Transit station design and a few thoughts on subway and metro lines

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If a new subway were to be built in Vancouver or elsewhere in the region, then how should the transit stations look like? The slideshow (above) shows a number of stations from Metro line 4 in Budapest that opened earlier this year. A few of the stations along this new underground rapid transit line have received international architectural awards. The design of transit stations can make a big difference on user experience. Here are a number of facts about this new line:

  • the platforms and trains are 80 metres in length
  • the first stage of the Metro line 4 in Budapest is 7.3 km, with 10 stations, for a 13-minute trip
  • each train can transport 810 passengers at full capacity, the trains are driverless
  • the line was built along a very busy bus line to connect two railway stations
  • there were a number of delays and cost overruns
  • final price tag was approximately $2.1 Billion (CAD equivalent), up from a $1.4 Billion estimate in 2006
  • the metro line was bored underground
  • some of the underground stations have natural sunlight filter onto the platform level, as a result of platform design
  • the Metro line was a long time in the making, starting in 1998, construction began in 2006 and tunnelling in 2007
  • plans to extend the line have been put indefinitely on hold (phase 2 to northeast, phase 3 to west).
  • the line crosses two other metro lines; transfer stations were built at those stops
  • more details on this line are available at

Building a completely new underground rapid transit line is obviously a major undertaking. What lessons can be learned from examples in other cities? Metro 4 Budapest For further photos, please see: The New Budapest Metro Line Is an Awesome Psychedelic Trip (Attila Nagy, Gizmodo, March 28, 2014)

Here’s a YouTube video tour of the stations (from Tivadar Horvath’s channel):

2 thoughts on “Transit station design and a few thoughts on subway and metro lines

  1. It has nothing to do with City Hall. The design of stations in Vancouver results from provincial control. The province, when it does decide to fund rapid transit, is usually in cost limitation mode. The original Expo Line stations and the Canada Line reflect this approach. Only the Millennium Line (and the three stations on Sea Island paid for by the airport) reflect any architectural influence. I suspect the Evergreen Line will be similar. When you build down to a price you get substandard stations. At least SkyTrain stations above ground can be – and are – upgraded. Not so the underground stations with the small surface box designed to be subsumed within a subsequent building.

  2. Speaking of “lessons learned”….

    I sincerely doubt that the project will be tunnel-bored. Going all the way back to Philip Owen days, I have City Hall motions that state my heritage neighbourhood will not be disturbed by any form of tunneling “insofar as it is possible”, though some councils (Here’s looking at you Sam Sullivan!) weren’t even that polite – we were just ignored.

    That’s why this whole heritage neighbourhood around City Hall will be voting “NO!” to the referendum because there’s no way that we won’t get dug up like Cambie St. was. All the promises in the world won’t ease my mind either – the only thing that counts is big, nasty, public lawsuits and direct action.

    But if you want to look at learning from another city,. have a look at the geology in Budapest and you’ll see what some relatively simple geological issues can add to the cost of a major project.

    This is a presentation from the civil engineer for the project about the geological issues they encountered. Note the faulting (he calls it tectonic, but it’s really just geostructural) under the riverbed that wasn’t suspected until they did their test drilling and found it, which required complex redesign to ensure the tunnel bore had adequate support throughout these conditions, all at extra cost, of course. The geology wasn’t complex – karst bedding and looser soils ranging from sand to clay (bentonite).

    The Cambie St. project encountered two glacial erratics – giant boulders that can’t be moved or drilled through – they had to be blasted out piece by piece, cacusing delays and requiring night work by special permit to catch up to schedule. The heritage restoration of 2525 Quebec St. encountered a glacial erratic in the basement that couldn’t be removed either – they hand drilled small parts of it out, but simply built the rest of the project around it, delaying it by some months.

    There will be more glacial erratics in the path of this tunnel. Put the damned thing on the surface where it belongs. These toy subways are of no use to anyone – they’re too small to be real people-movers.

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