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Smart Bus Benches to Make Debut in Haverhill, Mass.

Commuters using several MVRTA bus stops will soon have access to Wi-Fi and device charging thanks to a $50,000 grant from the state. The stops could also include displays for real-time schedules and other information.

A rider waiting at a modern bus stop with a cellphone.
(TNS) — Commuters waiting at several MVRTA bus stops in the city will soon be able to charge their mobile devices and log onto the Internet through free WiFi provided by new "smart benches."

Other features, if desired by the city, include digital video screens that can display information such as bus schedules in real time, community announcements, the weather and more.

Through a $50,000 Shared Streets and Spaces grant from the state, Haverhill in partnership with the Merrimack Valley Regional Transit Authority plans to purchase several smart benches manufactured by Canavisia, a division of Seica Inc., an Italian company that has its main U.S. headquarters at 110 Avco Road in the Ward Hill Industrial Park.

"We will have about 100 of our smart benches deployed in Italy by the end of the year and we welcome the opportunity to work with the city of Haverhill with our launch of smart urban furniture into the U.S.," said Seica Vice President David Sigillo.

City officials say they want to install the first smart benches as a pilot program in front of Haverhill Housing Authority properties where there are bus stops, including on Hilldale Avenue across from Cashman Field, at Kennedy Circle near Holy Family Hospital, and on Summer Street.

"We want to help help better define bus stops in the city so people will know where to wait for their bus," said Andrew Herlihy, the city's division director for the Community Development Block Grant program. "We're in discussions about video screens, an option for the smart benches, and we want to use these smart benches on a test basis and see how people react."

Haverhill also received $47,467 for speed feedback/messaging signs.

The Baker-Polito Administration recently announced $16.4 million for 184 new awards to 138 communities and seven Regional Transit Authorities through the Shared Streets and Spaces Program. It represents the largest award round since the program was launched in June 2020.

The first smart bench coming to Haverhill is on its way from Italy and is being donated to Haverhill by Seica Inc. It is expected to be installed in downtown Washington Square.

Kaylynn Mele, administrative assistant at Seica Inc. in Ward Hill, said the smart benches are currently made in Italy, however, her company is looking to also have them manufactured in the United States.

Mele said her company is donating a basic model that looks similar to a typical park bench, only it has a solar panel attached to the backrest and offers a variety of features for the benefit of those waiting for a bus, including mobile device charging via USB or wireless charging pads and music played through installed audio speakers.

"The bench we are donating to Haverhill will also include weather and air quality sensors as well as sensors that can tell you how many people are using the bench or are walking by," she said.

Mele said the basic model, named the "Mira" bench, retails for about $8,000 while the grant-funded benches could cost more but will have more features, such as digital video screens, if that's what the city wants.

"This type of urban furniture assists communities in understanding pedestrian traffic as wel as air quality where buses may be idling," Sigillo said.

The company's Sera model features an overhang with solar panels on the roof, and as an option it can charge electric bicycles if provided with an AC power source.

Noah Berger, administrator for the MVRTA, said smart benches with overhangs can be placed in spaces where there isn't enough room for a three-sided bus stop shelter.

©2022 The Eagle-Tribune, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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