Let’s move away for a moment from the political follies surrounding the Scarborough Transit debate.
Let us talk about good design of our transit facilities and how they can be reflective our communities.
Transit is unfortunately utilitarian. We utilize public transit every day to commute between home and work and places in between. We are frustrated by long commutes caused by delays, multiple transfers and crowded buses and trains. But what if we took for a moment how our transit facilities are designed. Transit shelter designs look the same, save for the standard or rotating advertisements. Transit entrances generally look the same. The interiors of subway/light rail/bus rapid transit and terminals look the same or moderately different. For instance, you could relate the provincial politics of the day to the station design, especially in Toronto.
Take for example Museum Station. Initially designed as a bland subway station interior with white and blue walls, that all changed with better design to reflect the very place you would be visiting – the Royal Ontario Museum.
During the early 1980s, the Yonge-University extension between Wilson and St. George had various interior designs such as Dupont and Yorkdale, but had nothing to do with the communities or the places you visited. On the flipside, stations designed along the Sheppard Subway Line and Downsview Station, reflected a time of conservatism with the Mike Harris government. Pure utilitarian and barebones.
It is clear that transit terminal designs have generally been the same. Transit terminals have been designed meticulously where buses should stop, how they should turn into and within the terminal, access to the street and other modes of transportation. As a result, we forget about the actual design of the stations themselves. Take for example the design of Edmonton’s transit facilities. Engineers are generally concerned with design standards, safety and the final product. Two examples of this are the Eaux Claires and Lewis Farms Transit Centres. Bland and uninviting with little design consideration, hard edges and very simplified.
So where do we go from here? How can our transit facilities become more inviting from the exterior and moving inwards?
Transit facility design should start with the concept of placemaking. Placemaking, as defined by the Project for Public Spaces:
…is a multi-faceted approach to the planning, design and management of public spaces. Put simply, it involves looking at, listening to, and asking questions of the people who live, work and play in a particular space, to discover their needs and aspirations. This information is then used to create a common vision for that place. The vision can evolve quickly into an implementation strategy, beginning with small-scale, do-able improvements that can immediately bring benefits to public spaces and the people who use them.
It’s about having a vision of what you want a place to be. Places need to be safe, have good connections, be comfortable and have a social connection to the community. Transit professionals might argue that the sociability aspect could be inviting to loitering and cause a safety concern but there are tools and design characteristics that can deter such activity. But here I am talking about exteriors and how they reflect the community.
A great example is Hollywood and Highland Metro Station in Los Angeles. Its access reflects the character of what Hollywood is all about. It reflects the sociability aspect of Hollywood with the Walk of Fame, the shopping and entertainment experiences. (See bird’s eye view of Hollywood and Highland Center). Other examples from Seattle can be found in Richard Layman’s blog post, “Transit, Stations and Placemaking: stations as entrypoints into neighborhoods” where he provides examples within Seattle.
In conclusion, with the design of new transit facilities, such as Pioneer Village Station, transportation planners should collaborate more with architects, planners and community members to create master plans in developing more inviting public spaces and also makes transit a more exciting mode of transportation.
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This article is not written or edited by Global News. The author is solely responsible for the content. © André Darmanin, 2013