In only one day, millions of people all over the world pass through a subway station to grab a train that carries them to their destination. Either it’s just for that one trip or maybe to change lines or means of transportation, the way these stations are designed has a direct impact on people´s mobility and in the long-run on their life quality.
You might have spent years using one subway system, but if you thought that by knowing one, you know them all, you have been misled. The subway systems are as unique and peculiar as the cities above their tunnels and stations. Today’s blog post is inspired by a project that analyzes the design and functionality of 275 metro stations in different cities, mostly in Europe. Albert Guillaume has been working on this extensive overview for about 8 years now and has achieved to “map” in great detail the different types of stations and the examples of the same.
Types of stations observed
Just so, it’s time to explore the different factors that come into play on our daily trips from A to B and have their impact on the appearance and usability of the network system as a whole. In the following section, we’re going to look at different types of stations and interchanges according to the observations of Albert Guillaume and provide an example for each type.
A cross-platform refers to a central platform with two lanes, where one way is for one line and the other way, for the other line. In this type of station, the change of lines requires very little time and effort. As you can imagine, short transfers are normally linked to a good network planning and usability.
One clear example of cross-platform is Gare du Midi in Brussels. In general, the metro of Brussels could be described as a well-planned network. Its first four lines were designed and built at the end of the ‘60s. The design and construction follow a simple pattern: if the line isn’t too long or complex, it is built as a premetro (underground tramway), with ramps that connect the tunnel with the tram network. When the construction of the line is more advanced, there are access ramps and it is already operated with a subway line. Currently, lines 2 and 6 are both subway and 3 and 4 tram lines.
Albert Guillaume has called the station where the stations are joined on top of each other a “sandwich station”. In this case, the subway lines are created more or less perpendicularly. The transfer is straight and smooth: you can change the line by going simply up or down the stairs.
Berlin is a city that has many interchanges with that type of design. The famous U-bahn is dominated by stations with central platforms. It is also characterized by the mix of old superficial tunnels that can be accessed directly from the stairs and newer deeper tunnels built after the First World War.
In this case, the platforms of two lines are built in parallel, without the need to ensure the cross-platform access to another line. To access the other line, the passengers will have to go through a higher or lower level to change the platform.
As an example, we can check out the Campo Grande station from Lisbon. The Lisbon Metro is a relatively young one: up until the late ‘90s it had only one line and the interchanges are less than 25 years old. That might also explain the variety of station typologies.
Long transfer corridors
This type of station is a result of the lack of planning for the whole network. The city that is probably the best described by such stations is Barcelona. The reason for the existence of these passages in some stations is due to the policy of creating a radius of coverage in a specific neighborhood.
The most famous example, in this case, is the Passeig de Gràcia station that comes with a 270-meter long corridor.
Often two-line platforms can be superimposed on a plane, although the difference in elevation can be abysmal. One tends to think of London when referring to deep stations, but there are many metros that are built at similar depths, such as those in Budapest, Prague, and other cities in ex-communist countries.
Budapest was the third European city to inaugurate its first line in 1896. That’s why line 1 is a little bit different from the rest of the network. The trains are only 2.60 m high and 30 m long. The tunnel was built with the cut-and-over method, so the stations are very shallow. The stations consist of two side platforms.
Lines 2 and 3 were built in a more Soviet-style, while line 4 is of recent construction. In these lines, the passengers run in two parallel tunnels at quite an important depth (up to 38 meters underground). The stations tend to consist of central platforms, in two different naves, connected through a single long section of escalators to a lobby located at the foot of the street or an underground floor. At Deák Ferenc Tér the transfer is fairly fast, consisting of two flights of stairs separated by a short corridor.
Macro transit hubs
As the title indicates, these types of stations are the ones where various metro lines meet and thousands of passengers pass through on their daily trips. One such impressive example is the Châtelet–Les Halles station in Paris. It’s the central transit hub for the Île-de-France metropolitan area that connects five metro lines and three RER trains. That makes it one of the biggest underground stations in Europe and the second busiest with an estimated 179.9 million passengers using it annually.
The Paris Metro has the most labyrinthine interchanges in Europe. The Châtelet Station is located around the Place du Châtelet. That’s where the five metro lines are situated with their own separated stations (lines 1, 4, 7, 11, 14). The RER station and Les Halles station on line 4 are located in the Forum sector, located below the Forum des Halles shopping center, which in turn was built on the esplanade occupied by the old central market in Paris, demolished in 1971. The RER station is located at a considerable depth. The main entrances to the RER station are inside the shopping center.
That was our little tour exploring the typologies of European metro stations and how their design and general usability might save or take up valuable time. With the exponential growth of the city population, the decisions made about its infrastructure and transportation network have important implications on the life quality of its people and should always be made with a clear vision and the human aspect in mind.