NOTE: This obsolete post is retained to preserve its comments. The updated post is here.
I'm looking for examples of a successful civic plaza space which is also transit connection point, and where people making connections between transit lines need to walk across the plaza to do that. In other words, I'm looking for something like this:
(This illustration is of a an idea that was developed for a town center in the metro Vancouver area. The place as drawn does not exist. I am looking, by contrast, for something already built and working well.)
The rapid transit station doesn't have to be elevated. It could be underground or it could even be on the surface. What I'm after are these key features:
- We are in the high-wage "developed" world. North America, Europe, wealthy East Asia, Australia/New Zealand, etc.
- Local bus (or streetcar/tram) stops are directly on sides of the square, so that when alighting it feels that you are now "in" or "at" the square. Ideally, terminating buses stop on the correct side of the street to put you right in the square, not across the street from it.
- People walk across the square to make connections between local transit and rapid transit, so that they become, at least briefly, part of the life of the square.
- A rapid transit stop is probably right at a civic square, though if someone found a square with trams on three sides and lots of people connecting between them, I could work with that.
- The connection being made represents a major node in the transit system, so many riders are making the connection there. Typically that means that the lines that cross at the square do not cross anywhere else nearby, and/or this is the most logical place to make a connection between those lines.
- The square is also successful as an urban place, a place where people like to go to have lunch, meet friends, watch people, see street entertainments, etc. It probably has lots of retail nearby but it is an open public square, not a shopping mall. It's a place that might be described (to use the well-worn term for Portland's Pioneer Courthouse Square) as the local area's 'living room.'
Anyone who can identify a place that matches these criteria, and point me to some good pictures of it including a picture or diagram that shows the transit circulation clearly, will get, at least:
- a mention in the book (at least in the small print.)
- a shout-out here on the blog
- lunch or dinner on me whenever we're next in the same city
Please forward a link to friends who might also enjoy the challenge.
(Speaking of shout-outs, the above sketch is by Eric Orozco, based on a plan by Hotson Bakker Boniface Haden architects, in which I played a small role.)
UPDATE: Clarifications in response to the first round of suggestions is here.
So, rapid transit and not commuter rail? Assuming it’s all day, how frequent does it have to be?
Also, what counts as “suburban”?
Tung Chung station in Hong Kong (and probably more suburban places in Hong Kong where the metro meets trams & busses)
Parla, stop on the Cercanias in Madrid, where you can change to the tram on a plaza:
I would seek to enter the competition using the plaza outside the Gerland Metro Station in Lyon, France.
I have not been back in the area since this project was completed (worked at a friend’s microbrewery, Ninkasi, that is opposite the new metro station during the 98 World Cup) – so not certain how well this would meet the criteria.
This Google Map link gives an overview:
The Alexanderplatz in Berlin meets most of your requirements, but it is a perhaps bit more complicated than you describe and in any event is certainly not “suburban.”
Alexanderplatz in Berlin. There are connections to bus, tram, U-Bahn, S-Bahn, and some long-distance regional trains. The tram stop is directly on the platz, and the U-Bahn station exits directly onto the platz in several locations. The S-Bahn station, which is on the main Berlin transit axis, is separated from the platz by a building, but it still engages with it and with the park on the other side. It’s helped by the fact that most of the area around it is a pedestrian zone. In the spring/summer it’s pretty lively.
Google maps: http://maps.google.com/maps?oe=utf-8&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a&um=1&ie=UTF-8&q=alexanderplatz+berlin&fb=1&gl=us&hq=alexanderplatz&hnear=Berlin,+Germany&cid=0,0,4498891286335488454&ei=qmyDTcPtCZK6tges45C7BA&sa=X&oi=local_result&ct=image&resnum=1&ved=0CCEQnwIwAA
Some images here:http://www.iftp-berlin.de/english/en_photo_galery_Alexanderplatz.htm
Although not suburban, as mentioned above.
Station diagram: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Berlin_Alexanderplatz_U-S-Bahnhof.png
Probably not quite what you had in mind, but the bus routes into central Stavanger, Norway, stop on the roads surrounding the Breiavatnet (a lake with a small park) which has the right sort of ‘feel’. The train station is adjacent. Look at it here: http://maps.google.co.uk/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=stavanger&sll=53.800651,-4.064941&sspn=18.881334,35.859375&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Stavanger,+Rogaland,+Norway&ll=58.968127,5.733318&spn=0.004032,0.012842&t=h&z=17
For some reason this immediately reminded me of the Slavyanskiy Bul’var station in Moscow, which is along the major road going west of the city, and is a major transfer point between the Metro and buses heading further out in the city and into the suburbs. The Metro line itself is actually some distance from the road, and you have to walk through a bit of a park to get from one to the other. There’s certainly lots of foot traffic and it has the most suburban feel of these sort of places that I am familiar with in Moscow. Most other Metro stations are in much more urban settings that are generally filled with (unplanned and quite ugly) small to medium scale retail.
I was going to say Hong Kong as well, the example I had in mind was Long Ping station in Yuen Long, New Territories.
Satellite imagery here.
At the north is Long Ping station, an stop on the elevated MTR West Rail heavy-rail metro line. Immediately south of the train station is a major bus plaza surrounded by all sorts of retail, and 200m to the south, on Castle Peak road, is the MTR light rail (running parallel to the West Rail line). Whether this counts as “suburban” is an interesting question–the “suburban” parts of Hong Kong have urban-level density, and Yuen Long is no exception; but it’s a significant distance from the city center (Hong Kong island, Kowloon).
I may have pictures of the plaza somewhere at home.
One place that immediately springs to my mind is Piccadilly Gardens in Manchester, England, the main square in the city and the major interchange between two light rail lines, all the buses and the nearby Piccadilly heavy rail station, the main rail station for the city. A lot of money has been spent redeveloping it in recent years with fountains and cafes etc and is a major place to hang out.
Pioneer Courthouse Square in Portland! The city is small enough to be considered a suburb in certain contexts.
Sorry, here’s another link regarding Piccadilly Gardens. This one is a pdf from the local transit agency and has a diagram and more info.
York University Commons in Toronto, ON- the commons is a rectangular grassy area with trees and a landscaped pond surrounded on three sides by a U-shaped bus roadway, served by local TTC buses (and a busway to the subway) and express GO buses to other suburban centres. On the other side of the roadway is a small shopping mall, an office tower, Vari Hall (a large atrium connected to the university buildings,) and a concourse on the south side. the east side of the commons is a public road where suburban York Region buses stop, as well as limited-stop BRT services to York Region and Brampton. In 2015, a subway station will have an entrance in the commons as well.
My first thought was Alexanderplatz as well. So I contribute a few more pictures of it:    . But I’m not so sure whether it is successful at being an urban space.
Although not being a square Piccadilly Circus is still an important transport node in London and a lively urban space.
Frankfurt’s Konstabler Wache might fit the criterias. I can’t judge whether it is pleasant place where people like to go though.
A more detailed diagram of Alexanderplatz (shows you all the transit connections)
Interesting that so far we’re not seeing any good examples from North America.
There is actually an example in Vancouver, though it is not suburban. Granville Station. The connection from the buses on Granville Street to the trains is through a shopping arcade (under the Bay). This could be used as a study for how the traffic flows between the two modes and then applied in an open-air suburban environment.
Most models in North America put the buses close to the trains – guess we don’t like to walk.
Piccadilly Gardens, in my view, doesn’t meet the criteria as the buses and trams are adjacent to each other.
Although in an urban setting, Mont-Royal metro station in Montréal has this type of setting, I believe. The metro entrance is built on one end of a public square that you have to cross if you arrive by bus. All the buses stop so you are on the “right” side of the road and it’s always full of people (it’s a excellent meeting spot). There’s also a Bixi stand there and it’s one of the most used in the city.
Good quiz! I’m sure I’m missing plenty, but these spring to mind:
Fruitvale Plaza, Oakland CA
Rosslyn Metro Plaza, Arlington VA – Existing, plaza is being redeveloped and enlarged.
Harvard Square, Cambridge MA fits your bill – aside from the suburban tag.
Mel Lastman Square, Toronto ON
Berlin Alexanderplatz is definitely not suburban – it’s the center of (East)Berlin. But the city has a lot of transit nodes somewhat like you describe, maybe not quite as living-room-like. These are basically former towns that have now become part of the metropolitan area, some are within the proper city limits, some are further out – maybe not really what you’d consider “suburban” in structure.
These probably exist one the one hand because of the way the city grew as a a joining of many smaller towns (where the center city wasn’t necessarily as dominant as in Paris, i.e.), the wall, which meant that the city didn’t develop a distinct center (note the absence of office towers at least until the fall of the wall), and the S-Bahn rapid transit/commuter rail system, which acts as a rapid transit connecting all these activity centers.
within the today’s city border (since the 1920s merger):
– S Koepenick image
-Spandau plan. street view. This particular station is also a node in the road network, so the pedestrian plaza area is displaced a bit further north-north-east.
outside city proper (hard to find decent images, because streetview only covers the city proper):
– S Potsdam — note that Potsdam is a city adjacent to Berlin, with around 120k people, so this ain’t really suburban. The station was redesigned as a shopping mall kind of thing, and the square in front of it has all the trams and buses. The shopping mall probably moved most of the activity inside the complex, rather than around or in the square that is in front of it (image)
– S Hennigsdorf image.
– S Königs Wusterhausen image. The square seems a bit more dead in the images than I remember.
– .. actually, it’s pretty hard to find nodes that are not only outside of town, the major local node connecting buses to the rapid transit, have the node be around some square — but at the same time have that square be a ‘public living room’ (and images that would indicate that).
The designation as suburban is borderline, and “successful” might be pushing it, but St Leonard’s Railway Station on cityrail (which you are probably familiar with) does seem like a bad implementation of this (with a semi enclosed windswept plaza between the trains and buses on the Pacific Highway)
A rapid transit stop is probably right at a civic square, though if someone found a square with trams on three sides and lots of people connecting between them, I could work with that.
Is the condition of three tram routes on a square actually made to exclude the numerous tram junctions of two routes?
Not sure this meets all the criteria, but Zoetermeer in the Netherlands has from left to right in one bundle: a national rail line, a 6 lane highway, a suburban light rail / streetcar (depending on where on the line) and some busses.
See here: <“>http://maps.google.nl/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=nl&q=Centraal&aq=&sll=52.047201,4.477074&sspn=0.000874,0.002642&ie=UTF8&t=h&rq=1&ev=p&split=1&radius=0.07&hq=Centraal&hnear=&ll=52.047535,4.477572&spn=0.000874,0.002642&z=19>
Another dutch option is “Utrecht Centraal”, Utrecht central station, but it’s lots of things in one, more than you probably want. Specifically, on one side there are: regional bus lines (radiating out up to 40km), local bus lines (Utrecht and suburbs), and a rapid transit light rail line. In buildings surrounding the space is a walkway to a shopping station (so a destination). Howevere there are also other rail lines (it’s the busiest train station in the Netherlands). <“>http://maps.google.nl/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=nl&q=busstation&aq=&sll=52.089468,5.112001&sspn=0.003329,0.010568&ie=UTF8&t=h&rq=1&ev=zo&split=1&radius=0.27&hq=busstation&hnear=&ll=52.089745,5.111861&spn=0.003329,0.010568&z=17>
Finally, another viable option is “Rotterdam Alexander”, a train station, metro station. Lots of buses, a highway nearby and a huge mall with “mega stores”. <“>http://maps.google.nl/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=nl&geocode=&q=rotterdam+alexander&aq=&sll=52.089745,5.111861&sspn=0.003329,0.010568&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Alexander&ll=51.95101,4.552031&spn=0.007009,0.021136&t=h&z=16>
Westlake Center in Seattle is the terminus for light rail, and has buses stopping all over the place. But whether you would walk across the plaza to transfer between rail and bus (or bus and bus) depends on which bus route you’re taking, since some routes stop right at some doors that would take you directly to the light rail station. There’s also the monorail, but it doesn’t go anywhere useful so it’s mostly for tourists (who as far as I could tell, usually rent a car when they go to Seattle).
Unfortunately, I cannot find any pictures of it with a bus, despite the fact that literally every street adjacent to it has at least one bus route. And the light rail station is in the basement of a mall (possibly also disqualifying it?). It is also not suburban.
I can think of many, many lively plazas next to train/bus stations in Japanese suburbs, but in every case the buses stop right next to the station, so there is no need to walk any distance in order to transfer between them.
What I’m trying to illustrate is that you can organize connecting passengers in such a way as to contribute animation to a public square. The key is to design the space so that the short walk between one transit service and another is a walk across the square, thus inviting engagement with the square’s other activities. This is probably more important in suburban settings where a public square is a more difficult thing to get going.
In most cases, this is going to be a rapid transit stop connecting with local buses or trams. I don’t care about the mode of the transit involved, as long as it generates substantial volumes of people crossing the square to make connections, at many times of day. So Cap’n, if “commuter rail” means “mostly peak-only service” that probably wouldn’t do it.
I need a civic square, not just an interchange. By civic square I mean a large public space that is largely hardscaped and designed to be a focal point for activity and civic identity. If your suburb had to overthrow a dictator, you’d naturally use this place for your rallies. Obviously it doesn’t have to be literally square.
I need the civic square to be successful in the sense of being attractive and desirable for a range of uses, including but not limited to the prosperity of any retail in or facing the square.
Hope that helps. I’m still going through the great responses.
Copley Square in Boston – Green Line is in subway at this point, buses on the surface. Back Bay Station is a short block away with the Orange Line, commuter rail and Amtrak.
Could you post some examples of suburban civic squares to give an idea of what you’re looking for? In terms of centrally designed civic squares in an urban connection Portland State University’s Urban Plaza is a pretty successful recent effort. (and of course Pioneer Square).
If an area is built up enough to have a proper civic square seems like it would be an urban area.
Spandau, Köpenick, Potsdam and Henningsdorf, they are all urban centres of their own and not suburban either.
Don’t lively public square and being suburban exclude each other? Just a thought.
Yordale Centre, Scarborough Town Centre and Don Mills Centre in Toronto all are on major rapid transit lines and have bus terminals in them. The First two also have interurban GO bus service as well.
Well, I’m not sure how great of an example this is, but Brisbane’s King George Square is the site of Brisbane City Hall, has the southern terminus of the Northern Busway. King George square is also adjacent to the Adelaide St, the major “bus mall” through the CBD. However, it isn’t really surrounded by bus stops, at least not major ones, as in your diagram.
For years, there was a major bus terminal in Hamilton (Ontario) at Gore Park, at their main downtown intersection. While downtown, not suburban, and while there was no rapid transit component, the configuration was probably not unlike what you mention. Buses traveled westbound on the south side of the park, so they loaded directly into the park (and passengers waited there). There were also other connecting buses westbound north of the park, so there was cross traffic in the park in addition to passengers waiting.
It was never popular, though, and when it was open there were numerous schemes to try and “get the buses out of Gore Park”, until finally a new terminal was opened on MacNab Street to the west. (Google Maps has an entry that says “The new MacNab Transit Terminal draws the traffic out of the south leg of Gore Park, which was the Hamilton Street Railway’s downtown hub for more than a century.”)
I’ll pitch my vote for the small city of Okayama in Japan. The area outside the station maybe a little too small to be considered a square, but it is designed around being a place for people to gather. The station is typical Japanese, serving local trains and a shinkansen. A major bus interchange stops there and a tram stop is across the road. Every time I have been there I walked out of the station there was a massive group of young kids gathering before making their way off into the the nights festivities. Sometimes there were events set up as well. For such an unassuming city it had an amazing local buzz going on.
Is the Fresno downtown bus interchange something you have in mind?
The layout you mention seems the one of Gare Montparnasse in Paris
The main access (intercity and suburban train) is done thru Place Raoul dautry, where the bus connect on the “side” of the plaza, while the main “rapid transit” station face a shopping mall (opposite side).
Is it work like intended and like you envision? I am not sure: it is certainly better than most of the North American “public plaza”, but as a Parisian or Tourist, you will not go there, …unless you have a train to take…
That sayd, Paris city is not short of resource to give life to the plaza, which host a ice ring in winter since several years:
(the building on the left of the picture is the railway station, and you can see a bus arriving on a side on the square).
Obviously a Paris Railway station hardly equate a suburban one…but the point is that even there the idea you want to promote hardly live up..and there is some reason for it…TRANSFER…the “depressing” word you mention…the transit rider is “wasting” time on the square and is here against his choice…
The food outlets around gather to the people on the hurry. people having time, will go to nearby and more relaxing place like Place du 18 Juin (where was the former Montparnasse station) which is now much more vibrant than Place Raoul Dautry (lot of theater, restaurant with patio…)
But Montparnasse Raoul Dautry doesn’t work that bad… because most of the people in “hurry” stay underground (subway connection), and the neighborhood is dense enough to have local people (with sense of the place) not be outnumbered by “commuters”…
That is not the case, let says at Paris les halles…a commentator has provided the example of Granville station in Vancouver: hardly an example of success…
Paris les Halles is like it too, people doesn’t gonna stay there too much. Beaubourg few step away is where people gonna like to stay.
In the draft of the Surrey station you give, we can see 2 towers in the back: they are existing, it is SFU by reputed architect Bing Thom…they offer a plaza, and I can guess people with a bit of time could prefer spend it there than in the middle of a plaza surrounded by transit, where most of the people will be running to catch be a bus, be a train..
Some other commentators have provided Hong Kong examples. I don’t know the specific of the station they have suggested… but a typical hong Kong subway station is build more or less integrated to a Mall…you are more or less invited to go thru to connect to your bus.
It works well nevertheless…and why? because the mall is in itself a destination…where you will have a different social mix / motivation to be there…it is what happen Place du 18 Juin more than at place Raoul Dautry at Montparnasse station (though that the ice ring like other activity like market try to provide a motivation to be there)…
That is, it is important to enhance the “transfer” experience both for the transit rider and the the community, since too often “transfer location” are synonym of “crime” and other bad experience…
Not long time ago, Surrey BC (the city, the draft picture is referring too) had hosted a contest to among other goals, design a new “transit oriented town”.
I had blogged on it:
http://voony.wordpress.com/2010/02/22/newton-new-town/ result was disappointing at best (and jury choice was the worst I could have think:
the winner had even go as far to say:
“my design could fit in any place”
That was the problem of hiss design…no sense of the place! (that was then more particularly no integration at all of the transit element).
I’ve always marveled at what the San Diego area has accomplished with transit centers. San Diego manages to not just get development near its stations, but seemingly entire civic ecosystems as well.
Here’s Santee, the easternmost suburb reachable by Trolley. It’s a suburban shopping center — about 80% of surface area is still parking — but its wrapped around the Trolley.
There’s Rio Vista, in the city of San Diego itself. This whole urban village was shoehorned into a suburban area:
Palomar College in San Marcos (note how the Sprinter and bus stations are not connected; passengers must cross the street. The bus center came first):
How about Subiaco station in Perth?
There’s one at Woolwich Arsenal station in London, though the bus stops are on the other side of the street.
After I posted the previous comment, I noticed the layout at Woolwich Arsenal has been changed so some of the bus stops do put you right into the square.
The stations itself is only diagonally opposite the square, and not all sides of it have buses, but it seems to fit your description very well.
Ottawa’s Rideau Centre is a pretty good example. The Rideau Centre mall is sandwiched between Rideau Street, a four lane road with bus lanes where only local buses stop- the ones that go across the city, but slowly, and the MacKenzie-King Bridge, where the Transitway BRT buses as well as rush hour commuter express runs from literally every part of the city. Transferring between the two requires a walk through the mall up two floors.
There is a bus/tram to metro and train transfer across Zuidplein in suburban Amsterdam. There are some shops on the sides of the plaza.
It’s pretty easy to see how this works on the map. There’s a tram station in the middle and bus stops on either side of the street at the north end of the plaza. Amsterdam Zuid is on the south side of the plaza (and actually is in the middle of a freeway). The metro stop is near the middle of the plaza.
I made this cross-plaza transfer from the tram to the train to Utrecht once on a visit to Amsterdam. It was early in the morning and my memory of it isn’t the greatest. Fortunately, there’s a wikipedia article about this station, which even includes a diagram showing how to find the trains, metro, and tram stops. Of course, the bus connections are not shown.
I have several examples in the Metro Copenhagen area that might fit your needs. I have ordered them from most fitting to least fitting your criteria.
1. Vanløse Station (Metro + S-Tog [Denmarks version of the RER, frequent all day commuter rail] + Local Bus). Here, there is a small square with bus stops on the same side of the street as the square. To get to the train station from the buses, you must cross the square.
2. Christianshavn Station (Metro + Rapid, Suburban and Local Bus). While not exactly suburban (at one point in history it would have been) this Metro Stop + square serves as the downtown for the area of Christianshavn in Copenhagen. The Metro Stop is at the edge of the square, and there are bus stops on the same side and opposite side of the street defining the square. To get to the Metro Stop, you must “enter” the square.
3. Amagerbro Station (Metro + Papid, Suburban and Local Bus). Perhaps this is trending more towards a pedestrian street than a square, it nonetheless serves as the focal point for the “suburban” Amager District in Copenhagen. You also have to enter the “square” to reach the Metro Station.
4. Fredericksberg Station (Metro + Local Bus) Here there is a small square adjacent to the Frederickberg Centret(Mall). There is a larger connected square behind the mall which is full of life, though it is not directing animated by connecting passengers.
The Justin Herman Plaza / Ferry Plaza / Ferry Building area in San Francisco is a major destination and interchange area, although the three are separated by one-way sections of a major avenue (The Embarcadero).
Firstly, the Ferry Building is an upscale shopping center, and is where most commuter ferries from other areas of the Bay Area wind up.
The Ferry Plaza is across the avenue (across two lanes of it, actually), with a historic streetcar station.
Across another two lanes of the Embarcadero is Justin Herman plaza (complete with an open-air market), with a major local bus terminal (4 lines plus one peak-period express) on the other side of it.
A minute away is Embarcadero Station, the easternmost underground rapid transit station in San Francisco–making it a major connection point for transit users. A cable car terminal is also located there.
Of course, it’s not suburban, but I could imagine it being used in a suburban context.
In Munich there are several public plazas that act as transport nodes; mainly it is crossing or diverging subway lines, but there are several with good Tram service too. The plazas have capitalized on this fact by attracting business like cinema theaters, restaurants, cafes and shops. Some examples:
– Münchner Freiheit (with new Tram 23 terminal)
– Marienplatz – main city square with connection with suburban rail
– Karlsplatz/Stachus – “Tram central” connected to pedestrian downtown zone, 2 subway lines and the stem stretch of the suburban rail
– Sendlinger Tor – South access to commercial downtown, beautiful square with a cinema theater, cafes and restaurants. Also connected to the tram.
– Rotkreutzplatz – Mixed landuse plaza connected to subway, bus, etc.
All of the above, not being an exhaustive list, also work as market squares one day of the week for (mostly) local produce, and, around Christmas, also organize their own Christmas Markets with both traditional and contemporary handicrafts, food stands and a hot-sweet-spicy-wine-punch around which the masses gather called Glühwein.
I can hardly think of plazas in Munich that are not transit-related…
It seems I got too eager to comment, but probably none of the above examples from Munich would qualify as “suburban”. I’ll come back to you if I think of any!
Stdaelhofen in Zurich would be one that springs to mind – it connects trams, LRT, buses and heavy rail – as well as acting as a general meeting mingling spot near the lake.
Suggest the Gallery in Philadelphia (although long in tooth now… dating from ’77)
Market East Station (underneath an urban shopping mall) serves all commuter rail destinations, and is in close proximity to the Heavy rail Blue line. also connects via concourse to 5 light rail lines.
This facility also is just below a historic urban farmers market, and is a adjacent to a very large convention center.