This story is part of an investigative series into the impact of extreme heat on Metro riders. You can read part one and part two of the investigation. We also produced a podcast, Hot Stops: How Houston Bus Stops Get Dangerously Hot.
Some local officials, METRO bus riders and advocates are calling for change after a Houston Public Media investigation found Houston bus stops reached dangerously hot temperatures.
“As an advocate, I feel vindicated in many ways by the reporting,” said Gabe Cazares, Executive Director of LINK Houston, a local advocacy group focused on public transit. “This is something we experience every single day.”
He said the findings from our pilot study tracked with his personal experience taking the bus every day and the experiences of the riders his group advocates for.
We took temperatures at 21 bus stops in July and August, and compared them to other sources of shade, such as tree shade when it was available. We found that bus shelters inconsistently provided protection against the heat, while tree shade was an effective and consistent form of cooling for transit riders:
• Bus shelters often reached temperatures that pose an “extreme threat” of heat illness.
• In some cases, bus shelters were hotter than standing in direct sunlight.
• Tree shade was on average twice as cool as bus shelter shade.
• Tree shade never made the heat worse.
“The data that y’all collected was staggering and deeply concerning,” said Harris County Commissioner Lesley Briones representing Precinct 4. “In the most positive way, right? What are we going to do about it in terms of actionable changes?”
After publishing our findings, more than two dozen riders filled out a survey, sharing their experiences with the heat and their ideas for improving it. Twenty respondents said they’ve experienced symptoms of heat illness while waiting for the bus, such as feeling dizzy, faint, or nauseous. One rider said they passed out.