Maybe the ideal solution for the Silver Spring Transit Center would be to start over
The Silver Spring Transit Center is nothing short of a debacle ("Cost of Silver Spring Transit Center repairs jumps another $21 million," Washington Post), with construction defects delaying the facility's opening by at least 18 months and drastically escalating the cost, which will be around $150 million.
The SSTC will be a multimodal facility, linking the subway, MARC commuter railroad services, Metrobus, RideOn bus service, intercity bus services, and connections to the Capital Crescent and Metropolitan Branch bicycle trails (but not a bikestation), plus a connection to the proposed Purple Line light rail system which will run east from Bethesda in Montgomery County west to New Carrollton in Prince George's County ("Go big or go home: Prince George's County needs to think big and consider better revitalization examples for New Carrollton).
Not even getting into all the construction problems, but from the standpoint of civic architecture and urban revitalization ("Transit, stations and placemaking: transit stations as gateways and entrypoints into neighborhoods"), the Silver Spring Transit Center is a serious disappointment.
Rather than enhance the architectural, identity, and gateway elements of Silver Spring, instead it is butt ugly, a parking structure on steroids--a terribly missed opportunity to create a grand transit center modeled on the way and harkening back to the period when grand transit facilities--railroad stations--were constructed as urban centerpieces.
Nothing other than lack of vision and a concern for quality prevented Montgomery County from designing "a grand facility" and supporting it with commercial space on the site.
Recently, Anaheim, California ("Gleaming new transportation hub reflects OC's embrace of public transit," Los Angeles Times; "Anaheim's new ARTIC: Icon or eyesore?," Orange County Register) and Rochester, New York ("Touring Rochester's shiny new transit center," Rochester Democrat & Chronicle) opened new multimodal stations that provide a different example.
The Anaheim station was created as a display of noteworthy architecture, while the Rochester Transit Center isn't particularly beautiful on the outside, it still looks better than the SSTC.
station in Rochester took a long time and had issues ("Learn from mistakes with transit center," RDC), not in construction, but originally the plan was to do a mixed use project with other revenue generating commercial space, but the economics of doing so were not favorable.
Rochester's commercial real estate market has been battered by the decline of Kodak and Xerox, the city's two biggest corporations which once employed many tens of thousands of workers.
The station cost $50 million to build and was tied up for decades in squabbling between Republicans and Democrats (Democrats opposed it because former Republican Senator D'Amato came up with seed money).
It's 87,000 square feet and provides indoor waiting areas for riders, not unlike how an inter-city bus terminal is set up, with "gates" where passengers board. The station has an integrated bus arrival and departure information system.
They aren't providing wi-fi services, don't have restaurants (they direct patrons to nearby businesses) and it's unclear what accommodations are provided for bicycle parking.
Anaheim. With a grand opening this weekend, and in operation for the past week, the new ARTIC, or Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center, was built by the Orange County Transportation Authority for the city, as a replacement for the city's existing train station, and integrates bus and other mobility services. The station will have a number of restaurants and retail shops.
Rendering by HOK.
Unlike the SSTC, the ARTIC was designed to project a strong image and identity for the city, which is best known as the home of Disneyland, and secondarily as the home of the Anaheim Ducks professional hockey team.
The 68,000 square foot structure cost $105 million to build, but other costs pushed the total project cost to $190 million, mostly paid for by the transit system, and the intent is for retail rent revenues to cover the annual operations, which will be the responsibility of the City of Anaheim.
The interior of the ARTIC looks like it will be much more interesting than that of the Silver Spring Transit Center, based on this rendering from HOK.
The idea is that the station would serve as a terminal for high speed rail. Present-day expectations are for about 8,000 riders to pass through the station each day, using Metrolink, Amtrak (the Pacific Surfliner is a kick-butt regional transit service that is much nicer than the Amtrak regional service in the Northeast corridor), local and regional bus service, inter-city bus, and taxis.
The station also has enhanced bike parking, free wi-fi service throughout the complex, and phone stations with extra electric charging capabilities.
Conclusion. When you're spending more than $100 million on transit infrastructure, you might as well make it attractive rather than utilitarian and ordinary, so that the project will have more and a greater number of benefits to the community beyond providing a roof for transit riders.