I was walking around Center City recently, when I came across this bus shelter.  Notice the green roof on top?  When I first spotted it, I had to check to make sure this wasn't one of those situations where plants were growing out of a building due to neglect.

Hey there, little guy.On closer inspection, it was clear that yes, this is an actual green roof.  I'm interested in this idea; even though the potential for this green roof to help with the heat island effect or to soak up much rainwater is limited due to its tiny size, it does serve as a reminder that green roofs can go just about anywhere.  It might serve as an inspiration to a building owner to learn more about green roofs.  And, it's pretty cool to live in a city that would think about things at this scale.

I did some research online and came up with a few articles written at the time the roof went up.  Here's one from the local news channel.  There's also a good one at the Water Department's website that describes green roofs--and their benefits--more generally.  Unfortunately, the material dates back to when this roof was installed, in June of 2011.

I contacted SEPTA (Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, for those of you from out of town) to find out more.  I quickly found out that SEPTA doesn't own the bus shelters; they're owned by the city.  I gave a call over to Patricia Ellis, a Transit Advisor at the Mayor's Office of Transportation & Utilities.  She told me that that green roof was a pilot program, but for numerous reasons, there haven't been any more since:

  • This first roof was very expensive, and there isn't currently money in the budget to do more.
  • They investigated the idea of corporate sponsorship, but there wasn't enough interest to fund the program.  Ms. Ellis theorizes that the roofs may not be visible enough for sponsors to want to invest in them.
  • In center city in particular, there isn't enough sunshine reaching many of the streets for the roofs to thrive.
  • The existing bus shelters are aging (many are approaching forty years old), and will likely be replaced in the next few years.  In the meantime, each one would need to be evaluated by an engineer to ensure that it could handle the weight of a green roof.

 So, don't hold your breath on this issue.  Personally, while I really like the idea of greening wherever possible, I'd be more excited if they'd use some money to put in more shelters in more neighborhoods.  It's no fun to get to work with wet legs because you only had an umbrella to protect you on a windy, rainy day.