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Creative Bus Shelter Initiative

Images of bus shelter designs via Creative Portland

The challenge

Waiting for the bus can often be inconvenient for transit riders,  as bus stops often lack protection and comfort for passengers. Nothing beats frequent service for making transit appealing, but studies have shown that small improvements like shelters and information about when the next bus is coming can make the wait feel shorter.

The project

Creative Portland, in collaboration with the Greater Portland Metro and the Greater Portland Council of Governments, partnered with local artists to encourage multi-modal transportation, increase ridership, and promote awareness and social acceptance through art installations that use bus shelters as the canvas for public art on the theme of celebrating diversity and inclusion, with support from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Our Town grant.

The NEA awarded Creative Portland a second grant in May 2021 to continue and expand the project. The second phase of the project selected five new bus shelter designs, which were installed throughout Portland, in addition to the nine artistic bus shelters already in place along METRO routes from the first round of the project.

The Creative Bus Shelter Initiative hit the national stage this spring when Ebenezer Akakpo won Streetsblog’s national competition for the Best Bus Stop in the USA. His shelter, located at 519 Congress Street in Portland, beat out bus stops in Boston, Baltimore, and Juneau. The competition fueled a community-wide voting process and community pride, that culminated in a celebration for the artist. 

Image of Ebenezer Akakpo’s bus shelter design by Michael D. Wilson via Creative Portland

“The creative bus shelters installed along our bus routes last year have become a great source of pride for METRO and the City of Portland,” said Greg Jordan, METRO’s Executive Director. “We’re looking forward to working with Creative Portland and other local partners to install several more shelters that showcase Maine artists.”

The results

The Creative Bus Shelter Initiative encourages community members to feel safe, comfortable, and creative while using public transportation, while also remaining connected with community design, diversity, and culture while navigating the local transit system.