Design of Station Districts in PLC

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The three dimensional spatial distribution of transportation networks/nodes and indoor/outdoor urban activities is crucial to the maximization of each others’ utilization and, therefore, their potential regional economic value. This is especially true within what we’ll define as “ station district core areas”, i.e. areas within 200-300 feet of a transit node.
The spatial and network integration of different transportation modes within the built environment is essential to maximize accessibility and quality of spaces, while minimizing negative proximities and environmental impacts.
Careful and detailed design (or re-design) is required of station district core areas, since they are the most valuable land and they act as gateways to the rest of the district. In fact, their utilization should be maximized while maintaining very high accessibility to the larger station district and beyond.
The very low noise and vibration levels of modern transit systems allow the integration of the guideway directly adjacent to commercial, retail and office spaces. These can be additionally reduced by sound barrier, even transparent ones, and by the isolation of guideway structure elements. These engineering methods are regularly implemented in many airport APM systems, where the benefits of reduced environmental impact justify the additional costs.
I will here analyze what would be the impact of limiting auto-access and parking to Office nodes, while keeping most Residential and Key nodes auto-free.
Eliminating very large facilities needed to route and park autos in such high capacity nodes, a large quantity of quality urban space around stations would open to more direct utilization.
As it happens in many US metros, these facilities consume valuable core area space, create barrier effects and generate high environmental costs on surrounding urban space.
All district types can be developed as green-field, brown-field or infill developments according to existing conditions and opportunities.

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Figure 4: (From top) 2 pictures of what an auto-free transit village could look like. (By Roxanne Warren's book "Urban Oasis'). Residential districts residences could develop around courts, as in an Holland (photo by Crawford Systems).


Residential Districts

Except for the first station, which will be designed as Office district, I will refer to any district surrounding Feeder stations as residential nodes. In fact, their specific placement within the transit network makes them relatively less accessible than office and key districts; therefore, most of these districts would host residential neighborhoods or large institutions for which high accessibility is relatively less important (university campuses, sport facilities, etc.).
Due to time constrains, I will only analyze an ideal scenario of a new station in a green-field site in a typical single-family residential neighborhood. I will discretionally pick a block size of 300’x800’.
Aside for exceptional local conditions and opportunities, the auto-free area should cover at least 4-500’ from the station and, preferably, extend to the edge of the district. This distance is minimum to preserve urban space and its environmental quality. Auto users can access the multi-modal system quicker through the high performance auto/transit intermodal facilities at office nodes.

Office Districts

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La Defence in Paris is a good inspiration for the office district. See how parking and roads can form pedestal for an office plaza development.

Being the first station on the feeder system to/from a key node and switching point of different feeder routes ( 2 or more), its regional accessibility is very high. Its placement respect to key node should be of about 1,000 to 1,500; this way riders can choose to walk the distance to take advantage of activity opportunities along major key node boulevards.
Provided its location near a major highway interchange, this is the ideal place for auto-transit and transit/auto transfers. In fact, hourly auto rental facilities could offer rental to non-car owners.
In turn, exceptional highway and transit access make this node ideal for all many activities that require large regional pools of potential costumers, employees and suppliers. High-valued activities, such as legal, financial, accounting, high-tech do not require the stop-and –go accessibility of key nodes.

Comparatively, employees/costumers of these activity types value more the ability to choose among many employers/providers within a region.
The physical design of the office node must integrate a demanding auto-to-transit hub with much office space, while taming the environmental effects of auto transfer and parking. The placement of office districts at the edge of key districts largely reduces concerns about shadow casting over valuable areas.
Following these last two considerations, a solution could be a partly submerged parking structure over which high-rise office buildings surround an elevated station plaza. This way, feeder system would connect to the 3-5 stories parking structure at its very center, reducing the transfer time from the owned-auto to transit and from transit to rental-auto.
The large parking facility, easy regional highway access and easy direct accessibility from residential and key districts also make it ideal for hourly auto rental establishments. Mostly, PLC residents and all other non-car owners would use the facilities to access low-frequency regional activities, as well as social, weekend and inter-urban trips.


Key nodes, being the most accessible, would constitute the centers of PLC. At a 60 seconds frequency,  50,000 to 80,000 people would be pass through the node at each peak hour. Each passing traveler could stop any key station for an activity or errand; easily get back on after 30 seconds wait and continue for their destination. These opportunities make key stations ideal for stops while going from home-to-work or work-to-home. Most would be retail, light entertainment. Arrival at the key station could resemble arriving at the center of a large open air square at the center of huge mall. Their high regional accessibility, especially within PLC, makes them ideal as employee intensive and costumer intensive services.
As a commercial center, it should provide large amounts of  retail space, which ideally should be visible and easily reachable from the transit station.
As a social center it should provide opportunities for interaction, entertainment, people watching.
As the center of civic life, it should provide appealing and functional public space, where people could gather to participate in desired activities.


Following are some pictures of the "Le Rosedal" park in Buenos Aires

Here, a commuter rail line has been integrated into the landscape and within commercial and entertainment activities.
Taking advantage of its great natural settings and architectural quality, a variety of activities are housed under the guideway: restaurants, cafes, light manufacturing, retail, night clubs. The rail system is not any quieter than other old rail systems. Its daily frequency, however, is about 2-3 trains per hour.

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See the train passing over a cafe'. See how an arterial road, a guideway and a cafe' can be integrated. At a certain point the guideway is hidden by an artificial hill, which provides this view of the park.
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How pedestrian and bicycle paths interfaced with the guideway. Guideway detail. Kids' playground around the guideway.