Thanks to all the commenters who responded to my too-vague request in the last post. Let me now be clearer and, I hope, more concise.
This image …
… shows an idea for the design of a civic square intended to be the "living room" of a suburban city east of Vancouver. It does not exist on the ground, so I'm looking for examples that do. The core of the idea is that:
- The square is successful as a civic heart. It's a place people would naturally go to not just to catch transit but also (a) to eat a lunch that they've brought, (b) to meet friends or people-watch, (c) to rally for a political cause, (d) to watch a local sporting team on an enormous screen (e) to attend any of a range of festival events programmed for the space and (f) to feel, as one feels in great squares, that you're in the very centre of the community, a place that is credible as a symbol of the whole community. I'll settle for most rather than all of those things, but the point is to define a certain kind of civic importance. Note that the flexibility of the space to serve many purposes is part of what makes it effective as a symbolic centre. It is, as they say of Portland's square, the community's "living room." It may have some green landscaping but it is mostly hardscaped in the anticipation of handling large volumes of people.
- To me, this means that the place is big, let's say at least 50m in its narrower dimension. (Smaller plaza spaces around rail stations are routine in Europe, but this thing needs to be big enough to do the symbolic and practical work outlined above.)
- The square is also an important node in the transit network, where substantial volumes of people make connections, either between mulitple surface transit lines or between those lines and a rapid transit line. (In the last post I artlessly referred to the place as suburban. I now realize that what I really meant was: a place where the high volume connections happen on the surface, not inside subway stations as is the case in most big European examples. Such a place may well exist downtown in a North American city that lacks much of a subway network.)
- All, or at least most, of the surface transit stops are directly on the square. That is, when you step off the transit vehicle, you feel that you are in the square, not across the street or down the street from it.
- These high-volume connections require walking across the square, not just along one edge of it.
- Finally, let me rule out plazas at universities, where the community served is artificial and intentional. I'm after places that serve as the centres of towns or cities.
I'm asking because I want to discuss this possibility in my book, based on my experience in developing the idea sketched above. It has particular relevance as a way to organize local bus connections at a rapid transit station that is also a local CBD. If really successful examples exist, I want to praise them. If they don't, I'm interested in credible theories of why not. Is there something intrinsically wrong or unrealistic about this kind of design?
The closest I've seen so far are as follows. People who are familiar with these spaces are encouraged to chime in with views on whether they work on the above criteria, especially the perception of the space as a centre or "living room." The notation C? means "I'm not sure if this really functions as a civic heart or livingroom. T? means "I'm not sure if the transit connections are major, that is, I'm not sure if lots of people have reason to make connections here.)
- Copley Square, Boston. (C? T?)
- Mont Royal station, Montréal. (C? T?)
- Plaza on the north side of Gare Montparnasse, Paris. (C?)
- Pershing Square, Los Angeles (T?)
- Picadilly Gardens, Manchester, UK (C?) (not hardscaped)
- Place Bellecour, Lyon, France (T?) (very close!)
- JFK Plaza, Philadelphia (T?) (not clear where bus stops are)
- Alexanderplatz, Berlin, specifically the area southwest of the elevated station, between there and Spandauerstr. (C? T?) (Is this a major bus-rail connection path?)
Thanks for everyone who's commented so far!
If it doesn’t have to be suburban…
Justin Herman Plaza in San Francisco has the busses and streetcars that run down Market Street, the city’s main street and connects to the waterfront streetcars on the opposite side. The BART suburban and MUNI Metro subway stations are underground in the center of the plaza. It sees quite a lot of events but is irregularly shaped and retail is weak for SF (though strong compared to many other cities’ centers). This is where the original Critical Mass sets off on Friday afternoons (last Friday of the month is best). Live music, art installations, and street theatre are common. Amtrak sends its connecting bus here. Across the street is the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market.
There are a number of places in Mexico City that qualify but Glorieta Insurgentes at the Insurgentes metro stop is the most obvious. The metro stop is in the center of a 100m circular plaza while the Metrobus BRT runs north-south from stations around the edge of the plaza. (Metrobus runs 300% capacity biarticulated BRT units with under 1 minute lead times) Civic events, lots of retail arond the edges, the premier meeting spot for the hot Zona Rosa district, and transit transfers all happen here. There are also local busses connecting one block away on the major avenue that runs east-west underneath the plaza. I used to live near here and even this description doesn’t really reflect how much goes on in this nondescript concrete circle.
In Monterrey I think the central plaza around the Zaragoza subway stop might work this way, but maybe that’s just the one-way streets messing with me. In any case, I didn’t get much urban community feel anywhere around there and I didn’t stick around enough to look harder. The weather reminded me alternately of Houston and Chicago and my visit was touristic so I moved on quickly. The people were great, though. This plaza is also the place to go to book your vacation in Cuba if you ever feel like sticking a thumb in Obama’s travel-restricting eye; lots of agencies were advertising special packages.
I don’t think the Gare Montparnasse plaza works as a civic heart – it’s an extremely busy area and there are some festival event / market type things but the area still has a strange, unwelcoming vibe partly due to the looming tower, partly due to the building/street layouts, partly due to the traffic density. I lived relatively close by and would never purposely hang out in that plaza (sometimes would read on the lovely hidden park on top of the gare, but never the plaza.)
It’s entirely possible that the exact same design would be a ‘heart of the city’ somewhere else, but in Paris a. there’s a lot of competition for that role throughout the city and b. the ugly, detested tower has an effect that it might not have in a taller city.
Comments re: Copley Square, Boston – this square is well suited for drawing a variety of users considering its location in the heart of the Back Bay. It is popular for office workers to sit around here on their lunch breaks, particularly in the summer. People otherwise unoccupied during nice weather might also hang out here after shopping on nearby (upscale) Newbury Street or at the two (also upscale) malls adjacent to the square. And, of course, Boston’s main public library is right on the square.
In addition to connections to subway and regional rail, a number of express buses to suburbs originate or stop around here, as do local buses. However, unlike the Green Line, the Orange Line and MBTA Commuter Rail are not quite adjacent to the square — it actually requires walking a few blocks. The relationship between the different modes of transportation is not quite as pictured in the diagram above.
One other place that springs to mind is Kennedy Plaza in Providence, RI. I am not too sure how much it is used as a ‘living room’-type space, but it might meet your request’s specifications — I just haven’t been there in quite some time.
The square in front of the Haupstbahnhof in Frankfurt is a major transfer point to the city’s streetcar lines.
Regarding Piccadilly Gardens in Manchester, England, while it definitely functions as a transit hub and was also extensively remodeled and hardscaped in about 2002 with trees, fountains, cafes etc [see http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20110118095356/http://www.cabe.org.uk/case-studies/piccadilly-gardens/description%5D, I’m not sure it functions as the city’s ‘living room’. Its next to Chinatown and many hotels restaurants, offices etc so it is busy 24 hours a day, with people (a)eating lunch, (b)meeting friends and (e)attending cultural activities however, the city’s other squares also have their own functions.
Political rallies and revolutions tend to happen in front of the Town Hall in Albert Square and St.Peter’s Square, (for example, see the Peterloo Massacre of 1819 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peterloo_massacre) which aren’t nearly as major transit hubs, though they do have light rail and bus stations,I think the police prefer them here as Piccadilly Gardens is too important to disrupt with rallies.
Sporting events etc are usually shown on big screens in Exchange Square, which being totally for pedestrians and shopping has no transit access at all, despite being a short walk from a major intercity rail station.
Also, none of these are at all suburban in nature.
Not sure this helps you, maybe asking for all these functions in a single civic space is too much to ask for? surely one function kind of negates the others?
sorry, broken link, try this;
The plaza in front of Mont-Royal station isn’t that large – def a local community feel to it though. Most of the traffic to/from the metro is on foot = it’s a dense residential area and avenue du Mont-Royal is a lively commercial street. I think only 1 or perhaps 2 bus routes stop at the metro station. For many of the functions you mention, Place Emile-Gamelin (Metro Berri-UQAM, intercity bus station) is a better fit, but the real civic squares in the city don’t really have transport directly adjacent.
Alexplatz has trams running through it. Buses on the periphery, I think? The first Berlin example I thought of was Savigny Platz – much more of a cosy living room – Alex is more like a big hotel lobby by contrast.
I’ve only been through the square in front of Gare de Montparnasse once but definitely didn’t get any civic vibe.
Other possibles would be Karlsplatz in Vienna (or maybe Schwedenplatz has more buses). Trafalgar Square in London. Rathausmarkt in Hamburg. Syntagma Square in Athens – actually this last probably is closest to what you’re looking for – metro, tram and buses, mostly hard surface, free wi-fi, cafes, busy, symbolic, nice place for a riot to gather (though Athens has lots of those), and a real focal point
St. George’s Square in Guelph, Ontario. Things are changing as soon as the transit terminal is completed – that is – all the bus transfers are going to take place several blocks from the square. But until then, I think it’s a great example of what you’re talking about. On summer weekends, there’s live music – and year round there are shops, restaurants, hot dog stands, and panhandlers. Everything you need for a good public square!
Are you looking for the single biggest square in a city that does these things? A small corner bar or coffee shop can function as a living room, so I’m not sure about that term.
I actually think large squares can be counter productive at times.
There are cities with numerous squares that work to collect transit. Helsinki, Finland has Senate Square, also the Helsinki Central Station, designed by Elliel Saarineen, has a large plaza. You can literally connect to anywhere in Helsinki, or Finland or even the world from that location. Hakaniemi has a kauppahalli (market hall), a large square and underground metro trains that come up inside the square. There is also Vanha kauppahalli which connects L shape to a long and narrow plaza backing up to the harbor and is only a block away from Senate Square.
There are other smaller squares that I think would accommodate what you are after. And all have excellent transit. Is there a certain crowd size you are looking for?
Camillo Sitte wrote an excellent book on squares (1889) “City Planning According to Artistic Principles”.
I would also like to point out that Savannah Georgia has I think 14 or 15 squares in a small area, what is interesting is how they work together as a whole.
I think, to an extent, that points c, d & e and this criterion are mutually exclusive: “These high-volume connections require walking across the square, not just along one edge of it”. Perhaps “encourage” rather than “require”, or would transport be re-routed in any case if there’s a big event on?
16th Street Mission BART in San Francisco might be a little like what you’re looking for; there’s a square above it with bus stops on two sides. It’s a bit of a civic gathering place.
I’m not sure if JFK/Love Park in Philadelphia is what you’re looking for. It’s adjacent to the subway, regional rail and a number of bus routes, but the space itself isn’t particularly vibrant (especially since they kicked the skaters out!). The kind of space you describe would best be matched by Rittenhouse Square – it really is a civic heart for the city (or at least a part of the city). But it’s certainly not a major transfer point for transit users, though some major crosstown bus routes do go past the square.
@mattwigway – The BART stations at 16th St.+ Mission and 24th St.+ Mission in San Francisco are pocket versions of what Jarrett is looking for. What makes them unsuitable in particular is the fact that the streets (16th, 24th, Mission) break up the plaza space and serve as barriers.
I would suggest that, if the book takes a while, Jarrett keep an eye on the Mission Bay section of San Francisco. That area is evolving with transit at the north end (Fourth + King), assorted park space in the middle, and the UCSF campus on the south end. Think of it like a barbell – transit (bus + rail), park, and campus. Also, just to the east is the AT+T Park stadium (mostly baseball). While it doesn’t meet the trans-plaza flow requirement like Justin Herman Plaza (@Ian Huang in the previous post) it may serve as a negative example.
Some swiss examples:
1) place de l’Europe, Lausanne
main subway/light rail/bus interchange in the city center. Full of people both at day and at night. Several shops and bars have gathered around the station after its opening.
railway/light rail/BRT interchange in a suburban context. Very dense and walkable area just around the station. Main square just one block away, with lots of small shops and two shopping centers. Lots of activities and animations.
Hi jarrett, intriguing question. I’ve a few thOughts:
1. As mentioned, Insurgentes circle in Mexico City is a pure example of what you are describing. While it’s not a first world city, zona rosa has the kind of restaurants bars and architecture the first world aspires to. The place hosts popular public events, but it’s not a tourist destination.
2. I think you need to consider whether through traffic is what makes a space. You don’t put your living room in your front hallway. You dont want to see people hustling past, head down and rushing, if you’re trying to relax or focus. This is especially true if there is a single desire line that puts pedestrians in single file across the square.
3. Federation square in Melbourne is the best square I’ve ever been in for the living room function. It feels cozy, because it is all but closed on three sides. It is amazingly popular with a range of demographics and it’s steps are half amphitheatre, half seating. It is extremely well located to transit, but you’d never connect thru there.
Re: Copley Square: I think the problem with the Boston area in general is that there are few enough places downtown that have bus connections here, much less of the sort that you’re thinking about.
Imo the civic heart of Boston, the bit that pretty much fills all the points you’re hitting there, is (east) Boston Common and Park Street Station, which is the busiest connection point inside the subway system. If you extended that down the block to Downtown Crossing and environs, you have some bus connections to express buses and the like, but it’s more of a pedestrian mall area there than a green space.
You could make an argument that the Copley area has some of those transit features, given Back Bay Station nearby and the Amtrak/commuter rail connections there. But nothing in my mind in Boston really matches the sort of argument you’re trying to make on whole.
Another comment re: Copley Square in Boston: I think that Copley is a high-volume transit destination, but not really a high volume transfer point. It has a major office tower (Hancock building), the main public library, tourist attractions (Trinity and Old South Church), a vibrant farmer’s market in the summer, and proximity to Newbury St and other Back Bay destinations. So there is heavy all-day transit demand and several bus lines terminate in or nearby Copley. But it doesn’t strike me as a place with really significant transfer traffic (certainly nothing compared to Harvard Square or Ruggles Station, which are major subway-to-bus transfer points, or Dudley which is a big bus-to-bus transfer point).
As far as the civic heart aspect of things: Copley definitely meets your criteria (a), (b), and (e), possibly meets (f), but doesn’t really meet (c) or (d) at least in my opinion. Big rallies (for political or sporting or other causes) are more likely to be on the Boston Common or in Government Center than Copley.
The closest thing I can think of in the Boston area to a place that is a civic living room and a major transfer point is Harvard Square, which is undeniably both. However, it doesn’t fit the geometry you are describing at all — many of the transfer happen underground in a bus tunnel, and the square itself lacks a big central plaza, so the activity is spread around a series of smaller hardscaped spaces, not concentrated in one central square.
Re: Alexanderplatz, the area to the southwest, around the Fernsehturm and Neptunbrunnen doesn’t really fit your criteria (though it does see a fair amount of use in nice weather, but it’s also not part of Alexanderplatz. The area that does meet your criteria is the actual Platz to the northeast. It was the heart of old East Berlin. Three separate U-Bahn lines converge here, and the stations exit directly onto the the Platz. Three tram lines pass through it, as well as a number nearby. It has retail locations on three sides and there are a number of cafes around it and other vendors in the train station itself. In addition, there are generally temporary food vendors in various locations in the Platz. In warm weather, there are a lot of people hanging out there or passing through. People do come here to eat their lunch. In winter, a Christmas market is held there and an ice rink is sometimes set up. It is an active center of life in the eastern part of the city. On any given day, people come out of the U2/U5 station on Alexanderplatz, stop to buy a bratwurst from a man with a grill strapped to his waist, and cross the Platz to the elevated train station to catch the S-Bahn. Or they might stop to do some shopping at the Kaufhof or stop at the bank to pay their bills or meet friends to go out, etc., etc. I think it meets the criteria of both C and T.
John W points out, but I want to echo that Place Gamelin in Montreal seems a better fit for what you describe. Busses, two metro lines (three if you count the yellow) and an intercity bus terminal all interact there, along with government buildings an a university. SO on a sunny day it works well. In the winter, not so much, mainly due to the underground city offering a less windy, snowy, freezing option.
Isn’t the idea to reduce transfer penalties, not to deliberately increase them for other ends? Getting off the train on a cold, stormy night, I think I would resent being made to animate an otherwise deserted public square – running 200m for my bus, with my umbrella blown inside out, dodging puddles. Even worse if it was on the way to work in the morning!
Before I moved back to Vancouver, I worked on the conceptual re-design of Fordham Plaza in the Bronx, which while not yet built, might be a good example of trying to maximize the interrelationships between urban public spaces and transportation infrastructure.
The current plaza is split in two by a bus interchange, which creates confusion amongst pedestrians and potentially dangerous situations where peds dart out behind parked (i.e. stored) or laid-over buses. Bus movements also have had a tendency to be in conflict with the heavy traffic, resulting in even more congestion. This also results in a less-than-ideal public space and has made it difficult to successfully program with activities.
The new plaza reorganizes overall traffic patterns (the modelling shows improved intersection levels of service from the currently notoriously congested conditions) – creating new bus terminal facilities, improved connections down to the below-plaza-level Metro-North Station, as well as opportunities for a contiguous and coherent public plaza – which hopefully will also be financially self-sufficient in terms of programming and maintenance thanks to on-site revenue-generating activities.
I’ve got Eyre Square in Galway, Ireland. Not exactly a metropolis, but if it would make a great so-called urban village, if only it weren’t at the edge of nowhere. Certainly nothing qualifies it as major, though its popular with travelers and has a fairly successful university.
Its labeled as Kennedy Park on Google but I don’t think anyone calls it that. Intercity and regional buses depart from the side street by the train station to the southeast. City buses depart from the curb next to the park on the Northeast side and from the curb opposite the park on the Northwest side. The southwest side is pedestrianized. At the very southern tip there are a couple of additional local bus stops and access to a smallish enclosed shopping area. There is another shopping area with department stores and some dining across from the westernmost point.
Its definitely a gathering place and a place to eat a take away or packed lunch. As for events I know there is a Christmas market and they set up to watch the World Cup. I also saw some pictures of an anti-austerity rally held there a few months back. I remember a miniature amusement park set up when I was there a few years back.
There were plans for both commuter rail and a tram system, though I’d assume those went up in smoke with the rest of Ireland.
Jarrett, you’ve carefully described what you are looking for, but it might help us if you told why or what the most important characteristics are. My experience is that you can meet all your criteria in a very small area, but usually not in one square, nor might you be able to physically arrange and smoothly operate it all it one place (geometry). If you allow the large space for political causes and watching sports to be near the main retail/transit area or the transit to be on one periphery of the other activities, then many European cities have that as do many older US cities.
I’m familiar with central Wiesbaden, Germany, bordered by Wilhelmstrasse on the east, Friedrichstrasse on the south and Schwalbacher Strasse on the west. Buses traverse all these streets with two major transit connection points on the south side. One of those is on the square where the farmers market is setup and adjacent to the neighboring square with the state parliament and city hall buildings, great for demonstrations, the wine festival and Christmas market with access to several hundred stores and restaurants in the pedestrian zone.
I also think there is a lot of practicality in underground transit connections or for traversing under a square in inclement weather. In Europe, many such underground areas have their own retail and entrances to the stores on the street level. You can connect to all your transit under the square or traverse underground and pop up next to your surface bus if the square is too crowded with a festival or demonstration. And the retail or bench to eat lunch or people watch is right there if you want to stop. The combination gives people choices and is therefore welcoming to multiple uses. Marienplatz in Munich or the Zeil (Hauptwache) in Frankfurt are examples. People gather and might march in the Zeil, but the big sports viewing takes place five minutes walk away where the oversize screens actually float in the middle of Main River. Seattle’s transit tunnel has the underground connections, especially at the Westlake Center.
I can only think of one in Japan: Hisaya-Odori Park in Nagoya
The park runs north to south. The pink area shown in google maps is the underground subway stations and malls. Although the bus terminal plaza is shaped like an upside-down U…I hope it still may qualify (there are also bus stations across the plaza a little north of the upside-down U along the perpendicular street). The plaza is located in the heart of famous shopping districts (above and below ground). Multiple events are often held here. More info:
And a nice drawing of the park as well as pictures of different sections/themes of the park (including the bus terminal):
Something that comes to my mind is Odenplan in Stockholm. It fits modt of the use-cases you mentioned, possibly with less focus on (c) and (d), as those mostly happen on a Sergels torg, which is more centrally located. Odenplan connects to the subway so that the entrance is in the middle of the squre. Two “BRT”-lines run on the sides, so that the doors always open toward the square. You can see the placement of the stops in relation to the subway entrance in the following map.
The square is currently remodeled to include also an entrance to the Citybanan regional rail tunnel that is currently being constructed. The squre has some kiosks, and a flower shop, while all the surrounding streets are filled with street cafe’s.
I know you know it well, but would Southbank Brisbane meet your criteria? the connection between the South bank train station, the ferry and the Cultural centre busway station?
All are above ground and connect through the parklands, which are used for recreation and many cultural events.
If you’re willing to accept underground stations, then Union Square may fit the bill. While the rapid transit there is all underground, there are high-volume buses, including the M14 (the second busiest in Manhattan) and the M1/2/3 interline (which combined are even busier, though the busiest segment is probably further north). In addition to a key transfer point between east-west and north-south lines, the square is a destination in its own right and is a site for political and social gatherings.
Jarrett, I just posted a comment about the Hisaya-Odori Park in Nagoya. If that does not suit you, maybe the Oasis 21 Bus Terminal will?
It is purple and located on the right hand side of the park in this map:
Basically, it is close by to the other one I proposed.
The Oasis 21 Bus Terminal was constructed in 2002 and connects bus lines with the subway (Higashiyama Line’s Sakae station). The bus stations are both on street level as well as underground (buses take dedicated roads into the building, where passengers board along the building’s perimeter). Lots of bicycle spaces. According to a website, it contains thirty shops, including a Starbucks and a Pokemon center. It also has a huge sloped park. It is street level on the side that connects to Hisaya-Odori Park, but becomes a floor above on the other side of the building.
(facing west…towards Hisaya-Odori Park)
(facing southeast…you can see how the park is sloped as well as bus stops on several sides)
(an event held in the terminal)
(lake on top of the “spaceship” roof)
(programs at night)
(finally, a picture showing a ramp that buses utilize to leave the underground station)
I apologize for the many links.
I think McGraw Square in Seattle might qualify. It’s a bit on the small size, but it’s new, so it might be interesting to see how it evolves with time. SDOT just closed off the northernmost part of Westlake Avenue here to create it. The streetcar terminates within the square, the monorail is across the street, and the Westlake station of the Link train arrives about a block west.
Maps and photos are accessible here: http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/westlakehub_streetcarplaza.htm
Toronto’s (Yonge-)Dundas Square http://www.ydsquare.ca/index.php seems to fit most of your criteria. It may be lacking only in size, the number of trasit connections (1 bus, 1 streetcar, 1 subway) but then again most stations in the city with several surface routes serving it usually have a dedicated fare-paid area. The Square is also a pick-up point for several tour bus companies, which I guess could make up for the transit.
The Square has regular programming in the warmer months (markets, movies, cultural exhibits) but is still popular in the winter months as a meeting point. Demonstrations form, start or pass by the Square. Recently the Santa Claus parade was rerouted to pass by it as well.
Due to the nature of the Square the City installed its first scramble signal there allowing pedestrians to cross in any direction. The proximity to shopping, hotels, theatre as well as Ryerson University (which I know is a rejection point, but this square wasn’t built solely for them. Ryerson has its own square) means that there is always pedestrian traffic. The numerous screens (they were meant to give a Times Square feel) set up around the Square also lend themselves to broadcasting sporting events. Tables are set up year-round for use, of course the number and location are dictated by weather and programming in the Square.
Two suburban Melbourne examples that came about more by accident than anything else:
Box Hill; to change from the bus/train station to trams, you have to walk through the Market St pedestrian mall.
Moonee Ponds; station is several hundred metres’ walk through the Puckle Street shopping centre to buses and trams.
I’m not convinced you’d build it like this deliberately though, if it’s going to take more than a minute or two between modes and most people coming through are interchanging, rather than heading to the location as a destination.
I’d nominate Bahnhofplatz in Berne, Switzerland. It’s a heavenly melange of transit, shopping, connections, urbanity and daily life. It’s as though the entire city converges in this one central point. Buses, trams and commuter rail all intersect here, easing any and all transfers.
One of the best parts of the area is that it’s shape is not defined by roads. Instead, roads, people, buildings, transit and infrastructure all co-mingle both above, below and at-grade.
And the recent renovations to the transfer point infrastructure is inspiring:
I don’t think the original request was too vague – but people do like to try to help, even if they can’t find a site which meets the criteria! And they don’t always read the request carefully. And now here I am having not read anything like the whole of the comments – I’m interested to see whether any site does qualify fully.
I can’t help feeling there ought to be something in London, a city I used to know better than I do now. It has a long history of transit, high usage, and a fairly good history of pro-transit government. But I can’t think of an example there, and wonder if, as suggested by some commenters, too much is being demanded of one public space. London’s latest transit interchanges are just that – no attempt at combining with a public space function. Take the huge new Westfield Mall, in West London (Shepherd’s Bush). It has a large transit interchange at EACH END – the one at the east end has overground and underground rail stations plus a slew of bus routes. The addition of public space would probably result in its functioning less well as an interchange.
But London’s obvious Public Spaces (Trafalgar Square being an obvious example) don’t really function too well as interchanges. Though perhaps the whole of Central London is a transport interchange …
I agree with the reservations about Piccadilly Gardens.
Following up on what dan reed said about JFK/Love Park in Philly, he’s right that the space itself isn’t so vibrant. There are plans, however, to make Dilworth Plaza, which lies between Love Park and City Hall and right on top of the intersecting subway lines, more vibrant.
What this plan really needs though is for the underground subway stops (15th Street and City Hall) to be rebuilt and made easier to access from the surface. So far, SEPTA has not been able to come up with the funding. It’s apparently pretty expensive to rebuild a subway station built into the foundation of one of the largest masonry buildings in the world.
I agree with the guy who suggested Kennedy Plaza in Providence, RI. Part of it is a bus plaza with numerous shelters, benches, and lanes for bus pickup and dropoff, and part of it is landscaped with an ice rink and grassy areas.
The Amtrak/commuter rail station is a few blocks away to the north, so transfer passengers often walk up Exchange street.
I would like to offer two more UK examples that hopefully meet most of your criteria:
1. The hub of the bus network in the city of Bristol is known simply as ‘The Centre’, its original name was ‘The Tramways Centre’. Until 1999 this was a large traffic gyratory with central landscaping. For the Millennium it was remodelled as a public square with seating, fountains, sculptures, and some of the perimeter streets became bus-only. The Centre is a lively pedestrian friendly space bordered by restaurants, bars, a theatre, and nearby a concert hall. It is also adjacent to the popular Harbour side with more bars and restaurants, the Watershed arts complex, The Arnolfini arts complex, the ‘@Bristol’ science museum etc.
Most city services operated by First Bristol terminate or pass through this area on the perimeter streets (St Augustine’s Parade, Colston Ave, Broad Quay) as indicated by this map (the cluster of orange bus stops):
There is also a stop for the small ferryboats that ply the ‘ Floating Harbour ’ providing a popular tourist and commuter service for the inner city.
2. My second example is ‘The Square’ in the English south coast resort of Bournemouth . For many years this area was a traffic roundabout:
But today The Square is a lively pedestrian friendly space bordered by shops, restaurants and bars. Adjacent to The Square are the Central Gardens which lead down to the Pier and seafront area.
The Square has always been the focal point of the ex-municipal (now owned by RATP) Yellow Buses services
1. Grand Central Terminal, New York. It’s the swiss-army-knife of transit destinations: equal parts multi-modal transit station, historical landmark, meeting place and foodie hotspot, and one of the very best people watching spots anywhere. (However, there isn’t much outside other than zillions of places to catch the bus.)
1a. Union Station, Washington DC – same as Grand Central, but has some outdoor space.
2/3. You mentioned Vancouver, so consider the neighbors just south of the border in Washington state: Union Station in Tacoma and Westlake Center in Seattle. Westlake is the mature version complete with multi-modal transit options; Union Station is right near a growing branch campus of the University of Washington.
4. In the south of France, two standouts: Nice, the Place Massena and Montpellier, the Place de la Comedie. Big open plazas with streetcar lines and plenty of places to sit and eat. Montpellier’s space is right in front of it’s operahouse, and Nice’s space is essentially waterfront.
MARTA station, large bus station
Kennedy Plaza/City Hall Park
Providence, RI downtown
I would suggest the Boston Common at the corner of Park St and Tremont St – and the Park Street stations of the MBTA’s Green and Red Lines (with a walkway underground to the Orange line at Downtown Crossing). A number of busses also stop, though it is definitely not a bus hub.
The Common is a very large park, probably not within your parameters. Nonetheless, “Boston Common set for face lift” – http://www.boston.com/yourtown/boston/beaconhill/articles/2011/02/28/boston_common_set_for_face_lift/ – notes the plan for a new set of amenities for this corner of the park.
Den-en-Chofu Station in Tokyo is a good example:
Passengers transferring between buses and commuter rail walk across a charming plaza surrounded by a mix of houses, shops, and landscaping.
I can only think of what you’re clearly not looking to emulate, which would be the square at Main and Terminal in Vancouver in front of the Pacific Central railway and bus terminus building. It’s usually pretty dead, despite being next to skytrain and high-density residential.
A little closer to “home” and some examples that may be less alienating:
* Portland’s Pioneer Square
* Portland’s Teachers Plaza
* Burnaby Library (between Metrotown and Patterson SkyTrain stations) — very much activated during the spring and summer — a modest example for Surrey to emulate and expand upon.
And upon closer inspection, one other comment about the specifics of the drawing: the drawing lists three streets as “new road”, but the far one looks as though it’s 102nd Ave, and there’s really not a lot of space for a new road across from Surrey Central until you hit King George Highway, which is, like the name implies, full of cars and congestion and concrete. Not exactly a pleasant border. I haven’t measured it out exactly, but I somewhat doubt you can fit a 50m wide plaza in that space, then have enough room left over for a new street and space for the next block.
Which presents a lot of interesting design challenges (or, if you’re optimistic, opportunities) for that space, as maybe the “retail pavilian” could act as a bit of a barrier, as long as it’s pourous enough to provide access to the street.
The spot where I’ve always wanted to see a square put is actually the parking lot in between Surrey SFU and the bus exchange (actually, preferrebly including the bus exchange land). It’s a bit more cozy, a bit more of a defined space already, but it’s bound to have a lot of walk-through traffic, a decent buffer from the traffic and noise, an interesting shape and feel, and it’s surrounded on three sides by a university, skytrain and (i think?) a rec centre.
A few thoughts about the public square.
What elements support such a square as you describe?. Density is an important question. What density will support a larger square? More importantly a public square is a static concept, where’s the movement?
The density has to come from either transit or location, and most likely, especially for a large square, both are needed in some fashion.
Every square has to function as a civic heart by definition. Transit is the wild card. Medieval Squares are for walking and can and do perform the rest of the tasks you cite, still a center, it is a meeting place, a civic heart.
Another major question is the external influences upon a square. In Finland Senate Square is beyond a doubt the urban star, the urban centre, the civic heart, I doubt few in Helsinki, or Finland for that matter would question that thought.
Yet Senate Square is not one square, but three.
One block from Senate Square is the harbor square with Vantu Market Hall (Kauppahalli) as the focus. Extended from the harbor square is the Esplanade, a four city block extension of harbor square and one block from Senate square. The walk has trams going down either side serving harbor square or Senate Square. The Esplanade has a tree lined walk down the center as well as along the street. Streetside commercial abounds in this area.
The three squares, combined together meet your requirements fully, Senate Square a major venue for festivals, harbor square, with Vanhu Market Hall for food and numerous stalls for food, and finally a walk or a place to eat lunch under a tree on the Esplanade, they are all connected as one square. Yet they are separate squares in themselves. Sitte describes them as “deep” squares, or “wide” squares. They are both represented here.
Helsinki Central Station is close (up the U (or J from the Esplanade, but there are other ways to arrive at the central station from Senate Square. Multiple squares are the core of the transit system. The main plaza at Helsinki Central Station is visually shielded from the buses and trains (as Sitte recommends). Along with flight reservations provide direct connections to any location. Still the urban heart is with Senate Square.
The downside is too much transit entering one square (connection). Victoria Station in London handles it by meeting the city directly with an indoor plaza instead of outdoor. Victoria Station is not the place for independent markets, festivals or other events. A major transit collection point has a different character than other squares without such a heavy emphasis on being a transit center.
The connectivity of the squares begins with transit, it is quality of life, it is urban design. Squares should generate city wide discussions.
Helsinki has at least 5 or 6 public squares that meet your requirements, at least or four in the very large category. Each square is distinctive and helps build the transit system.
And in fact Helsinki and Finland have an excellent transit system. It is one that is skillfully blended with the environment and not surprisingly, uses multiple public squares as a design element.
Central plazas and squares are often set up with dual use for small scale markets. It becomes a platform for the smallest scale capitalism. It gives interest to the square.
In Helsinki the squares that have market halls (kauppahalli) usually focus on food, but there is one kauppahalli at Hietalahden Square that the focus is antiques. And of course there are squares for the town hall, churches and so on.
Squares need the support of the surrounding city, which in turn supports transit. How does the square transition to the city?
The public square is part of a system of movement.
While I am not necessarily a fan of Edmund Bacons physical designs, he wrote a book the “Design of Cities”, that attempted to bring the diverse elements of transit and urban design together, I thought his thinking was good, if not great.
There is no easy answers for squares unless you include town planning. Anything less you castrate mass transit.
I humbly submit Cincinnati’s fountain square as a place that meets all of your requirements directly, except that on the transit component it is only able to strike a glancing blow.
Government Square (transit hub):
Fountain Square in Cincinnati has a storied history as one of America’s great urban public spaces. Adjacent to it is Government square which serves as Metro’s downtown hub and is the largest hub in the system.
Unfortunately Cincinnati’s transit system is still abysmal, and the hub does not interact hardly at all with the square despite it’s proximity.
If you haven’t already – reading “The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces” by William H. Whyte is probably the fastest way to understand how/why people use public plazas… and why bigger public spaces aren’t always better.
Not sure if anyone has written “The Social Life of Large Suburban Spaces” – which would perhaps be more useful to your current needs.
My first thought looking at that diagram is that the place will need a LOT more going on to draw people there. Aren’t the bulk of suburban transit users (commuters) usually just passing through, not so much the lingering type? What is drawing other users to go there? Does the library front onto the plaza? A community centre? There has to be a lot of stuff there to lure suburbanites out of their houses, otherwise it’ll just be a big skate park.
(Wish I had a helpful example to suggest, but none come to mind!)
How about the Star Ferry Terminal in Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong? It has a ferry and bus terminal, a cultural center and a water front promenade. The clock tower over the plaza is the remnant of the train terminal of the line connecting to China. The line has evolved into a underground station these days.
The Piazza outside Pisa Centrale station felt like this when I visited Pisa.
I believe it was mentioned already above, but Syntagma Square in Athens meets almost all of the requirements you outlined above. It is very much the heart of Athens (and the scene of a host of important events in Greek history, including the beginning of the Greek Civil War in the 1940s) and a popular place for relaxation (aided by free municipal-provided WiFi) as well as all too frequent protest. It is also one of Athens’ central transit hubs, with a Metro station on one side of the square, and major bus and trolley-bus routes running down one-way streets on either side of the square, including the main stop for the express bus to Athens airport. Thus, travelers seeking to change the mode of transit from metro or airport bus onto regular city buses or vice versa must cross the square, as well as those seeking to change bus routes. Unfortunately, public transit in Athens is not centrally planned, but provided by a multitude of different private and public companies, so finding a good map of transit circulation has proven difficult. However, it is possible that the very nature of Athens public transport has contributed to the vitality of Syntagma Square as a transit hub, since it is a destination important enough to be served by all transit entities.
One other thing that makes Syntagma interesting is that the east side of the square, which has the heaviest traffic, is one storey higher than the rest. (If you’ve been to London’s Trafalgar Square, it has a similar elevation profile, though the raised side there has been pedestrianised). The raised side not only helps define the urban space and provides a bit of a visual barrier from the side with the busiest traffic, but lets people have a view over the entire square. And large-scale public staircases are always a magnet for people to hang out and people-watch. If I remember correctly, one of the metro entrances is at ground level and delivers you right into the square from out of the wall on this raised side.
One thing I’ve noticed is how hard it seems to get a picture that actually conveys the feeling of a square. These are the best few I spotted of Syntagma that give a sense of both its toppography and animation. Couldn’t find one that shows the metro entrance in the corner, however.
This last gives its urban context (ignoring the very important state buildings behind the photographer) – you can see bus stops at the far left, the metro is at the far right – just out of frame are multiple entrances as staircases down from the pavement (sidewalk)
How about Circular Quay in Sydney where trains, ferries and buses exchange customers. There is a small square in front of Customs House. The whole area became pedestrian only during the 2000 Olympics when large television screens were hung from the Cahill Expressway.
Jarett, just for posterity, I wanted to mention Plaça de Catalunya in Barcelona. I don’t think anyone has mentioned it. This is essentially a roundabout but it is adjacent to the Rambla and subdivides several neighborhoods, with a major metro/train station on one side and buses circulating all around. The airport (bus) shuttle terminates on the side of the Plaza opposite the metro stop. I was in Barcelona last week for the first time and as I was walking around the Plaza, I thought to myself, “if there were an Egyptian-style revolution, I bet it would happen here.” And then I thought back to this discussion.
In Vancouver, BC, I nominate Waterfront Station, Burrard Station on the Expo Line, and City Centre Station on the Canada Line.
It seems so obvious to me to create a place like you describe… and yet I can’t think of any just like that. Places that have been historically hubs of transit activity tend to be shopping streets. Either the value of having retail next to transit precludes parks, or the ridership from having your transit lined with retail on both sides moves the routing elsewhere… Only in “City Beautiful” cities with a strong investment in monumental open space. Have you considered places in Washington DC, like Dupont Circle, Washington Circle, the Mall, or the park in front of Union Station? (http://www.wmata.com/pdfs/bus/DC.pdf) Otherwise, maybe the parks in the center of Detroit.
Most of what you are looking for is on The Commons in Ithaca, NY. The east/west streets on the north & south sides of the commons are one-way, so transit is on the far side of the street, but pretty much the rest of your list is there. No BRT, train or anything, but a very successful small urban transit service in TCAT.