At the beginning of the month I started a series looking at how we can improve our train stations, beginning with the lack of shelter. I started this after Auckland Transport sent out a survey titled “Help us improve train stations“ but with a focus on how they could generate more money from passengers through initiatives such as selling advertising, or snacks from vending machines.
In this second post in the series I’m going to look at the layout of stations. For this I’m going to focus on my local station, Sturges Road, which seems to embody many of the issues I’ve seen around the network.
The station has been around for some time but was completely rebuilt as part of double tracking the western line and completed in 2008. The image below shows the station in 2006, not long before the upgrade started, and what it looks like now.
As you can see, like many of the stations built/rebuilt over the last 10-15 years, it’s been built with side platforms rather than an island platform, like at stations built in the past. This has the effect of making using the station easy for some journeys but harder for others. It also has the effect of requiring more station equipment than island platforms, or at least spreading what is needed too thin. For example, with side platforms at least one HOP machine is needed on each side whereas had it been an island platform, both machines could have been available to customers. The decisions on platform layouts were made well prior to Auckland Transport even existing but I know some staff who worked at the former Auckland Regional Transport Authority still work for AT and I sometimes wonder if they regret the decision to use mainly side platforms.
To help discuss some of the issues with the layout of stations, I’ve put together a little diagram of the station features.
As highlighted in my previous post, there simply isn’t enough shelter. Like with the HOP example above, had the station been designed as an island platform then at least the shelter that would have been built could be shared. Adding more shelter at least to the Britomart bound direction would not only help improve customer experience but also help spread passengers out along the platform.
Number of HOP Machines
AT seem to want as few HOP machines as they can get away with. At suburban stations like this there is only one machine per platform. I have seen customers left behind more than once because of long lines for the single machine. In addition, it’s not uncommon for a machine not to work properly or if it runs out of paper won’t even accept bank cards. Given the machines are located in the middle of the platform and there is no way to cross quickly between platforms, hiking to use the other machine will almost certainly result in missing a train.
In my view, there needs to be at least two machines on all ‘peak direction’ platforms.
Location of HOP Machines
In addition to needing more machines at stations, I feel that AT need to reconsider where they’re located too. Being in the middle of the station is understandable but it feels like it would be more useful to have them at the entrances to the station, to reinforce that you need to have a ticket before entering the platform area even though we’re not going to gate all stations to enforce that.
There’s another issue with the location of the HOP machines and that’s in relation to the location of tag posts. At the moment if someone tops up their card before a trip they then have to walk/run back to the nearest HOP reader to tag on. Moving the machines closer to the entrances would help address this. If this can’t be achieved, having an additional tag post next to the machine would be useful. An example of this exists with the Gold Coast light rail system. As shown below, there are two machines on the platform and next to them are tag posts (yellow box beside the machine) – I also like how the machines are separated by the wayfinding maps
Number of Tag posts
ATs policy at stations like Sturges Rd, seems to be only one tag post at each entrance. In most cases that’s fine but it can result in delays when a large number of people turn up. For example, during the evening peak it’s not uncommon to see 40 or more people disembarking and heading for the same exit. and why and then having to go and get line to tag off when most probably just want to get home as soon as they can. Additional tag posts, at least on the exit to the station in the afternoon peak direction would be helpful in addressing this issue. At Sturges this issue is compounded a little as most passengers use the same exit.
Related to the point above on tag posts, it’s not much use tagging off sooner if you can’t get out of the station sooner. In my case, I’m exiting the station on the path on the left of the image meaning I don’t have to cross the tracks. But most people do cross the tracks and while they wait for the train to depart, they can quickly block up the narrow walkway. Making the walkway a bit wider or at least having a larger ‘waiting area’ by the crossing would help address this issue.
Grade Separated crossings
Ideally though there would be some form of grade separation for pedestrians and trains. It’s not such an issue with the current timetable but in the past trains would often cross each other at the station. It was not uncommon for a Swanson bound train to turn up, then just as it cleared the crossing the Britomart bound train would approach meaning that even though you arrived at the station a few minutes early, you could miss your train while waiting to get across the the tracks.
Train stopping locations
This isn’t an issue at Sturges but is at some other stations, such as at Fruitvale Road. At Fruitvale the station is designed like Sturges with side platforms and with the shelters/HOP machine in the middle. As is helpfully shown on the current Google Maps imagery, a three car train doesn’t stop in the middle of the platform but at the eastern end of it. It means someone making use of the shelter or buying a HOP ticket/topping up their card then has to make their way to the train. For an able bodied person they could go to the closest door but those needing to use the low floor entrance of the middle car will have to make their way there, likely delaying the train.
Some of the issues I’ve raised here wouldn’t be all that hard to improve if AT wanted to.
What are the issues you’ve noticed at other stations that could do with some improvement?