Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Union Station bus terminal, DC

GO Schedules
At Toronto's Union Station, schedule displays list arrivals and departures of both trains and buses. Flickr photo by firequall.

In today's Post, Dr. Gridlock tells us ("Union Station to become intercity bus center") that tomorrow it will be announced that intercity bus services are going to be fully integrated into Union Station via the bus garage. (I don't know what that means for Megabus, which has the doubledeck buses and I don't know if they are too tall.)

Of course I think that's a good idea, and one that's been discussed here before.

The only thing that I don't know about is if they are actually going to do a good integration rather than just more of the medium debacle it is presently. Basically, it's less chaotic than lining up for a "Chinese" bus, but it's still chaotic. (Plus it is outdoors and will be cold in the winter obviously.)

At decent intercity bus terminals, there are:

(1) integrated information displays listing arrival and departure information for all services (no different than how it is set up at airports and railroad terminals including Union Station for Amtrak, MARC, and VRE);

(2) display signs at each gate;

(3) and at the gate it is clear that people should line up and how they should do it; and

(4) there is space enough in the concourse for lining up.

Since the Union Station garage is set up as a garage, it doesn't focus on providing space for anything other than automobiles. Clearly some reconfiguration for staging needs to occur ought to occur to make the customer experience more than just bare bones.
Union Station bus garage deck, Washington, DC
This photo doesn't show much in the way of chaos. I shot it as I was coming from the parking rental deck. But I have been there taking a bus to New York City and I thought it was pretty dis-organized.

This photo shows a gate sign at the intercity bus terminal in Montreal, which is also connected to the main subway station (Berri-UQAM). While it's an intercity bus terminal, the STM busline that goes to the airport (the 747) starts and ends here as well.

At DC's Union Station, it won't be possible probably to integrate buses and trains into one common display system because the train schedule system is controlled by Amtrak. But longer term, in the way that DC DOT has created an integrated transit display application, it could be done.
DDOT Multimodal Display
DDOT Multimodal transit information display. Flickr photo by Erik Weber.

But Union Station's wayfinding and customer experience overall needs to be better planned and coordinated between the various transit services anyway. DDOT needs to work with Union Station and the various service providers on a plan, with customer service standards, and a panoply of improvements.

Not just for snow removal ("A 'maintenance of way' agenda for the walking and transit city"), and cultural interpretation, but for getting around generally, as a visitor gateway into the city, and for explaining how to use transit ("Union Station intermodal transportation meeting").

I am gathering information for a post on visitor information services, which I will write about sometime in the next couple weeks.

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