Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Transit Stations ... What will we get? ...

Detroit's downtown city bus station

This photo is of a new centre-island transit station in Detroit. Detroit is not the most viable city in the USA. We're not Flint ... nor Detroit. Will Ottawa's LRT system get anything as nice?

It has a tensile fabric outdoor shelter at the bus loading platforms and there is also a elevated people-mover station platform. The air conditioned and heated glass waiting room building is 25,000 sq ft, includes washrooms, ticketing, and shops. The whole thing cost $22 million dollars, and opened in June 09.

And here's the kicker: the entire terminal complex serves about 12,000 passengers a day -- which is about the same as the OTrain station at Bayview. Could anyone say our bus-shelter collection at these points is better than Detroit's?

Proposed Bayview station; click to enlarge

Thus far in the DOTT - LRT process all the outdoor (non-tunnel) stations have looked the same because the project team has a local-architect-on-board who has sketched in the stations. I presumed that the station architects were there to ensure the functional aspects of station design - pedestrian flow, access points, ensure there is enough space for an elevator well, escalator well, etc.

But at the last few DOTT meetings I recall that the stations have been described in much more definite terms: Tunney's station will look like this; this is what Bayview will look like, etc. I am wondering if the conceptual space planning is turning into a fait accompli?

What happened to the notion that LRT stations should reflect individual neighborhood identities (existing or proposed)? Do other LRT systems have uniform station design system-wide (like we did for the transitway) or unique stations?

Are unique stations reserved for politically and economically powerful neighborhoods whilst lower income neighborhoods or unorganized communities get off-the-shelf stations-from-a-kit?

Where is the we need a world-wide design competition crowd -- have they gone away because no stations are planned for the Glebe? Are Ottawa's transit stations going to be sole-sourced to the planning bureaucrats or the winning bidder architectural firm on the project planning level?

Proposed Tunney's bus centre-island transfer station and LRT station. No soaring roofs ... but soaring isn't usually associated with government office complexes. In the City of Ottawa, only taxes soar.

Read more about Detroit's station at http://www.metropolismag.com/lists/lt.php?id=eU0DAQUFUQFZUxoIAUwADgICAA%3D%3D


  1. I don't know Eric - maybe the people fighting for Lansdowne saw how much (or little) support they got from the rest of the city and have decided that Ottawa deserves ugly stations. I vote for utilitarian concrete boxes. Or wood, if that is cheaper

  2. I think we need to emulate Montreal, and hire different architects for each station. That certainly has paid major dividends for their system.

    I think you can make a financial argument for this, too... people are starting to pay attention to transit design, and some transit systems are becoming legitimate tourist attractions. Stockholm and Moscow both come to mind, as an example.

  3. I think even little touches can go a long way. For me, the font used by the TTC for subway station names now just *screams* Toronto. And in Montreal (dunno about Ontario), it's something like 1% of the budget for buildings built with public money that must fund art, somewhere within the building. So you have touches like the circle art at Peel, each one bearing the artists signature, the working man statue at Monk or the mural at Place-des-Arts.

    I'd be ok with uniformity across Ottawa's stations as long as there's something, however small, that might become as distinctive as those little touches.

    That said, the Transitway station architecture musn't be imported to the new system.

  4. I'd love to see some really nice transit stations; why spend so much money on something, only to have it serve as an eyesore? I'd be willing to bet that the more aesthetically attractive the station is, the more likely people are to ditch their cars and get on the train. Especially if they're heated. Especially if people are going to have to transfer from bus to train at Tunney's Pasture, Blair, or wherever else.

  5. I would like to see stations with a "theme and variation", so that there is some cohesive experience riding the length of the system, but enough differentiation at each station that the rider instinctively "knows" where s/he is.
    Like all capital projects, a certain percentage will be set aside for art at the stations.

  6. C-train is the most successful lrt in Canada. It's stations are ugly bare platforms. Let's copy that.

    If we want beauty, lets hire some attractive people to sit on the train all day for minimum wage. Nicer to look at than some modernist sculpture.