Transport interchanges are supposed to allow smooth connections between different transport modes. But when they have been built prior to major urban developments or face changes like rapid population increase, they can sometimes become a nightmare for passengers. That’s why the EU-financed research project NODES (New Tools for the Design and Operation of Urban Transport Interchanges) developed a set of tools that will allow cities and operators to assess, benchmark and improve their interchanges.
After three years of research and testing of the different tools, the final conference of the project on 22 September highlighted several best practices.
The main thing: taking the user experience into account
Reshaping an interchange station is not only about building larger corridors and ensuring a higher frequency of trains or buses. Based on user surveys, the NODES project showed participants how to find solutions to better take the user experience into account and also to improve it. As a matter of fact, passengers’ feeling of safety, their perception of their surroundings and of comfort may represent up to 50% of their global assessment of an interchange, though practitioners often underestimate these criteria.
The interchange seamlessly connects three underground metro lines with dozens of regional and urban bus lines.
In the north of Madrid, the well-known Plaza de Castilla interchange ranks amongst the best practices. With its previous unsuitable design (a base perpendicular to the traffic) creating interference issues between buses and travellers, the square was not functional or attractive. The station was successfully redesigned in 2004 in the framework of the Madrid Interchange Plan developed and supervised by the local transport consortium CRTM. . Today the interchange seamlessly connects three underground metro lines with dozens of regional and urban bus lines. The whole station is built upon a major underpass of the city, has three levels and includes facilities like a car park, shops and waiting areas. Of course it also takes accessibility issues into account and provides good signage and real-time information to passengers.
Sometimes relatively small changes can generate major improvements. For example at Oxford Circus in London, the interchange was reshaped to provide pedestrians with a more usable footway area thanks to wider pavements and the removal of street clusters as well as the introduction of diagonal street crossings. The result: with only very little change to the traffic dwell time, crossing one of London’s busiest intersections has been made much easier and faster.
Using the available commercial spaces to finance reshaping projects
In Toulouse, France, the Arènes interchange was developed in the 1990s but unfortunately was neither functional nor attractive. With population growth, the opening in 2014 of a new tramway line servicing the city’s airport, and the expected doubling of metro traffic by 2019, reshaping Les Arènes became essential. The first assessment in the framework of the NODES project indicated two main areas of improvement: the users’ feeling of safety and the economic viability.
Exploiting the opportunities of commercial areas should increase revenue six times over by 2019.
Taking that into account, the reshaping project begun last year, with the aim of turning the interchange from a simple and rather gloomy connecting point into a daily life spot. With the help of one of the NODES tools for financing methods, the public transport authority of Greater Toulouse Tisséo based its financing strategy on the exploitation of commercial areas, an interesting complementary source of revenue in these times of the reduction of state subsidies. According to Tisséo’s estimations, exploiting the opportunities of commercial areas should increase revenue six times over by 2019. Most importantly, granting concessions for cafes, shops, drugstores and food trucks at the station also has another advantage: it makes public transport – and the Arènes site – more attractive to passengers.
The NODES Toolbox is free and open to all. It is now available on the NODES website offering transport practitioners step-by-step guidance on building better urban transport interchanges.
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