Turn Left at the Station: How Safety and Wayfinding Influences the Transit User's Experience
Whitfield, Michelle Marie
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This thesis investigates the quality of connections between multiple modes of transportation at three city center transit hubs located in Portland, OR, Seattle, WA, and Vancouver, BC. Consideration is given to the perspective of the transit user, especially the new transit user. Existing literature falls short in defining the meaning of "high quality connections" in context with the unique qualities of a station area setting. This thesis argues that planners should consider the way station areas are designed, maintained, and operated, because these factors make a difference both to the length of time of a transit user's trip and to the overall quality of experience for the transit user. Trips by transit inherently take longer than trips by automobile due to time spent walking to and from as well as within the station, stopping and boarding passengers. Therefore, transit connections must be comfortable and understandable in order for transit to become competitive to the automobile, and in order to attract new riders and to retain them. The literature reveals that the priorities for transit users are safety, especially at night, clear wayfinding, and signage that is easy to understand. This thesis uses a Multi Criteria Post Occupancy Evaluation methodology to study the three hubs of Pioneer Square, Portland, Westlake Center, Seattle, and City Centre / Granville, Vancouver. Criteria includes: * Review of related planning documents and background information, * Recording of the physical environment, * Observations of transit users, * Transit user interviews, and * Interviews with public officials. This research has found that the station area studied in Portland, which is entirely above ground, is successful in providing the right balance of amenities in the right locations to make a transit user feel safe and comfortable finding their way using transit. However, the presence of an underground component in a transit system creates complexity for Seattle and Vancouver. Transit users report being confused about how and where to enter the underground transit system, especially when there are two uncoordinated tunnels as in the case of Vancouver. Transit user interviews also revealed a significantly higher level of concern about transit use at night in underground tunnels as opposed to in Portland's above ground setting. It is worthwhile to invest resources into further identifying and alleviating these concerns because improvements in these areas are key to increasing the long-term competitiveness of transit.
- Urban planning