Report examines how to manage pedestrian traffic in crowded subway systems

Posted on May 27, 2015

Ryan Tyler Smith
Ryan Tyler Smith

A new Mineta Transportation Institute report, “Passenger Flows in Underground Railway Stations and Platforms,” addresses the challenge how urban rail systems can manage pedestrian traffic in increasingly crowded stations and offers several recommendations.

“An important goal of this report is to explain how transit system managers, planners, and designers can provide optimal passenger flow,” said Dr. Loukaitou-Sideris, one of the authors of the report. “Many subway and elevated transit stations have been in service for decades, so they often must accommodate in the same physical space more passengers than they originally were designed to handle. Thus, transit station designers and transit operators not only must devise strategies to provide safe and comfortable passenger movement through the stations, they also must implement these strategies within physical and financial constraints.”

The study had three objectives: 1) Understand the particular infrastructural, operational, behavioral, and spatial factors that affect and may constrain passenger queuing and flows in different types of rail transit stations; 2) Identify, compare, and evaluate practices for efficient, expedient, and safe passenger flows in different types of station environments and during typical (rush hour) and atypical (evacuations, station maintenance/refurbishment) situations; and 3) Compile short-, medium-, and long-term recommendations for optimizing passenger flows in different station environments.

The researchers conducted a review of relevant literature, interviews with experts in transit rail station design and an online survey of 18 transit professionals representing all 16 transit agencies in the U.S. and Canada with heavy rail transit stations. They then made observations and developed recommendations in each of four topic areas: (1) agency planning for passenger flows; (2) data collection and forecasting; (3) analysis; and (4) design.

Recommendations included:

  • Encourage coordination and knowledge sharing among various specialists responsible for aspects of the passenger experience, including construction and emergency evacuations.
  • Routinely assess assumptions used to estimate pedestrian volumes and pedestrian characteristics.
  • Select analysis tools and methodologies based on each particular question requiring a solution.
  • Consider the impact that each design strategy implemented in one station area will have in other areas of the station and on the adjacent street environment.

Authored by Dr. Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, Dr. Brian D. Taylor and Carole Turley Voulgaris, the peer-reviewed report is available for free by clicking here.
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