Derek chaired the Saturday and Sunday 10 p.m. newscasts, which regularly earned the station's highest ratings for a news program each week. Derek’s investigative reporting efforts into the Mayor Bob Filner scandal in 2013 sparked a "governance crisis" for the city of San Diego and was profiled by the region’s top newspaper. Derek broke into the news business at WKOW-TV in Madison, WI. He wrote, shot, edited, and presented stories during the week, and produced newscasts on the weekends. By the end of his stint, he was promoted to part-time anchor on WKOW’s sister station, WMSN. Derek was born in Los Angeles and was named the “Undergraduate Broadcast Journalism Student of the Year” in his graduating class at USC. He also played quads in the school’s famous drumline. When not reporting the news, Derek enjoys playing drumset, sand volleyball, and baseball.

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