Design a BRT Shelter for Chicago - Remixed

Due to rapid increase in population and shift towards urban migration, a rising trend across the world for mass transit. Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is a cost-effective and efficient way to move people through their cities.

BRT is less permanent and less expensive that rail systems (like the EL) and can move people just as effectively in many cities. Chicago has already brought one route of BRT (the Jeffrey Jump) to the city as an experiment, and is planning two additional routes along the Western and Ashland corridors.

Unlike typical bus stops, BRT stops are meant to be less frequent along routes, making the commute faster and accommodate more people. It is up to you to design how this new type of transit shelter will function and protect passengers from the weather and provide information and other amenities while they are waiting. Other amenities may important to include with the shelter can be a secure bike storage or a ‘Share-a-Bike’ station such as “the Divvy” in Chicago, a place or screen that provides relevant information. A shelter is a structure that we may take for granted, but BRT shelters also have the potential to make our daily lives easier while also significantly impacting the way our streets look.


Design a BRT intersection (in group): Configure BRT and other vehicular and non-vehicular lanes and sidewalks. Design the intersection to move pedestrians and bikes to the BRT shelter.

Design a BRT shelter (individually) to accommodate minimum of 25 people

Take into consideration

For the intersection, what is the amount of vehicular, pedestrian and other non-vehicular traffic? How frequently should the bus depart from the BRT station? How many riders will there be at your location? What services and properties are adjacent to the BRT stations?

For the BRT shelter, be sure to include a ticket or Point-of-Pay facility so that riders can pay before the bus arrives. The BRT station should facilitate easy loading and unloading of passengers, some of whom may use wheelchairs or other assistive devices. The weather is not always pleasant, and your BRT station should protect people from rain, snow and extreme heat. Passengers should be safely removed from traffic but not hidden from view of the bus driver or public safety workers. Consider how to provide information to riders departing from and arriving at the BRT station. Finally, your BRT station should be energy efficent and not prone to flooding.

Provide information about the intersection/stop selected; 63rd and Jeffrey, 35th and Ashland, including drawings.


In this step of the design process, you’ll want to gather as much information as possible about different types of shelters, from regular bus shelters to train shelters. How are they different? How do people use them? Since BRT is new to Chicago, you’ll also want to look at BRT stations that have been designed in other countries. Interview bus riders about how they use the current type of bus shelter and what is missing in their design.

Think About

  • Start off the project by analyzing what you already know about container architecture and container housing with a quick pre-test.
  • Use this worksheet to help you fill out this section.
  • What are the basic functions and design elements of any bus shelter?
  • What materials are these shelters made from?
  • How could current bus shelters be scaled up to accommodate more people and longer wait times?
  • What are some things that you really like or hate about Chicago’s current bus shelters?
  • How long will passengers need to typically wait at the bus stop? Check out the timetable for Jeffery Jump to give you an idea.

Try This

  • Make a list of all the different features on an existing Chicago bus shelter. Explain what you’ve learned and post information the information in this step.
  • Learn about the BRT system. How does it work? How are the station locations determined? What makes a BRT system different than a regular bus route?
  • Look at BRT systems and stations from other countries. The TransMilenio in Bogota, Colombia had a lot of press when it opened in 2000.
  • Use Flickr and Google Images to search "BRT shelter." Research different types of bus stops and shelters in different cities around the world. How are these different than regular bus shelters?
  • Use Google Maps to view and print out an aerial photograph of your intersection. How far away is the stop from the street corner? How far away should it be?
  • Interview several of your friends and classmates about what they like or hate about the bus shelters you typically use.
  • Check out this Chicago Tribune article from architecture critic Blair Kamin about the 2003 design of Chicago's bus shelters by a French company.
  • This blog about bus shelter designs have some very interesting ideas from all over the world.
  • Several other schools have held bus shelter design competitions. See more inspirational ideas here.

Brainstorm Ideas

How do you Brainstorm Ideas for this step of the design process?

In the this step of the design process, you’ll want put some early ideas down on paper that show what you've found in the Collect Info step.  You also might take more photos to show specific new ideas you have. 

Make some early decisions about the location, size, features, and materials for your BRT shelter. Draw a hand sketch to help you puzzle through new ideas.

Try This

  • Identify a location for your BRT shelter on your site near your intersection. Mark this location on a map and think about its proximity to other bus stops, rail stations, or other points of interest near this intersection.
  • Based on what you learned in the Collect Information, make a list of all the features you'd like to have in your design. Edit this list into ‘necessities’ and ‘nice to have’ categories.
  • Using a tape measure and some masking tape, mark out some different footprint options for the shelter. How many people do you need to accommodate? How much space should each person get? How does this compare with the size of a regular bus shelter?  Explain your thinking in the description of your project.
  • Draw several quick sketches to get your early ideas down on paper.  Either take a photo or scan and then upload your sketches to your project account.  These don’t need to be your final ideas. 
  • Consider what materials the shelter will be made from: what materials will be durable against the weather and the riders who wait there?

Develop Solutions

How do you Develop Solutions for this step of the design process?

Now's the time to take what you've learned from the steps above to develop your solution for a BRT shelter.

Important! Since DiscoverDesign is about investigating the design process, the other people viewing your project - other students around the country, your teacher, and mentors - want to see how your ideas have changed over time. This means that while you're working on your digital model, you’ll want to be sure to keep re-saving it with a new file name every few days as you work through the steps.

Draw a sketch or use software such as Google SketchUp, AutoCAD, or Revit to illustrate your ideas.  You can upload photos (JPG files) from your SketchUp model, video fly throughs (FLV files) of your SketchUp model, or drawings (DWF files) from AutoCAD.

Try to include

  • One site plan
  • One floor plan
  • At least two elevation or perspective views

Try This

You may use any method you'd like to show your design (pencil, colored pencil, collage, physical models, or digital rendering software).  Here are a few suggestions for drawings and models of your BRT shelter:

  • Use cardboard or cardstock to build a rough physical study model or prototype of your shelter. You can't really understand the shape of the shelter until you make a quick study model. Don't worry about making a fancy finished model at this time. Instead, use cardstock, scissors, and tape to quickly create the large 3D form. See how it looks. Break off different sections, add new pieces, and try new ideas. Take photos of your model and upload them to this step.
  • Sketch or use software such as Google SketchUp, AutoCAD, or Revit to get the ideas out of your head to share with others.


Final Design

Create more finished drawings that illustrate your ideas to others. Remember, your explanation text and the types of drawings, images, and models you share need to tell the whole story of your project

Continue to collect feedback from your peers, teachers and the online community to help you improve on your final design. Be sure to review and add constructive comments on the work of your classmates and other students who are solving the same design problem. If your ideas change, be sure to explain your thinking and let others know about the new work you have posted to your account.

You might want to share floor plans, elevations, renderings of your digital model, photos of a physical model, or a video animation of your model.

  • Review your design and test it against your original sucess statement that you wrote for the Overview. Does it meet this criteria?
  • Make a list of your ideas, sketches, and study models. For your final design you will want to write and post a short but effective paragraph of your process and the unique solutions you found developed. Tell us about your ideas.
  • Your teacher and architectural mentors will be looking for these things:
    1. originality in your design
    2. your ability to creatively solve the design challenge
    3. the quality of images, sketches, drawings, and models you have uploaded in each of the five design process steps (Overview, Collect Info, Brainstorm Ideas, Develop Solutions, and Final Design).
    4. As your ideas change, be sure to explain your thinking and let others know about the new work you have posted to your account. Go back to the virtual drawing board and revise your project based on the feedback of others.
    5. how well you have written about and explained your thinking in each of the design process steps