Conference paper

Public use zone: a new paradigm for suburban rail station design for Australian cities

Cities and towns Public transport Trains Urban planning Neo-liberalism Australia
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Abstract: The potential of suburban rail stations to be key civic nodes within the network of urban public space in Australia is greatly under-developed. A radical re-conceptualisation is required, on at least two levels. Firstly, the rhetoric of neoliberal privatization has progressively diminished the role for public infrastructure in supporting communal life - citizens have become customers, stations have become mono-functional and instrumental. Second, public transport facilities must operate as intermodal exchanges, to foster increased mode share for sustainable transport and meet increasing demand. Combined, this is one of the most challenging issues facing Australian cities. It is an inter-disciplinary, multi-dimensional problem in which innovative, integrative and visionary design research has a significant role to play. Beyond a technically-oriented paradigm premised on engineering, safety standards and vandal-proofing, design approaches need to reframe station design quality as public place-making, while also meeting international best practice for intermodal operation. While stations are the functional and symbolic nexus between the transit system and the city, most stations across Melbourne are difficult to find and to get into and belie the significant public investment in them, thwarting their catalytic role in metropolitan strategies premised on transitoriented intensification. This paper reports on a collaborative research project that examines the prospects for a radical re-positioning of rail stations by design premised on a public place-making design approach. We review two case studies in Melbourne and reflect on the potentials for a paradigm shift through university-industry partnerships in design-research on re-visioning existing stations.

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