Tagcommuter rail

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.

Sox-35th Metra station opened on Sunday

I had been giving construction updates on the new Metra station on 35th Street in Bronzeville/Bridgeport but I missed that the opening day was Sunday! I caught these photos in my Flickr contacts page, by Eric Pancer. Blair Kamin explains why it looks so bad.

It didn’t have to be this way. The Chicago office of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill came up with a promising design for the station, one that justified the demolition of a Mies-designed brick hut that reportedly served as the entrance to an underground testing facility for explosives during the Cold War.

But then, things went seriously off the rails.

See all of his photos in the set.

Metra will have a different schedule on game days. From their press release:

Metra will increase its service on game days to accommodate White Sox fans. For weekday afternoon games, an extra outbound train will leave the station after the final out. For weekday evening games, Train 531 (departing LaSalle St. at 11:15 p.m.) will have more cars, and an extra outbound all-stop train will operate about 30 minutes after the last out. For weekend games, an inbound extra train will arrive at the station about an hour before the first pitch, and an outbound extra will operate about 30 minutes after the final out.

If you ride the Rock Island District line, you must check out the new schedule (PDF).

Metra 35th St. station surely won’t win any design awards

UPDATE 04-07-11: The station opened on April 3, 2011. Blair Kamin explains why it doesn’t look as good as originally designed:

It didn’t have to be this way. The Chicago office of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill came up with a promising design for the station, one that justified the demolition of a Mies-designed brick hut that reportedly served as the entrance to an underground testing facility for explosives during the Cold War.

But then, things went seriously off the rails.

This new Metra commuter/regional rail station at 35th Street and Wentworth/Federal won’t win any design awards. Neither will the Lovana S. “Lou” Jones/Bronzeville Station stand out for having such a generic design.

The station under construction as of October 3, 2010.

Artist’s renderings of the station and street-level plaza, looking northwest. Left photo from Metra’s website and right photo from Singh & Associates’s website.

The amount of visible concrete used in the stairs and ramps construction (one complete set on either side of the tracks) is fitting if you consider the station’s surroundings: a 12-lane highway (the Dan Ryan, I90/94), thousands of surface auto parking spaces to the west (for the White Sox stadium), and an empty lot.

But what if we looked for design inspiration from the east?

Imagine a station shelter modeled after the sound mitigation “tube” over the Illinois Institute of Technology McCormick-Tribune Campus Center a few blocks away at State Street designed by Rem Koolhaas.

Photos above taken by Steven Crane.

Throw in some curves like the Canary Wharf stations on the Jubilee and Docklands Light Railway lines.

Photo of the Canary Wharf Docklands Light Railway (DLR) station by stephenk1977.

Photo of the Canary Wharf Jubilee Underground Line station by Payton Chung.

Companies involved:

Chicagoland transit projects

UPDATE: A Tribune story from today about suburban transit is sizzling: “A majority of Chicago-area residents think improving bus and train service is so important to the region that repairing and expanding expressways and toll roads should take a back seat…” Continue reading.

I listed several transit projects happening or about to happen (17 of ’em) in the Chicago city limits, but Ted Villaire writes in the Active Transportation Alliance’s current newsletter about some suburban transit projects underway.

The station in downtown Geneva, Illinois, will see longer platforms and better delineation of waiting areas and crossing paths. Additionally, the operating railroad (Union Pacific), Metra, and the City of Geneva are working to expand the parking options – it’s about time that Geneva works on a bike plan. There are thousands of residents with a couple miles of the station and the station is near two major multi-use trails.

  • Skoke – New Yellow Line CTA station at Oakton Street.
  • Winnetka – Refurbished Metra UP-North station.
  • West suburbs – Track and station upgrades at many UP-West cities.

The UP-West line will receive an exciting, new and visible safety upgrade: Another Train Warning System. This product serves to alert those travelers who seem to distrust the accuracy of warning bells and gates by explicitly announcing the presence of an incoming train. The device visually and audibly alerts passengers of the existence of another train in the platform and station area.

All Metra enhancements should be done by 2011.

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