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Tram stop design – not exciting

By Paul Costigan - 18 May 2017 25

There are not too many places that have tram (light rail) stops that are exciting designs. Most are functional and are usually simply places marked where you stand to catch the tram.

I remember being very impressed with some of the Metro stops in Los Angeles and Pasadena – some being designed for the location and many have public artworks that reflected the locality.

At some stops in Melbourne you can find yourself in the middle of the road with traffic wizzing past on both sides – and getting to these stops means crossing busy streets. Melbourne trams are fabulous – but their tram stops can vary a lot in the experience they provide.

The new stops in Canberra will mostly be on green spaces down the centre of the streets – so traffic should not be a problem – which means there is scope to be adventurous with the design.

Of course Canberra did have those iconic concrete cylinders for bus stops – some still exist but I think they are gradually being taken out. We got used to them and can now appreciate that they had more character that the standard metal and glass bus shelters that have been replacing them.

Last week the ACT Government announced that it was asking for feedback on the design for the twelve tram stops from Gungahlin to Braddon. Having read the article and done my best to interpret all the stuff on the NCA’s website – I think this means that it is to be the same design for all of these stops – presuming there is something different for Civic (yet to be disclosed).

If so, that puts a lot of significance on the design of these pieces of very visible infrastructure. It is going to be very important that they are designed as part of the entrance to Canberra along Northbourne – being a main entrance point to the National Capital.

And if they are to be seen all the way from Gungahlin to Braddon, the design should be something very distinctive that should become something that locals get to be proud of and visitors admire and take that photo to send onto others.

And just to be pedantic: The images as provided include lots of fully grown trees that soften the viewing of the design for the tram stops.

The reality will be that those new trees will be much smaller for many years. The tram stops will be very visible and very dominant for the decade as the trees mature to be as shown in these images. This is even more reason that the design has to be something special – not ordinary.

Below is a couple of the images of the designs – plus I have cropped and blown up the image to provide a clearer look at the proposed tram stop.

Partially enlarged below…

Partially enlarged below…

My reaction? They are not very interesting – in fact, they look very ordinary – not exciting – very bureaucratic basic – not something iconic or innovative – not something that says Canberra the bush capital – nor something that would become a subject for tourist photos.

They look as though they could be from any city – with nothing obvious that makes them local or even Australian.

The artist-designed panels look good (I am guessing from what I can see) but they do little for the overall design of these shelters.

The present design will provide very little protection during bad weather. This fault will discourage people from catching the tram on days of inclement weather. There is ample room for better shelter arrangements than has been provided by the design as published.

Again – when you take away the tall trees – they are nothing special.

I think we can do a lot better for something that will be a very significant part of the new tram line along the new Northbourne Avenue into the nation’s capital as well as being repeated all the way to Gungahlin.

My rating: 5 out of 10

I do urge you to make your own comment on this design.

Make a comment here on RiotACT and/or to go online to the NCA’s site where they have all the documentation – plus an email to use to lodge your comments.

This new tram stop design for the twelve stops is open for comment until 2 June 2017.

I look forward to seeing your feedback to this post.

What’s Your opinion?

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25 Responses to
Tram stop design – not exciting
rommeldog56 8:58 am 20 May 17

As i recall, are not the tram stops part of the infrastructure to be provided/paid for by the ACT Gov’t/ACT Ratepayers ? If so, then the design must be the ACT Govt’s.

That would explain the blandness and non functionality I suppose.

Aesthetically : Yuck . But i accept that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Seems to be very complementary to the design & blandness of other ACT building designs, so probably will fit in well. What did anyone expect, “hopes/opportunities” aside.

Functionality ? As if that design will reduce wind impact and keep tram passengers dry in rain. As with the appalling design & functionality of the new “advertising” ACTION bus shelters, you have no hope.

I wonder what the chances are of a vehicle running off Northborne Ave and crashing into a flimsy shelter ? In due course, they will probably put some of those anti crash barriers up between Northborne Ave and the tram stop – that will certainly improve the aesthetics !. .

wildturkeycanoe 6:49 am 20 May 17

random said :

If you’re sitting in a concrete shelter, you can’t see anyone approaching and road users can’t see inside. There are minor consequences (they were often used as urinals or slept in by homeless people) and major ones (serious crimes such as assault are not visible from the road).

The simple solution to this is to make the walls transparent, but that has its own problems.
The present bus stop designs are very prone to vandalism due to the glass construction. They can be easily broken, evident by the continual replacement of the panels on the bus stop nearest our home. I’ve queried the glaziers when they have been replacing the damaged sections, as to why Lexan isn’t being used as a substitute. They claim that it is no better due to being flammable, which appeals to the firebugs of the nation.
So we need to find a suitable alternative or take action to apprehend these culprits before providing additional sources of enjoyment for their chosen hobby.

On another note, has anybody else noticed the error in the photo-shopping where the traffic light stands? It has a pole situated behind it, yet the pole obscures the green light in front of it. Oops!

aussielyn 6:28 pm 19 May 17

Good article Paul
I would hope that the stops are functional as well as being well designed and vandal proof.
They should not be so dominated by advertising that this is the biggest impression
Having areas that are heated, on timers, and wind proof will make them more attractive to patrons who have this amenity in their cars.

Acton 5:30 pm 19 May 17

How about purchasing and importing an obsolete tram shelter that has an attractive appearance, better weather protection and is so aptly named:

dungfungus 2:26 pm 19 May 17

I see, no “negative ” comments about the tram anymore.

Just because the government pushed on with it doesn’t mean we have to accept it without reminding them they have made a dreadful mistake.

Riotact is just becoming another mouthpiece for ACT Labor.

random 10:21 am 19 May 17

wildturkeycanoe said :

But the best bus shelters in Canberra for ‘actual passengers’ are the cylindrical concrete ones.


It’s important to note Damien’s point above about passive surveillance. If you’re sitting in a concrete shelter, you can’t see anyone approaching and road users can’t see inside. There are minor consequences (they were often used as urinals or slept in by homeless people) and major ones (serious crimes such as assault are not visible from the road).

Commuters only on public transport in peak times may not appreciate this but the more open shelters do feel safer later at night. A key value propostion for light rail is going to be for passengers along the corridor to use it at night, rather than just commuting. They want you to say “we’re going to a dinner and it is easier to take the tram than to drive”.

I think they’re quite attractive. They’re clearly designed to be reminiscent of trees, at least as far as that is possible given necessary compromises for cost and durability. That seems like a deliberate design effort to fit the “bush capital” feel.

wildturkeycanoe 10:19 pm 18 May 17

I fully agree Miz, just like the stops in Civic they will offer little to no protection from the elements. What is with the upside down umbrella shape? It is so tall that with sufficient breeze to propel the droplets at a 45 degree angle, you will get wet pants. There doesn’t appear to be any walls on either end, so there is no place to escape the icy winter blast from the Brindabellas.
I give it a 2/10 for function.

oh_ 10:02 pm 18 May 17

I agree Paul they look a bit ‘meh’ in the designs put forward and the artists impressions are a bit generously treed. Why not draw inspiration from the natural environment in the colours and materials eg granite of Birrigai/Namadgi rocks, river red gum or yellow box for any wooden elements, new types of glass that can have images projected inside it or coloured glass bricks that pay homage to the glassworks and/or imagery or elements of icons around town (eg mini NMA loop sculpture, Parl House curved walls, War memorial dome, carillon obelisk). Also do all the stops have to be the same, or can they be distinctive in their own right (in Tokyo each stop has a different melody played – why not get creative and ask Canberra’s artists)…

miz 8:18 pm 18 May 17

The design looks utterly useless as a shelter. As a PT user I truly don’t care if they look cool or are reminiscent of the undulating Brindies, I would just like shelters to do their actual job and shelter you while you are awaiting your trip.

We have serious heat, cold and blasting hot and cold winds here. This design looks utterly useless. There are no trees along Northbourne anymore and the ones they intend to plant are not good for shade.

Similarly, the ‘ad shel’ bus shelters are next to useless – they don’t keep out much of the hot sun, wind or rain because their primary purpose is to be an ad stand – god forbid anyone block the ad by standing in front of it. The old heritage ones were a lot better (and it was galling that the lovely heritage ones were removed from National Circuit and replaced with crap ad shells a few years ago).
But the best bus shelters in Canberra for ‘actual passengers’ are the cylindrical concrete ones.

watto23 6:40 pm 18 May 17

I agree the tram stops are not very inspiring at all. I think from a practical point of view there is very little shelter or wind breaks in the design. I was thinking a more curve approach would be nicer, and the structure that springs to mind is the Melbourne rectangular stadium roof. Obviously on a smaller scale, but it kind of pays homage to the old bus shelters, or perhaps something like a series of curved seating areas almost like several bus shelters together. Just my thoughts and opinion, but these look very open and very bland and failing to see how they are even remotely practical in Canberra.

Doug Dobing 5:11 pm 18 May 17

It’s great that we have a forum for public debate. Thanks Paul, for taking time to write an article about ‘Tram stop design’ and keeping the discussion going. To Paul, it seems the ‘very bureaucratic basic’ just don’t ‘wow’ him and that he was expecting something more ‘iconic or innovative’. Although the designs are very stylish and professional, do they really capture the essence of Canberra. Not sure about that. I think we have an opportunity to have some design elements that push the boundaries and get people talking about them. Modern architecture and design is no longer limited to just functionality, that is common around the world. If we have to have a light rail, then let’s have some iconic and interesting designs for the tram stops that the world stops and talks about.

JC 3:53 pm 18 May 17

So Paul what in your eyes makes a good light rail stop?

Like many of your posts you are big on the criticism (mostly of things that are objective) but hardly ever see a practical solution in your posts.

And Damian sending people to the NGA to see good design, all I can say is yuk. In my opinion that is one of the coldest most uninviting buildings in the whole town! And where is the bloody enterance?

Paul Costigan 3:16 pm 18 May 17

I was just contacted and was pointed to the comment being made about my piece by Damien Haas. Oh dear – how to respond politely – and how to keep it brief.

First to use the quote “seriously five minutes googling to fact check wouldn’t go astray.” Fully agree.

For a champion of the light rail to be not interested in design says a lot about where things could end up.

And yes we all know that the trees are being grown ahead of planting but will not be as tall as the images indicate for a few years yet. Hence – as I said – the design for those early years becomes even more important.

I know about Melbourne tram stops and the many upgrades – just you missed my point. I am in Melbourne regularly and spend time standing out there in the middle. Not complaining but it makes for an ‘interesting’ experience.

Yes I know the new Canberra tram is down the middle not on the street – that’s what I said.

And – to anyone who knows how to google and reads what is in front of them – you will find from previous posts that I am an enthusiastic supporter of the tram – but remain very sceptical about the bureaucracy’s ability to get the landscape design and the design of the whole corridor to be something innovative to represent the bush capital.

Design is important – Canberra has a reputation for design – and is often listed as a designed national capital alongside several others.

And I can assure you that when it is wrong or very ordinary – as these proposed tram stops are – the users will know it.

And I have shown your comments to someone involved with the NGA – they chuckled (politely).

Enough said – I did it – stayed polite! – and sort of brief.

Damien Haas 1:04 pm 18 May 17

As usual there are many factual errors in yet another anti light rail piece. I know its just an opinion piece, but seriously five minutes googling to fact check wouldn’t go astray.

The trees that will be planted in the Northbourne and Flemington median strips will be several metres tall, not mere saplings. They are being grown now, specifically to suit this requirement. They will be at least as tall as the stops when planted, and in a few short years will match the images shown in the design proposals.

The bunker shelters are heritage listed and cannot be disposed of, they are relocated to other places on the bus network when a more modern bus shelter is installed.

Melbourne is rapidly upgrading its onstreet tram stops with significant safety and user improvements. A ride along route 86 through High Street and even in Bourke street itself would show that. Safety and amenity are important and difficult to achieve on a tram network when passengers are expected to walk onto the road while cars stop.

Light rail is largely separated from the road, so passengers do not wait on the roadside, they wait at stops along the route. It is a significant difference between trams and light rail that seems to go right over the objectors to better public transport, stuck in their 1950 view of the world and resisting anything that drags them into the 21st century.

The designs themselves? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I’d rather take the professional designs of an artist and street furniture designer and manufacturer over those of a well known complainant and objector to any form of change or progress.

Similar designs with a flat roof and internal blades for equipment to support travel are common around the world. They are common, because they are functional. If the roof is wide enough to prevent rain from entering, or coming in sideways, that is sufficient. I don’t think you could provide closed garage style examples of light rail stops in any network. If you can, please do.

I expect functionality, and a consistent design so I know what it is when I look at it. I expect that I will be protected from the elements, but not hidden away from the passive surveillance that a road and a street provides. I expect suitable amenities to aid my trip.

If I want outstanding examples of cutting edge art and design, I shall take a trip to the National Gallery. By light rail when Stage 2 is built.

localyokel 12:01 pm 18 May 17

I agree – they look pretty ordinary. Just more of the same old predictable, anonymous, boring stuff you can see anywhere. Wouldn’t it be fantastic to see the govt. take this rare opportunity to push the boundaries a bit in terms of urban design? After all, those few short minutes spent waiting for a train or a bus provide a precious pause in people’s busy lives. Surely we could aspire to build a network of tram shelters that don’t just merely aim to keep the wind and rain off – how about thinking about how they could be designed to also provide some fun, inspiration, surprise and delight in a passenger’s day? With a bit of imaginative planning and design, it’s possible to envisage a journey on the ‘tram’ becoming a tourist attraction in its own right – another way of seeing and experiencing something of what’s so special about Canberra, rather than simply the easiest way to get from A to B.

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