Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Nangang Metro Station (南港捷運站)

On Christmas Day, the Taipei Rapid Transit Corporation opened the gates at Nangang Station, the newest addition to an elevated and underground rapid transit network which now includes 70 stations. Nangang is the temporary terminal on the Nangang Line's extention, which upon completion next year will connect the district's growing high-tech office cluster and Exhibition Hall to the city's metro system. As a regular user of public transit in the United States, it is incredibly refreshing to travel to another place where public transit seems to be in a consistent state of growth rather than stagnation, and doesn't operate under the constant threat of budget and service cutbacks.

Up until roughly a decade ago, land in this area of Nangang was largely dedicated to agricultural and light industrial use. Though the area in the immediate vicinity of the station is sparsely populated, the station seems to already receive a fairly steady stream of users, probably since it is still one of the only stations that serves any portion of Nangang.

I was happy to see that the station is better designed than the older stations on the Nangang Line, most of which are rather austere and indistinguishable. Here, the standard grey ceramic tile floors are supplemented with cool stone stairwells, and the walls and ceilings are fitted with light green color scheme (especially refreshing in a city enamored of grey and light pink). Furthermore, the station includes an unusually large amount of public art in the form of murals, which all seem to have been done by the same artist. One installation in particular, the mural of chairs pictured below, is quite a hit with families with children.

While Nangang Station is pretty small as far as Taipei's metro stations go, it is quite successful at creating an open and inviting space for transit users. This is also helped by low and unobtrusive fare turnstiles, clear signage and lighting, open information kiosks, and ample indoor plantings.

Of course, it would be un-Philadelphian of me not to compare this to SEPTA's underground stations, which fall woefully short of international standards. Near century-old structures are a problem, but it's still no reason to have stations that feel like Cold War bunkers. In fact, there are quite a few things that SEPTA could do without completely rebuilding its stations. SEPTA's fare collection modernization plan will in a few years present an amazing opportunity to replace bulky and unwieldy turnstiles with ones that feel less obtrusive and defensive. It would also do well to remove the mesh window barriers that cage in certain platform areas like those at 40th Street. And something as simple as maintaining year-round plantings could make a great difference, if SEPTA could get its employees to care. The list goes on, but the point is, for Philadelphia to have the world-class transit system it deserves, it will have to stop designing transit facilities that tell its users, "Keep out." Where the money to do this will come from is another issue entirely.

1 comment:

chaz said...

hello! thought i'd pop by your blog again. im so impressed by your commentary and photography (im guessing you go around town taking photos too?) of the city landscape and new buildings. maybe i'll be able to keep in touch with taipei city a bit through your blogs ay?!