Opinions vary on shade capabilities of Phoenix light rail stations

[Source: Ron Sanzone, Arizona Republic] — Valley Metro light rail is incorporating three elements into a shading system it hopes will keep light-rail passengers comfortable at its stations as they await trains.  But public opinion differs about the shading system.  Two individuals involved in downtown planning efforts provide their perspectives:

Mike James, architect involved in Metro’s station planning

Dan Hoffman, professor of architecture at Arizona State University

The three-layered shading system was the best of five designs presented by teams of architects to Metro, in part because it blocks reflective heat that comes off the asphalt on nearby streets.  Here’s how each system element works:


  • Canopies.  A series of angled overhead canopies made of tensile material will shade the waiting areas of station platforms throughout much of the day. Unlike most other materials, the temperature of the tensile fabric will not heat up beyond the surrounding air temperature, a key to keeping the areas underneath it cooler.  Aesthetically designed to resemble birds in flight, the canopies are “a signature look that is unique to Phoenix.”
  • Vertical shades.  Also referred to as louvers, these shades fill in the coverage gaps left by the canopies during early-morning and late-afternoon hours.  Slanted downward and upward at 30-degree angles, the shades have the appearance of open sets of blinds.  Metro decided against a solid opaque design because local businesses wanted to be fully visible from stations and neighbors wanted to be able to keep an eye on station platforms for security reasons.
  • Green screens.  Located at most stations, these trellises are vertical metal cages that will be covered with vines.  They will provide the station with additional shade and a small amount of moisture produced by plants.

 To provide additional relief, each station will feature a drinking fountain, a canopy of three to six trees, and paint that does not heat up covering the metal areas that might be touched by passengers.

Q: What do you think of the shading design Metro is using for its stations?  How effective will it be?

A: It’s not optimum, but it does perform at a basic level.  The canopies are made of white cloth, which is good because they reflect a lot of the heat, though the edge of cloth is up high and would provide more shade if it were lower.  Their solution was not optimal but was sufficient.

Q: Are there any problems you see or concerns you have with the design of the stations?

A: There are aspects that are good, such as the shade cloth.  I like the dynamic utilities.  I don’t think it’s the most efficient design possible.  It does provide the basics, but doesn’t provide the highest quality design-wise.  What was chosen was good, not great, and sufficient, not optimal.

Q: What could have been improved?

A: The actual steel structure, which is expensive, could have been done in a more elegant and simple way.  It’s flamboyant.  Moisture and plantings would improve it and cool it down more, but that would have required more money.

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