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Bus Stops - Socially Responsive Transit SpacesBy Rakesh Parmar
Architecture Tweet 0 Comment(s)
Transportation has remained a basic mode of communication through ages. It’s a response to the process of exchange and connections. Such transit oriented activities often take a backseat in discussions pertaining to social response and often considered as secondary form of spaces. Responsive architecture here aims to enhance and prolong the architectural experience in similarly associated spaces by improving the performance in terms of mobility, comfort and effectiveness and at the same time addressing the culture and technology in the most contemporary manner. Social responsiveness comes through a process of understanding needs and requirements of masses and most importantly linking the common issues and ideas of people thus providing a platform for their interactions and quests. Thoughtful approach towards design makes it more dynamic not only in terms of spaces but also how it responds towards various end users, the end users with more dynamic needs. The system of transit forms an integral part of this system of response.
Bus stops with a small space identity form a big significant space of social identity. Bus stops can be considered as a multi-dimensional approach towards a street furniture design. The basic definition of a transit space loosely based on the idea of bus stop in itself gives a hint of its social response. Every bus stop is unique and has an individual story to narrate. They provide a valuable link, they are often neglected and considered secondary, but are equally important to a well-organized transit system as buses are. The following five aspects speak more of the idea of response these bus stops have to offer in context to contemporary transit oriented development.
As a facet of social response: It encourage social interactions, observation experiences by enhancing he stimulating aspects of observing people and life around us while waiting on the bus stop, seating optimized for the amount and types of users which are self-adjusting, self-multiplying, have efficiency towards weather protection, informative and flexible in terms of design. The effects that bus stops have on social dynamics are often observed first when used by an individual. There is a sense of discomfort, restricted body language and strained psychology and minimal contact.
People close themselves off socially so much more at a bus stop than any other area where people congregate to wait which can be reflective of service provided by the stop. Bus stops and the service they provide trigger ambiguity at times. The idea of communication often ceases due to inaccurate and conflicting services. Maybe everyone is in their own world because they have to be. A world first, the RTA (Road Transit Authority) of Dubai started plans for the air-conditioned bus stops in 2006 and the first ones rolled out in 2007 thus changing the notions of a typical bus stand. Though it sounds responsive in various facets of its own but the question of social responsiveness still holds.
As a facet of Smartness and Sustainability: Bus stops in major cities across India have been deployed to convey the idea of ‘smartness’, and there is no doubt over the fact that these transit spaces would become the initial flag bearers of smart cities across India by making the travel experience more user friendly by providing smart information. In cities like Ahmadabad they are symbolic enough to portray the notions of modern India, but at the same time recall how much these transit spaces have to offer in the modern public domain. It offers level boarding, making it easy for the elderly, children and physically challenged, with special addition of tactile flooring for the convenience of visually impaired. Tactile has become an inevitable addition to such places of large public influx and is an outcome of inclusive understanding of design. Apart from Inclusiveness, sustainability is also a factor towards that has been vividly used as a tool to make these spaces more efficient in terms of energy and also responsive to local climate. The same bus stops in Ahmedabad have given an alternative to air conditioning in form of closely designed tensile and wooden partitions that regulate the wind flow and at the same time shield the human scale, thus creating a better version of such public spaces in city.
As a facet of Public Art and Landmark Symbolism: Such transit spaces have long remained as a symbolic area of identification and have also been able to modify the urban fabric around. Santiago Calatrava’s vision in this context reflects a larger role of a transit space like bus stop apart from just being a shelter. 40 metre cantilevered spine serves as a bus and a tram shelter with an equal charm.
Calatrava’s unusual appeal towards architecture makes this shelter space more relevant and it further offers more relevance to Sankt Gallen, Switzerland, the place where it is located. It generates a landmark, and since the design is oriented towards touching the need of every end user it makes it a larger inclusive public art. Dutch bus stops often form a waiting island often that segregates the cycle and the motor track as result of sorted macro spatial planning. They are designed to contain bicycle parking lots for floating passengers and has remained as a regular culture since decades.
As a moderator that renders the user friendly attribute: Design of Modern bus stops focusses more on enhancing the user friendly experience in terms of lighting, noise control and other associated infrastructure. Noise and vibrations generated by public movement or nearby land use pertaining to acceleration of vehicles wherever the stops are located, passenger announcements, crosswalk signals,
retail establishments, offices and nearby residences often pose a major concern towards the design of such transit spaces varying in scale. Several regulations suggest the usage of noise walls that mitigate such noises generated by buses, but on the other hand affects the aesthetics of the space acutely. Like acoustics, lighting also plays a vital role in such transit spaces as it assists in demarcation, illumination, way finding, and identification of station and passengers during night by the bus operators. Lighting variations can impact the architectural ambience and can become a sign of indication.
As a facet of modern architecture and sweeping technology: Modern bus stops have taken modern architecture to another dimension and have bridged the gap between technology and spaces. MIT Media Lab has envisioned the bus stop of future for the city of Florence. It’s more transparent as it uses modern building material in form of tempered glass and contains digital imprints of information. It also has a programmed machinery that investigates and self-cleans any graffiti or spray attacks by vandals, thus making it more responsive. UNSW, Built Environment has designed a smart bus stop that provides a level of interactivity comparable to smartphones. For making the space more user friendly during nights, visual displays have been used so that passengers, can contact with other passengers, the so called locomotive public arts, on other bus stops thus staying safe and intact.
Conclusion: Bus stop in itself is a social response to the modern transit with challenges of channelizing the far off corners and uniting past with future via present though retaining its functionality. Social response to design never comes by simply incorporating an element of interest but attaching the soul of the user with space. It must offer responses that are mentally, visually and even audibly recognized. Thus, they can be rightly considered as an institute evolved from multitude of social responses where architecture has a parallel role to play as to transit planning.
- http://www.topofthe stops.co.uk/
- Bus stop observations II: Shannon hill design- okaybutwhy.wordpress.com
- paris: "the bus stop of the future"
- Dubai: Land of Air-Conditioned Bus Stops-manonthelam.com
- Socially Responsive Architecture | Demotix.com- www.demotix.com
- http://www.regjeringen.no/pages/38429132/PDFS/STM201220130026000EN_PDFS.pdf- www.regjeringen.no
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