Excellent Idea of the Day: Therapeutic Bus Stops

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Some passengers even stand outside in the snow just to be near the light panels.
Johan Gunséus

One recent day, the Swedish city Umeå only saw about two hours of sun. This winter, the gloom has been compounded by late snow, which usually helps brighten the mood.

"We're far up north. We knew that a lot of people miss the daylight," said Anna Norrgård, marketing manager for Umeå Energi, the municipal energy company that put up the lights.

To help, a local utility has installed therapeutic lights at bus stops throughout the area. The goal, Norrgård added, is to help give citizens more energy this time of year.

Originally the idea was developed between Umeå Energi and its ad agency as a way to celebrate the city's green electricity, which primarily comes from hydro and wind power.

Around the city, 30 bus stops were retrofitted with the same type of lights used to help combat seasonal affective disorder, also known as SAD, a type of depression that tends to occur in the winter. Advertisements usually lit up inside the bus shelters were swapped out for special light panels.

At first the new lights were so bright that bus drivers complained about the safety hazard. Then the lights got switched to the shelter exteriors. One day after the switch, Norrgård said she was driving home and saw passengers standing outside in the snow just to be near the outer light panel.

So far the lights have been up for several weeks and received more than 450 "likes" on Umeå Energi's Facebook page. Since the project is local, there are no current plans to expand it although the people who sell ad space in bus shelters have been fielding inquiries from other parts of Sweden, Norrgård said.

She hopes the idea will catch on so that therapeutic lights can be added to bus shelters throughout the country for future winter seasons. "We really are longing for the sunlight," she said.

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