TagBombardier

What’s up from Europe: A train station that looks like a train station

Walking towards the Hoxton station on Cremer Street. 

Train stations – metro and commuter rail – in the United States, outside city center terminals, are often simply queuing areas, with zero amenities (some don’t even have a shelter). In some locales, people getting dropped off in a car will sit in the car with their driver (a friend or family member) until they see a sign that the train is arriving.

In Europe, train stations are places. Places to hang out, conduct errands, and eat, so that your time is enjoyable and, to put it frankly, used efficiently.

One of my favorite train stations in London was Hoxton serving Overground trains. Overground trains started less than a decade ago and provide near-rapid transit levels of service (meaning they come almost as frequently as Underground trains). They use refurbished track and are almost always elevated. Bombardier built the trains to look a lot like the newest Underground trains.

The station plaza on Geffrye Street. I have a feeling this street used to ferry cars, but now it forms a car-free piece of the walking and bicycling network. 

Overground trains have a lot of space for sitting, standing, and moving about – after all, they’re articulated giving them the roomy feel and allowing one to board at one end and find a seat at the other.

When you approach Hoxton you’ll see that you’re near a train station because of the iconic Transport for London “roundel” on the tracks over the street. Just before you arrive the walls break open and there’s a large gap that opens into a plaza with the Beagle café.

The plaza also hosts a Barclays Cycle Hire (Boris bikes) and plenty of seating to relax and wait for a colleague. The station entrance stands out with a large, glass canopy, and noticeable, polished-metal walls flank the doorway.

You know you’re at a train station now. Feel free to stick around before or after your journey.

A northbound Overground station at Hoxton. You can see in this photo the only feature I disliked about the station: the narrow corridor that doesn’t allow you to see around the corners. 

Oh, by the way, I’m not in Europe anymore – I got back on Saturday and the first thing I did was eat a burrito, something I sorely missed.

WorkCycles Fr8 fits on the CTA’s bus-bike rack!

If you ride a bike more than you use other transportation modes, and you visit online forums, then you probably know that the correct number of bikes is n+1. I got a new bike this year, but it was partly to replace the cargo carrying capabilities I lacked after selling my Yuba Mundo in the spring.

Two weekends ago I passed by the Chicago Transit Authority headquarters to test if my WorkCycles Fr8 could fit in the Sportworks VeloPorter 2 bus-bike rack the CTA uses on most buses (it’ll eventually replace the red ones). I don’t know if Pace buses have the same model.

It fits! (I feel like saying “It blends!”)

I already knew that the WorkCycles Transportfiets would fit, having made a video of it last year. But they seemed to be of different dimensions (they probably aren’t) and I wanted to check ahead of time lest I embarrass myself and delay a bus if I tested it in the field.

Actually, I wasn’t worried that the Fr8 wouldn’t fit, I was worried that it wouldn’t fit securely under the spring-tensioned arm with the yellow grip. I have a burly front rack and metal fenders that wouldn’t be able to budge. See how that worked out for me in the photo below. Additionally, my bike weighs 50 pounds unloaded (and without the red basket) – the Sportworks specifications note that each bike tray holds 55 pounds. Phew!

Last weekend I took the Fr8 on its first ever train journey, from the Clinton Pink/Green Line station to the California Pink Line station. The Pink Line uses the 5000-series cars, which are brand new from Bombardier’s factory in New York. They have the distinction of providing two wheelchair-accessible spaces in every car instead of one. This means there are two fewer “modesty panels” in the vestibule. It offers more room to position and park your bike – it works out great; see photo below. It still doesn’t provide enough room for a passenger to bring a bike aboard, stay put, and let other passengers in and out of the door. Passengers with bikes will still need to pay attention to the announcements to know which door will open at the next station and move their bike accordingly.

Looking for a WorkCycles of your own? You can contact them directly in Amsterdam. Shipping is €200, which is a really good deal now. You can also contact J.C. Lind Bike Co. who will become a dealer soon.

Ideas for CTA’s incoming 5000-series train cars

Update: Stay current on this topic at Grid Chicago. Latest post was on July 25, 2011, about the latest rail car order
The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) is not exactly seeking feedback from the public at this time about the Bombardier-built 5000-series train cars it’s testing now. But this is our one chance to make these trains eve better.
  • No beige. This is not the 1980s.
  • The seats shouldn’t define individual spaces if they’re going to be longitudinal. Seat cups mean “If you fit into one, then you fit into one. If you take up 110% the width of one, you now take up two.” But if they were benches like in New York, people would only fill exactly as much space as they take up.
  • The end caps should be a different color plastic, not something intended to look like the aluminum siding from afar, which then up close is clearly nothing more than a plastic approximation. Even without redesigning the endcaps, the dye color being darker and some reflective striping (to make them not vanish into the night if the car has no lighting), would make them look ultra modern.
  • Remove the modesty panels. They serve little purpose in this day and age.

If you have ideas, leave them in the comments or email the Chicago Transit Authority.

Written in conjunction with Better bicycle storage on trains.

Photo by Jeff Zoline.

Whose light rail train do you prefer?

In just one year, I’ve traveled to the grand opening for the Phoenix Valley’s (Arizona) first light rail line, visited the light rail lines in Salt Lake City, Utah, (opened before the 2002 Winter Olympics), and took the Megabus to Minneapolis, Minnesota, to check out the Hiawatha light rail. My devotion to monorail is unphased, but in the United States we build monorail lines at a rate of one per decade. To get my train fix, I ride light rail trains around the country. Each of the systems I mentioned uses rolling stock from different manufacturers.

Here you get to pick the best looking cars:

Kinki-Sharyo, a manufacturer from Japan. LF LRV (low floor light rail vehicle).

A Valley Metro train waiting at the Roosevelt/Central Avenue station in Phoenix, Arizona, on December 28, 2009, for the grand opening festivities. Kinki-Shary makes many commuter and shinkansen trains for Japan.

Bombardier, a Canadian builder. Flexity Swift car.

The Metro Transit Hiawatha line (route 55) travels northbound along the Hiawatha corridor multi-use path, approaching 24th Street in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Siemens, a German company. SD-100 or SD-160 car.

UTA’s TRAX light rail in the Salt Lake City valley operates trains from the Canadian-originated Urban Transportation Development Corporation (now part of Bombardier) and Siemens SD-100 series trains. The UTDC trains have butterfly doors (like some cars on the Chicago Transit Authority’s Blue Line); an example from TRAX.

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