After years of demand, SOM leads charge to improve bus shelters throughout Los Angeles


Angelenos love their cars. Yet the bus remains Los Angeles’s unsung hero of transportation: in April 2024 alone, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) saw roughly 20 million bus boardings. Despite the abundance of riders, much of L.A. lacks adequate bus shelters. Rising temperatures due to climate change and a lack of shade in the city’s low-income neighborhoods only emphasizes the call for equitable, improved access to bus shelters. Design firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) has been tapped to address this problem as part of an ongoing project. 

The issue is long-standing. A nearly 25-year-old contract between the city and outdoor advertising specialist JCDecaux called for 2,200 new bus shelters and still has yet to be fully realized. Another failed endeavor, dubbed “La Sombrita,” hoped to improve shade at bus stands but garnered significant backlash for its ineffectiveness.

In response to this enduring problem, the Department of Public Works Bureau of Street Services (StreetsLA) has launched a new initiative, Sidewalk and Transit Amenities Program, STAP for short, which seeks to offer shelter, shade, safety, and comfort through bus shelters. STAP sets out to ensure 75 percent of all bus riders in each Council District are able to board buses from locations with a bus shelter, providing 3,000 new shelters and sidewalk amenities over the next decade. Communities that have the highest need based on ridership data and the city’s equity and heat indexes will be prioritized.

The bus shelters will feature smart technology fueled by solar panels. (James Michael Juarez © SOM)

Leading the project is Tranzito-Vector, a joint venture between transit advertising company Vector Media and smart mobility operator Tranzito. Along with the City of Los Angeles, Tranzito-Vector assembled a slew of design experts including SOM, creative consulting firm Designworks BMW and urban-design experts Studio One Eleven, among others.

The new bus shelters will feature larger canopies, increased lighting, and customized seating configurations with wheelchair access. SOM designed the shelters as a “kit of parts” that can be adapted to fit its location and respond to the surrounding neighborhood. Released images show pastel-colored structures with a simple silhouette emblematic of California Modernism.

The shelters will feature a variety of smart technology powered by overhead solar panels: earthquake warning systems, phone chargers, and digital displays showing real-time bus arrivals. 

Shelter installation began earlier this year. By June 2025, 250 total bus shelters are expected to be installed.





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