The Julia M. Carson Transit Center, located in Indianapolis, is more than a bus station. It is a center for riders, cyclists, pedestrians, and passersby, and is the city’s first transportation hub.
Before the $26.5 million transit center opened on June 26, four streets in downtown Indianapolis served as the city’s “hub.” Buses would drive around the “loop,” picking up passengers who were exposed to the elements. Without a transit center, it also was hard for non-riders to view the IndyGo bus system as a viable form of transportation. What the city needed was a place that provided dignity to riders and functioned as a day-to-day piece of the urban environment.
Axis Architecture and Interiors designed the transit center — named for U.S. Rep. Julia M. Carson — and collaborated with IndyGo, the mayor’s office, and the former director of the Department of Metropolitan Development for the City of Indianapolis.
“We wanted to promote and enhance the entire experience of a rider,” said Drew White, co-founder of Axis. “[We] had to ensure that a person was never going to be in the elements.”
To protect riders from rain, snow, and sun, Axis constructed canopies over the 19 bus bays. The entire site is also fully accessible by way of ADA-accessible curb ramps, bridges, and flush-finished flooring, which allow for a seamless transition between the interior and exterior spaces.
The 14,000-square-foot building also has free Wi-Fi and public restrooms — amenities that are often taken for granted. Real-time bus information reduces the number of times a rider asks, “When is my bus going to get here?” And a partnership between IndyGo and the Arts Council of Indianapolis will bring live music and spoken word and performance art to the transit center, as well as at bus stops and on the buses themselves.
On the second floor, there is meeting space for IndyGo, a call center, and a conference room that overlooks the waiting area and the comings and goings of the city’s residents.
“Architecturally, we wanted to make something sculptural, with a lot of natural light,” said White, who described the transit center as “a glass box that rests lightly on the landscape.”
The amount of natural light on both the main and upper levels of the transit center reduces the overall need for electricity. Other environmentally friendly features Axis included in their design are solar panels, LED lighting, and the large roof overhang that reduces solar heat gain. High albedo (light-colored) paving and white thermoplastic roofing also reduce the urban “heat island” effect. And recycled materials are used throughout the building, which will be LEED Silver Certified.
The building’s sleek construction — which has been compared to the Indianapolis International Airport — complements the outdoor areas, which include curbside rain gardens, planted trees, and views of the Indianapolis skyline. Like the airport, the transit center serves as a portal to the city. Those who are traveling west on Washington Street are greeted by the transit center’s swooping canopies and modern architecture. In other words, it’s a gateway to downtown, and an amenity that provides an improved mass-transit experience for the people of Indianapolis.