Smart Stations: Redefining Space to Create a Better Pedestrian Environment

When one thinks of improvements to the pedestrian environment, images of public realm enhancements to footways and crossing points are often what comes to mind. However, there is an important element of the pedestrian environment that is often overlooked, that of routes and circulation corridors within stations.

Historically, the infrastructure needed to facilitate the circulation of passengers has seen stations be considered as ‘non-places’, a term coined by the French anthropologist Marc Augé referring to public spaces designed to be experienced by people in transit. This has resulted in many stations lacking identity and history.

Over recent years, the thinking around how stations are designed, renewed and perceived by passengers has shifted, with questions now asked on how architecture, lighting, digital technologies, graphics and visual art can be integrated to enhance everyday experiences of such ‘non-places’.

Rail travel, and therefore stations, hold great significance within the City of London. Over 300,000 workers within the City commute daily by public transport, equating to an 85% mode share. The City is home to ten London Underground, two DLR and six National Rail stations, all of which are well utilised. Approximately 870,000 entries and exits are made each day from the City’s underground stations, with over 230,000 made at Bank & Monument stations alone.

Each user of the public transport network, by right, is automatically also a pedestrian, both during the first/last mile element of journey at street level but also, often forgotten, within the station itself.

Developing a strategy that reclaims space within stations, from being seen solely as part of the public transport network to a pedestrian environment that is welcoming and adaptive to meet the needs of the individual user is a key issue.

This theory is well exploited by the award-winning Smart Station concept designed by SYSTRA.

The station becomes a smart place where a harmonious environment is created and involves all travellers’ senses. This new concept creates a dynamic environment that can be adjusted in real time with the use of sensors located outside and inside the station, controlled to be able to apply pre-defined scenarios to adjust light, sound and passenger displays to improve safety perception and comfort.

Passengers can also be ‘floating’ sensors of information that can be shared with the entire ecosystem and used to create advanced applications to provide new integrated services as an innovative answer to all passengers’ needs.

Internal circulations routes within stations are often designed to provide the most manageable solution for getting a passenger from a train to the street, with the experience of the passenger, and their connection to the environment in which they find themselves, often overlooked. Whilst the station’s primary role is to provide a convenient route from street-to-train, this can, and should, be done concurrently with providing the passenger with as pleasant a journey as possible.

The Smart Station concept can also be applied to make stations more sustainable and to reduce operating and maintenance costs, as well as re-engineering relevant processes in a more efficient way.

Only so much can be done to enhance the street-level pedestrian environment, the main focus of most pedestrian-orientated proposals. Shifting focus towards an equally important part of “pedestrian” life (circulation routes within stations), a better, healthier and more harmonious environment can be provided for pedestrians within the City.

In 2016, SYSTRA received the European Mobility Exhibition Innovation Award for the Smart Station concept (link contains two-minute video): https://www.systra.com/en/newsroom/article/systra-wins-the-innovation-award-for-its-smart-station-concept

For more information, contact James Rhodes, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.