Via Kevin O’Neil, who asks the question of what makes an ideal bus rapid transit (BRT) station? As you may guess, I have some opinions. But first, some background.
Bus rapid transit, known as BRT in the biz, is a term that applies to buses that have similar operational characteristics to rail systems. The goal of BRT is to achieve the operating characteristics of rail transit at the cost savings from bus transit. BRT can imitate rail transit service by scheduling frequencies, separate right-of-ways, off-vehicle ticketing and level boarding platforms at “stations.” More detail about BRT can be found here.
In response to the Active Transportation Alliance survey that Kevin linked to, here are my answers in greater detail:
Q2: How similar should transit stations across the city be? Should amenities and design of the stations be more uniform at every stop or should a station be more unique to the neighborhood it is in? How would you balance design uniformity with reflecting neighborhood character?
I believe that transit stations should have similar design features with local variations. That is, similar design features to project the brand of the transit system or line but with local variances for public art, for example. But I weigh heavily towards design uniformity in which economies of scale can be taken advantage of.
Q3: Should transit station design emphasize providing free-flowing foot traffic for pedestrians and riders by minimizing structures in and around the station (which could reduce shelter from the elements), or should it emphasize providing maximum shelter from wind, rain and cold with more enclosed structures (which could impede foot traffic)?
This is Chicago. When riding transit you’re exposed to the elements. Stations should be designed to protect customers from the weather, particularly the rain, cold and wind. Enclosed structures should be built, whatever the cost.
Q4: Which of these transit station amenities are most important to you? Consider that due to the space and electricity available at some station locations, it may not be possible to have all of them. If you had to choose, which are your TOP 5 station amenities?
My top five amenities are in order 1: protection from wind, 2: heat lamps, 3: pre-paid boarding, 4: real-time arrival screens, and 5: neighborhood maps.
The reasoning for this order is that, as a transit rider, I value protection from the elements. Waiting for the bus or train is part of being a rider. Making that experience as comfortable as possible is essential customer service. Pre-paid boarding, in all honesty, should be tied with #1. A true BRT can only have pre-paid boarding, otherwise it’s essentially an express bus. Real-time arrival screens are nice. I’ve got a smart phone that has real-time arrivals too. Why do I rate this amenity so high? Because I think it’s a form of advertising, particularly if headways are high, say every 5 minutes. Good BRT marketing will result in a uniform branding on the rolling stock and stations. But when people see that the buses come over couple of minutes, it makes it easier to entice new riders. Last, but not least, is neighborhood maps. They are also essential to the identity of the neighborhood and, done right, can give the neighborhood a sense of place.
5. What are your biggest concerns with transit (bus and train) stops as they are now? Please tell us your TOP 2.
My biggest concern with transit isn’t on the survey’s list. It’s that far too many transit stations are not in a state of good repair. A distant #2 is lack of weather protection. I’m starting to wonder whether I’m beating the drum of weather protection because it’s January.
6. Dream big! What’s your big idea for the best transit station ever? Tell us one thing you wish every train station had!
Besides being in a state of good repair? I actually really like platform edge doors (PED). I’ve seen them in action on the London Underground Jubilee Line. I think the safety benefits are tremendous in terms of keeping people away from the tracks and I think it makes the station environment a bit more relaxed. Just imagine how peaceful the CTA Irving Park Blue Line station would be if it had PEDs.