Is integrated design of infrastructure possible?

A report on the sustainable integration of the light rail extension through the design of four new stations with the Adelaide Parklands.

If you don’t own a car, you’re probably already a convert. However, if you own a car and occasionally ‘do the right thing’ and catch a train, tram or bus to work or play, you can probably relate to the daily frustrations faced by commuters who don’t have a choice in their preferred mode of transport. Let alone the thousands and thousands of tourists and visitors to our cities. Across Australia, public transport is on the agenda at all levels of government, each considering ways they can revitalise and improve the system for the future.

In the next 30 years, over 70 per cent of Australia’s population will reside in cities, putting increased pressure on urban mobility. Public transport will become increasingly central to medium and high intensity living, as well as reducing Australia’s carbon emissions and congestion. It will require intelligent and integrated investment around existing and future transit based corridors, with equitable access to high quality parks and open space, often within a short walking distance. What a challenge!

In order to meet this challenge, a more integrated design approach needs to be embraced. We need to put ‘people’ back at the centre of a design-led process and ask what we can do to make public transport easier, safer and more ‘sexy’ for all to use. If we don’t, people will continue to drive, congest and pollute our cities. Designers need to demand ‘people’ become the focus for the design of our railways, trains, buses, trams, stations and interchanges.

A more context-sensitive analysis and understanding of the character of a city or region not only enables the integration of planned transport routes, it will meaningfully ‘fit in’ with the surrounding environment and create demand through a more attractive and integrated system. Our transport of the future also needs to address behavioural change in how we move around our cities.

Some successes Recent experience and success In South Australia may provide some illustrative proof that change is possible. Working with the South Australian Government, Hassell employed an integrated design approach on the Coast to Coast Light Rail Extension, extending the successful existing service from City West to the Entertainment Centre.

The new extension features four new energetic and bold stations, capturing emergent development opportunities including the future transit-orientated Bowden Urban Village, and addressing UDFQ 96: December 2011

The procurement process – often the ‘make or break’ of any construction project – was centred on an inclusive and broad ranging design based contract called an ‘Early Contractor Involvement’ contract alliance, eliminating many risk and constructability problems associated with a traditional ‘design and construct’ model. It was a very interesting and rewarding process and elevates non engineering design (such as urban design, landscape architecture and architecture) into a leadership role.

Informed discussion and debate from architects, landscape architects and urban designers on the benefits of a more integrated design and procurement process is required if we are to deliver better projects with more sustainable and design – focused outcomes.

A design-led commitment to re-invigorating Australia’s public transport provides designers with a unique opportunity to take a completely re-energised, reinvigorated and integrated approach to design to create accessible, vibrant and sustainable cities.