Moderated by Dr Tom Daamen, associate professor in urban development management (UDM) at Delft University of Technology, the discussion focused upon transit-oriented development’s changing relationship with social infrastructure and public amenities, particularly in the post-Covid era.
Opening the discussion, Arjan Dingsté, director and senior architect at UNStudio, said that across the globe companies are focused upon a wide range of alternative transit hub models and solutions. In Amsterdam and China, for example, cable cars have grown in popularity due to their high speeds and capacity. Elsewhere, hyperloops have drawn the attention of transit authorities as viable infrastructure alternatives.
Dingsté said, “We strongly believe that looking forward and looking at these possibilities we really need to spark our thinking on how we can integrate infrastructure in the future, and how we can integrate transportation, means not just for the public, but also among smaller groups and high speed connections”.
Dingsté believes that transport needs to be more adaptable and flexible to ensure popularity among the public. Transit-orientated developments should also be open to new uses, which in turn will provide more convenience and flexibility for businesses and consumers.
For Peter Elliott, head of property development at Transport for London, there are major challenges to expanding into new uses. Due to site constraints, TfL’s recent foray into residential property has presented a number of design, operational and structural obstacles when building on existing TfL land. However, it can have significant public benefits.
According to Elliott, “If we can bring about parcels of land that ordinarily do sit in urban areas and town centres then we’ve got an opportunity to densify against transport nodes, which not only have the greatest connectivity but also help heal cities and bring about greater accommodation for retail, commercial, or other city requirements, not least residential”.
In order to provide a successful product, one of the key factors will be TfL’s ability to form working partnerships with private sector companies with prior experience and expertise in developing projects on similarly constrained sites.
Joanna Rowelle, director of integrated city planning at Arup, believes such partnerships are also necessary for generating funding and ensuring good governance.
“Transit-orientated development and creating value absolutely has to be rooted in good storytelling. Therefore, being able to convey both good design principles and the way in which a station or a transit project will be brought to a community needs to be rooted in understanding how the benefits will be spread,” Rowelle said.
“There’s a lot of research and understanding now that the beneficiaries of transportation should be the ones that help pay for it,” she added. “So, looking at new models of revenue raising or servicing debt in the first instance and then being able to deliver excellent transport projects is something that is definitely shifting, and I think we’re seeing new energy in how to deliver projects.”
Most importantly, however, there needs to be public demand. Elliott explained that in London the government is trying to use a carrot and stick approach when it comes to cars – increasing congestion charges, pedestrianising areas, and reducing car parking to produce greener cities, while ensuring that land is being used for more important uses, such as residential development, rather than multi-storey car parks.
Rowelle questioned this approach, positing that while in London this is possible due to the plethora of public transport options in the capital, other cities need a more equitable strategy to encourage use of public transport networks.
The needs of each public transit authority and their different cities is undoubtedly unique – but it is clear that good governance, strong design and delivery mechanisms, and public-private partnerships will ensure that only the best transit-orientated projects will progress to development.