Posts Tagged ‘transit oriented development’

Railway stations as destinations instead of just transfer points

May 27, 2011

The Japanese railway systems have always impressed me which is why I refer to them quite often in some of my posts. One aspect of their networks that stands out in my mind is how they utilise the spaces at their railway stations.

In most cities, the railway stations are simply nodes where people from nearby areas converge to travel on trains to and from other areas of the city. They serve as transfer points where people come and go on their way to other places.

In Japan, the thinking is very different. The stations themselves are part of the individual experience that goes beyond moving from A to B via C. They are more than just a collection of platforms, tracks and concourses. They are designed as part of an integrated component of the urban fabric of Japanese cities, rather than just connections to it.

How, you ask?

There’s three things I believe that make Japanese railway stations stand out from those of other countries:

  • Interesting architecture
  • Interesting public spaces
  • Interesting shops and restaurants

Interesting Architecture

Interesting architecture in train stations is not all that uncommon across the world. New York has Grand Central, Paris has Gare De Lyon and London has St Pancras. Even Sydney Central Station, Flinders Street in Melbourne and Adelaide Station could be classified as interesting. There is something in common to all of these stations I’ve just mentioned. They all have grand masonry facades as they were constructed prior to the 1930s.

Japanese stations are also grand, yet many of them were rebuilt for various reasons. Some of them were bombed in wars such as Tokyo Station, which is only now having its dome restored to its original condition over 65 years later. Others such as Kyoto and Osaka have become outdated or overcrowded and have been completely rebuilt.

At Kyoto Station, as part of the new millennium celebrations a new train station was built with large open spaces and a large spanning roof.

The exterior of the new Kyoto Station, from the north side.

At Osaka Station, work on rebuilding the station is under way and nearly complete. Part of the rebuild includes a new office tower, a large roof spanning the station and new concourses.

The recently redeveloped Osaka Station, with new roof, entrances and office building. (Source: GORIMON on Flickr)

Interesting Public Spaces

This is where the Japanese stations are very clever with their designs. Since many of the stations are completely surrounded by other buildings and structures, open spaces adjacent to the stations are often not feasible. Instead, they’ve opted to use the space within the footprint of the station to provide the open public space.

At Kyoto, the public spaces extend upwards from the lower levels of the station. One of the most intriguing features of Kyoto Station is the large bank of escalators that gradually allow the public to reach the top of the station, where the views over the rest of the station and Kyoto are amazing.

Kyoto Station looking down to the lower levels as seen from the upper roof area.

At Osaka, the public spaces are numerous and are located in different areas of the station. The redevelopment of the station features eight new public spaces This includes a rooftop area inspired by a Spanish patio (Sun Plaza) and a number of other plazas and rooftop gardens.

The new rooftop patio on Osaka Station. (Source: GORIMON on Flickr)

At the new Central Gate entrance to the station is also an interesting piece of street art, in the form of a computer controlled waterfall display which displays the time and cascading images of cherry blossoms.

More photos of the nearly completed Osaka Station redevelopment can be seen here and here. (This site is in Japanese)

Interesting Shops and Restaurants

For the Japanese railway companies who own these stations, not only does adding space for shops and restaurants encourage more activity in and around the stations, these are also a key component of their business which encourage commuters to use their railways.

This photo below comes from Kyoto Station, an important station in the historical city and is located on the Tokaido Main Line (JR Kyoto Line and JR Biwako Line) and the Tokaido Shinkansen Line which cross Japan from east to west. There are stations adjacent to the north gate (in image below) as well as the underground passageways which criss-cross the station.

The north gate of Kyoto Station, there are shops at the ground level and under the station (not seen here).

In Kyoto’s case, they have added more than just shops and restaurants. The station also a hotel (seen in the first photo of Kyoto Station in this post) as well as offices in the building above the station.

An Example of a Missed Opportunity

While some cities and suburbs in Australia are taking advantage of their key locations adjacent to major railway stations, often through property developers independent of the publicly-owned railway systems rather than through the railway companies themselves, others are building railway stations that turn their back on the very communities they are meant to serve.

In Adelaide, one of the biggest missed opportunities is at Mawson Lakes. The new station at Mawson Lakes on the Gawler Line was completed in 2006, but the community it serves commenced development in the late 1990s. The station was a late add-on to the development and sits on the edge of the community rather than near the middle of it. Rather than having a main street or significant residential or commercial property development near the station, it is instead surrounded by a large car park. As a result, most people who use the station drive there rather than walk, cycle or go by bus.

The station at Mawson Lakes is a fair distance from the main street or many of the residential areas it was built to serve. The station is marked by the red circle and the main street by the green line. (Source: Nearmap)

Although Mawson Lakes is one of Adelaide’s busiest stations, there are only people around when there are trains arriving and departing. For much of the time, it is a deserted space that really should have been better integrated into planning with the town centre about a kilometre away.

Access between both sides of the station is difficult because there is only one place to cross – at the northern end – which is even further away from the town centre. Ideally, there should also be a second place to cross the tracks at the southern end of the station in the form of a footbridge. This would also improve pedestrian access between the residential areas on the western side of the tracks and the town centre on the eastern side. It would also serve to discourage individuals from illegally crossing the tracks such as in this incident in April 2011, where an express train narrowly missed a teenager. Fortunately, there is space to do this should it be decided upon in the future.


With public transport becoming an ever increasingly important part of improving the sustainability and liveability of our cities, it is imperative that railway infrastructure is not simply provided as an alternative to driving but that is also integrated into the existing urban landscape respectfully rather than as an ungracefully dropped add-on. The Japanese model has successfully demonstrated over many years that a modern railway service can be provided as a key component of the urban environment and done so profitably at no expense to taxpayers.

The private railway companies have done this by combining real estate and development opportunities at their railway stations with their railway operations and thus created entire sustainable communities around their railway systems. It also makes for better and more efficient planning as the well-being of the community is much in the interests of the railway companies if they are to remain profitable.


Bowden Urban Village Project moves forward

May 1, 2011

On April 23 2011, the Rann Government approved and outlined more detailed project progress plans for the first TOD at Bowden in Adelaide’s inner west. The project will gradually be developed in 10 stages, starting later in 2011 and ending around 2022. When completed, it is expected that this revitalised inner city community will be home to over 3500 residents, as well as retail and commercial space along its streets.

The first development will take place at the northern end of the project site and gradually progress south over the following years. Currently, works are already under way to demolish existing buildings on the stage 1 site and the project office is soon to be fitted out.

With visible progress soon to be seen at Bowden, it is hoped that the success of this development encourages further urban renewal and increased vibrancy in other inner city neighbourhoods. Hopefully lessons have been learned from the Newport Quays development which has yet to achieve any significant positive impact on the surrounding Port Adelaide community.

In a city where the property development industry is very much bias towards detached dwellings over higher density, this development marks the beginning of a shift towards more efficient and responsible development and maybe a change in the mindset of individuals who have known nothing but the Great Australian Dream their entire lives. For property developers who dare to dream big and go against the suburban flow, I believe that there are plenty of opportunities ahead in Adelaide.

The 10-stage delivery for the Bowden Urban Village Project can be seen here.

Source: Land Management Corporation

A new railway station for a proposed TOD at Castle Plaza

March 1, 2011

As part of the 30 Year Plan for Greater Adelaide, 14 locations have been identified as proposed TOD locations including Bowden and Noarlunga which are currently in the planning stage. One location that hasn’t been identified as having potential for a TOD by the State Government is in the Edwardstown and Woodlands Park area adjacent to the Castle Plaza area. Marion City Council itself has already identified this location as having potential and has been working with the developer to make it a reality.

Map of the area of the proposed Castle Plaza TOD at Edwardstown and empty Hills Site. Woodlands Park station is bottom left. (Source: Nearmap)

A development plan of the Hills Site. (Source: Marion City Council)

What is it about this location that gives it the potential for a TOD? Firstly, it is located near a junction between two train lines – the Noarlunga and Tonsley lines – and has direct services to Adelaide City. Secondly, there are a number of bus routes running through the area in both the north-south direction and east-west direction to destinations including Glenelg and Mitcham. Thirdly, there is a large vacant area of land between the train line and South Road that was previously occupied by Hills Industries, known as the Hills Site, which is ripe for new development.

In addition to the Hills Site being vacant, this land was acquired by the Colonial First State Retail Property Trust who also own the adjacant retail complex called Castle Plaza. Their plan involves doubling the size of the existing Castle Plaza as well as constructing high density housing on the Hills Site, which would require a realignment of a number of local roads and the rezoning of land from industrial/commercial to mixed use.

An element of the plan that has loosely been discussed but not mentioned in extensive detail is incorporating access to the railway system into the TOD plan. Two railway stations are near the site at Edwardstown and Woodlands Park. Unfortunately, neither of these stations is within close walking distance of the proposed TOD location which is about halfway between the two stations – or about 400 metres from both.

View from the Woodlands Park station looking towards Adelaide. The new station would be beyond the crossing in the distance.

The current Woodlands Park station, which is currently the closest to Castle Plaza and the planned TOD.

The railway conveniently runs adjacent to the Hills Site, and within 150 metres of Castle Plaza. One potential location for a new railway station is adjacent to Wilfrid Street on the north site of Raglan Avenue, which is a busy connector route which runs east-west across the railway line at this location. This railway station would replace the current Woodlands Park station, about 250 metres to the south.

Rough design scheme for Castle Plaza Station Interchange, located on Raglan Avenue. The platforms are marked in gray and the overpass is marked in red.

This station would be constructed as two side platforms either side of the existing tracks, similar to how the new station at Oaklands was constructed in 2009. This would eliminate the need to rebuild the tracks through the site and allow trains and road traffic on Raglan Avenue to operate normally during the construction of the station.

Unlike Oaklands, which is only long enough to fit trains up to four cars long, the new station would be constructed to allow trains up to six cars in length, making allowances for future increases in patronage and train lengths following the upcoming electrification of the Adelaide metropolitan rail network. Building the new platforms would require the removal of numerous trees, some possibly significant, which would require further investigation.

To limit the delays to traffic on Raglan Avenue, a signal for south bound trains would be installed between the outbound platform and the crossing. This would function in a similar fashion to the signal for south bound trains departing Oaklands, with the railway crossing only activated when a train comes to a stop at the platform – rather than when it is some distance away from the station – and the signal turning green once the crossing gates are activated.

In addition to building a new railway station on the north side of Raglan Avenue, a bus interchange could also be constructed adjacent to Wilfred Street on the eastern side to connect with the train services. This would be used by the current 190 and 241 routes which already serve Raglan Avenue as well some of the local South Road bus services (719, 720, 721 and 722) which would turn off South Road and run to and from the interchange along a realigned Ackland Street.

Wilfrid Street looking north from Raglan Avenue. The bus interchange would be built on the left side of the street adjacent to the new station at this location.

The existing pedestrian crossing over the tracks on the north side of the Raglan Avenue railway crossing would be retained to allow pedestrian and cycle access between both platforms at the south end of the station. This pedestrian crossing would be fitted with warning devices and gates, making it safer than the majority of pedestrian crossings in metropolitan Adelaide which are unprotected.

The railway crossing at Raglan Avenue would be upgraded to improve pedestrian safety.

At the north end of the station, an overpass linking both platforms would allow access across the tracks and provide alternative entries to the station from the bus interchange on Wilfrid Street on the eastern side and from Railway Terrace on the western side. Elevators would be provided for wheelchair accessibility and a staffed ticket office could be provided near the overpass by the bus interchange and eastern platform. This would discourage illegal trespassing across the tracks and allow late running commuters to cross the tracks to reach their train without risking their lives.

No car park would be constructed as part of the station and interchange. This would otherwise duplicate an already planned car park for the Castle Plaza extension nearby. However, a kiss ‘n ride drop off facility would be provided with the bus interchange, and bike storage facilities would be constructed to encourage commuters to reach the station by foot, bicycle or bus instead of driving and keeping in line with the form and function of the TOD.

Building a TOD and transport interchange at this location has benefits for both the developer and the local community. It would increase Castle Plaza’s role as a key activity centre for the area while also improving transport accessibility to the surrounding community. Placing the new station in the presence of the shopping centre, a bus interchange and a relatively busy connector road as well as staffing the station – from first service to last service – will also improve the security of the station over the current Woodlands Park station.


Marion City Council – Castle Plaza Activity Centre Development Plan Amendment, November 2010

(In recent days leading up to this post being published, there have been media reports about the contamination of groundwater in the area from the Hills Site in Edwardstown. Please note that I am not in a position to comment on these matters.)