(adapted from “The Role of Transit in Creating Livable Metropolitan Communities”)

Transit can enhance destinations, helping to create community places by supporting existing spaces, as well as providing a place for new activities and services. A transit facility need not be just a place for transportation but can also become a setting for community interaction and a place that accommodates a diversity of people.

Linking transit to existing public places is the simplest, and probably the most obvious and common strategy. Transit agencies usually plan their stops so that they correspond to destinations like a main square or a public library or school. For a station to become a lively community center, however, it should not only be located at a public place, but the station should be truly integral to it. Pioneer Square in Portland, Oregon, is one of the premier examples in the country where transit is integrated into a public square known as “Portland’s Living Room.” Indeed, the two were designed at the same time.

By creating places where people come together, transit centers can create focal points for a variety of activities and service establishments, such as open-air fresh produce markets (see Chapter 6), coffee shops, newsstands, video store rentals, branch bank offices, heath clinics, and day care centers (Staples Street Station in Corpus Christi is designed to accommodate future small-scale retail). These types of uses need not be permanent. In Tucson, the downtown transit center is used twice a month as the center stage for “Downtown Saturday Night.” In Portland, the Portland Saturday Market, which is served by a Metropolitan Area Express (MAX) light rail line stop in the center of the market, is a vibrant weekend attraction and a parking lot during the week.

Transit centers, finally, can be links to the larger regional transit system. It is possible, for example, that a bus transfer center could include a staging area for employee commuter vans, a terminal for a local neighborhood circulator, and a taxi stand. Such centers are planned for LINC in Seattle.