Gardens Thrive on Top of City Busses


Bus Roots is a living garden planted on the roofs of city buses. It’s an effort that rose out of New York City designer Marco Antonio Castro Cosio’s graduate thesis at the NYU. The project aims to reclaim the forgotten space on the tops of city buses, while enhancing the quality of urban life by proliferating green spaces on these unused bus roofs. A prototype of the rolling gardens has been installed on the roof of the BioBus, a mobile science laboratory and the first bus with an extensive green roof system. It has been growing for five months while travelling around New York City and as far as Ohio.

Bus Roots joins the ranks of mobile gardens planted on trucks, trains, and other roving sites. Cosio explains his project as an exercise in “nomadic urban agriculture.”

According to the bustop gardener, benefits include:

• Aesthetic Value
• Mitigation of Urban Heat Island Effect
• Acoustical and Thermal Insulation
• Storm Water Reduction and Management
• CO2 absorbtion
• Habitat Restoration
• Public Education and Recreation
• Reclaiming Forgotten Real Estate

Raising the Roots
Cosio estimates Bus Roots can add greatly to the city’s green space. Each public transit bus has a surface of 340 ft2., and The Metropolitan Transit Authority has a fleet of around 4,500 buses. Do the math.

“If a garden were planted on the roof of every one of the 4,500 buses in the city’s bus fleet,” calculates Cosio, his busses could add 35 acres of new rolling green space in the city.

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  • Tim

    cool. Although I’m wondering if the weight of the substrate, moisture, and plants doesn’t contribute to additional fuel burn, and inevitably more GHG’s than the plants withdraw.

    • Miley

      I was just thinking the same thing Tim.

      • Jerusha

        My first thought exactly!

    • Carmen

      From what I can see they look like succulents and cacti. I have many of the same in my garden. Minimal water and will grow in the shallowest of soil. Almost zero maintenance. I think the succulent are kinda weighty and it looks like rocks maybe weighing the plant down…..Would have to crunch those numbers to see if the form outweighs the function. But I also agree with Tom that the overall concept is that gardens can be anywhere and we all can be creative in solutions for greening our community. Here we are… talking about it. 🙂

  • Barbara

    Such a brilliant idea, we need to green up our cities and towns

  • james

    i mean, thats photoshopped right?

    • Dodge

      Hi James, not everything is photoshopped!!
      It is possible to do things without the use of computers. People have been doing it for thousands of years.

  • Elizabeth

    interesting but wouldn’t using the tops of buildings be better? Air cleaning, food production possible, and people can walk in it (not ride under it – or watch it drive past)

    • Paige

      People are already reclaiming rooftop greenspace, this project is separate and pretty cool. I love the idea of looking down from one of those multi-story buildings and having a mobile garden roll through my view. Especially if I’m stuck in the concrete jungle all day with no hope of seeing the sun shining on bright blossoms or soft grass. Gardens are such a pick-me-up!

      • Irv

        Green roofing should be promoted, especially in our urban core, but the more green the merrier. One green project does not have to preclude another. If the numbers work, as others have mentioned, then this idea should move from being whimsical to practical.

        Regarding the weight of the substrate, an issue with green roofing in some older buildings, I believe there is a light weight system being used in Japan that might do the trick.

  • Tom

    I think its more about the idea that gardens can be planted almost anywhere. Putting one on a bus just flaunts the fact and puts environmental awareness a little further from the “back of the bus”.

  • Elizabeth Darcy

    The thought of eating produce saturated with bus exhaust fumes is repulsive.

  • GEddie

    The fumes would be there for any garden located in the city. And in any case, nobody is suggesting to grow edibles atop the buses.

    • Mercy

      and yet people die from asphyxiation: Proximity matters, dude.

  • Lauren Steiner

    But could you plant veggies on top of a bus? I think it would be a great solution for a food desert. Any issues besides the fumes? If it ran on biodiesel would there even be fumes? I’m ashamed I don’t know the answer.

    • Shari

      I think that would be good – have the buses converted to run on veggie oil 🙂

      However, I guess the next problem would be the fumes from the other vehicles on the road.

  • Paulette

    I love the idea of the beauty and environmental impact.
    A lot of towns and cities use light poles to grow ornamentals, adding beauty and pride to the community.
    Is this photoshopped or already in motion?
    How would it effect the body (metal) of the bus?

  • Anything to add beauty to an urban landscape. We in UK are currently campaigning to bring back more wild flowers into the countryside and the cities, to give more nector for the pollinating insects like bees and butterflies. It’s being tried in the 2012 Olympic Park in London. Not only beautiful but essential, the bee population is under attack and needs to be protected. But this scheme in NY is also lovely, though I take on board the costs involved versus what can be achieved.

  • Damian

    Brakes will need upgrading for the extra weight, stopping distance will be increased, where will all that stuff go if you brake hard (guess you wan’t accelerate hard anymore, cornering more dangerous, extra fuel also Who can see the flowers or enjoy them!! Seems like an “Arty” project no real practical value, hardly a habitat for any nature; would be a bugger if a cat poops in the gravel 🙂

  • marc

    Great idea, the weight would be a problem
    IF it was real, but alas its a Photoshoped image.

  • Jeremy Ottens

    The picture of the New York City bus is photoshopped. The other bus is the BioBus on which the garden has been installed (not photoshopped).

    Gardens everywhere!