Improving a City’s Mental Health During Dark Winter Months

City: Umeå, Sweden
Created by: Umeå Energi

Improving public transportation infrastructure can be instrumental in the quality of life for a city’s residents. But expanding the number of functions that infrastructure can perform for its residents represents a new paradigm in how cities could do more with what they already have. In this category, other cities should be looking at the city of Umeå and the way Umeå Energi re-imagined the potential of the city’s bus stops.

Receiving only a few hours of natural sunlight each day during the long winter months, Umeå Energi created a way to counter some of the effects of the dark winter months by replacing the existing lights in 30 of the city’s bus stops with special bulbs that can boost commuter’s moods during the winter.

Their “light therapy” (“Ljusterapi” in Swedish) initiative invites commuters to spend a few minutes facing the therapeutic lights while waiting for the bus to soak up the benefits of the sun they miss during dark winters. The initiative not only re-imagines the potential of bus stops in the lives of Umeå’s residents, but reconsiders how the energy that lights those stops and their advertisements could be utilized in better ways.

“Everything is a part of our commitment to take responsibility for both our customers’ everyday lives but also for the environment at large”, says Umeå Energi’s Anna Norrgård.

After the lights were installed, bus use in the city doubled. With an increase in public transportation use and new sun lights that are powered by 100% renewable energy sources – including, fittingly, stored solar energy – the partnership between the city and Umea Energi has become a model of public benefits and municipal resourcefulness gained from the repurposing of existing infrastructure.

Umeå Energi

Photo Credit: Ola Bergengren

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