Previously, I wrote about how the quality of a transfer is affected by headways of the two transit lines, usually rail and bus. While this certainly is the most important determinant, the physical design of transfer stations is also important in creating higher quality transfer experiences. Walking time is important, and correspondingly factored into travel demand models.
Factors harder to quantify are also important. How visible is the connection? Do you have to cross a street? Is there weather protection? Are there seats? Transfer stations should communicate a unified and easy to use system which is approachable by those that don’t usually take transit or buses. Essentially, quality transfer stations are necessary to effectively motivate users to transfer, but insufficient on their own.
To illustrate this point I took two videos of transfers between Stockholm’s Metro (Tunnelbana Red Line T13), and two different bus terminals. The video above is exactly what you want to do. The video below is exactly what you don’t want to do. To simply say a transfer is “only 900 ft” or “only takes 3 minutes”, is missing the point. There is a good way to do it and a bad way to do it. Of course the transfer quality shouldn’t be the only factors looked at, but it certainly shouldn’t be overlooked.
More after the jump.
Wonkdom aside, this seems to often be overlooked locally. The SR-520/Husky Station/Rainier Vista fiasco is one example. I haven’t seen a single cohesive proposal of how to ensure good Link to bus, or vice-versa transfers despite the fact that transfers in the UW Triangle are expect to increase ten fold when Link opens. Rather than sitting down and really working out a way to improve the transfer experience for transit riders at SR-520, Husky Stadium Station, the UW Medical Center buildings or the UW main campus, it seems that planners have just thrown their hands up, resigned to forcing most riders to make a 900-1000 ft walk between Link and buses. The uncertainly of not knowing how everything will eventually be integrated is unsettling to many, myself included.
There are, however, several ways to improve transfers between Link and buses. One solution to this problem, which is used in Stockholm at Odenplan and also happens to be a triangle, is for buses to circle around the Triangle in a clockwise manner, with a stop located either next to or across Montlake Blvd from the Husky Stadium Station. Another possible change could be to add new stops close to the intersection of Montlake Blvd and Pacific St. Regardless of how better transfers are achieved, the point is that this should be an important goal and it needs to be thoroughly addressed and solved now, not when construction of the station is done.
Similarly, last week’s East Link report shows that C11A, the alignment we think is best, would have a single, highly integrated rail-bus transfer station easing and speeding transfers between buses and Link. No other downtown alternative would come close and it would be nice to see this advantage also communicated.
An existing example, and probably the worst along central Link, is the Mt. Baker Station. While it is good that a new transit center was build, creating a presence that most will easily identify once they find it, its linkage to Mt. Baker Station is tenuous, and at the very least hard to see for new riders. The Firestone building and a tree act like a shield blocking views of the other facility. Again this is “only” a 600 ft transfer but the lack of integration, and real-time information makes the transfer much more onerous than it needs to be.
Quality transfer stations don’t happen by chance and recognizing what helps or hurts is important. While high quality transfers aren’t always possible because of physical or monetary constraints they should always be a goal, especially when large number of riders are expected to transfer there. A good rule of thumb for quality transfers is it must be short, level, and with a clear line of sight between the two transit modes. Anything less should be avoided or at the very least mitigated.