• 04.10.12

BusRoots: Bus-Top Gardens Rolling Through The City

This prototype for buses equipped with a little greenery would liven up a city. But city transit authorities aren’t quite so enthused.

BusRoots: Bus-Top Gardens Rolling Through The City

If you live in New York City, you may catch your morning commute under a garden–one day. Marco Antonio Castro Cosio, an interaction designer, has at least proved it’s possible with his project called BusRoots.


Although the image above is a rendering of his vision for urban buses, a version of Cosio’s vehicular greenroof prototype has logged thousands of miles atop the BioBus, a mobile science laboratory making its way around the country teaching students about science. The prototype uses sedum, a genus of succulent plants. In the future, it’s designed to include edible plants and vines as well.

“I thought of the city as a living organism and decided I wanted to address the streets,” says Cosio by email. “However, there was no way to cover them in plants, so I thought of traffic jams and how it would be great to look down on it and have it all be a green-covered jam.”

Cosio has been pushing to reclaim ignored spaces in the urban environment. Rooftops seemed like an obvious next step: If the rooftops of The New York Metropolitan Transit Agency’s 4,500 buses were planted, they would offer about 35 acres of mobile greenspace, according to Cosio.

“I had come to realize that food and eating were a very interactive experience. I was looking for an intervention to engage people with their community,” says Cosio. “I had also realized that parks were the most public and democratic spaces in the city, and everyone from a child up to a senior citizen were able to enjoy it in the best way they wanted.” 

Cosio proposed his project in 2010, and has been pushing since then for adoption. The New York Transit Authority isn’t rushing to outfit its buses with rooftop oases. For one thing, the final design–a suspended metal frame supported by Tyvek–still needs to be built and, with the entire growing structure fully loaded, the gardens weigh about one pound per square foot, or 355 pounds for a typical bus,. The environmental benefits of such mobile gardens, at least as long as they are driven around with fossil-fuel powered buses, are questionable.

While Cosio has discussed giving the concept a test ride with the MTA, there’s been no agreement yet. “I have talked with their sustainability department and they have not said no, but would not approve anything until there is further testing,” he says.

About the author

Michael is a science journalist and co-founder of Publet: a platform to build digital publications that work on every device with analytics that drive the bottom line. He writes for FastCompany, The Economist, Foreign Policy and others on science, economics, and the environment.