The employees are great but the LRT system is inefficient by design. I am not talking about the routing; I will save that for another post. I just want to make a quick comment about the heating system at Belvedere Station, and to provide some additional thoughts on design. Although the same style of heating system is found at most stations, the inefficient design at the Belvedere LRT Station is particularly egregious. The Belvedere LRT Station uses suspended electric heaters and the warmth is blown out the station almost as fast as it is produced, providing little comfort to the rider. The poor design in the heating system is emblematic of greater problems in the LRT design.
Those familiar with this station will know that this is the station that makes you climb a mountain of stairs before you hurriedly descend another set, lest you miss your train. I’ve just about rolled an ankle in the process a few times. Because when you miss your train, you wait. And wait. Sometimes personal injury is just part of the equation that the rider must grapple with: prepare to sprint if you want to make it to your destination on time.
The user experience of this station fails on multiple levels, including the station’s interfacing with the outside world, and I’m talking about more than just lack of heat. Besides the aforementioned stairs, the main doors are placed oddly, so that they are not convenient to anyone, as they do not orient toward any of the directions from which the riders will arrive. Even those from the bus drop-off area have to walk unreasonably far and execute a tight turn.
As a picture says 1000 words, I’ve included a picture (with additional words embedded), and so, to convey my disappointment in the station design, have a gander at the following 1017 words:
Further, for reasons of space, the picture does not show the poor orientation to Fort Road, and the station’s misalignment with pedestrian crossings (which are already quite irregular on Fort Road). As an exercise, I suggest that one take a look on Google Earth, examine the placement of this station, and marvel at how it could be so much better.
When Council is in charge of design, we consistently get substandard results. Take the stairs at the University LRT Station as an example. Why does one have to descend them to the first sub-level, and then arc far around to the get to the next set of stairs to descend further, and then do this again? For those using this station every day, this adds hours to your life and frustration as you compete with speed walkers, slow walkers, and the texting-while-walking obstacles, and navigate around large groups talking and random people loitering: lost, confused, or rendezvousing with others who have yet to arrive. We have re-created the hectic nature of Grand Central Station with only 1% of the ridership, and this is not an achievement.
Almost everyone else who has ever designed stairs has put all of the storeys of stairs into a single uninterrupted system. Taking the stairs should be a seamless experience that does not require negotiation of landings and various entry points. LRT stations should be designed to accommodate a lot of people at one time and be utilitarian: wide hallways, clear signage, and effective heating.
Heating the Outdoors
The Belvedere LRT Station heats the platform with overhead heaters that are quite high up. I estimate them to be mounted 20 feet above the platform, with another 20 feet of empty space above that before reaching an uninsulated roof structure. While the heat radiates down, it has a long way to reach the platform, all while fighting the propensity for warm air to rise. If this was not enough, the whole station is effectively a wind-tunnel. There is literally no southern or northern wall on the station, and this is not Southern California. There are no architectural features designed to limit wind from howling through, or even to break it up slightly. As soon as the wind comes, the heat is scooped up and ejected into oblivion. The waste in energy must be enormous, and such an inefficient system goes a long way toward nullifying any environmental benefits that the LRT offers. The only advantage that the station provides is shelter from rain and snow.
If the outdoor platform is going to be heated, effective immediately, the heating system should be changed to human-level radiators and the gaping openings to the station should be sealed to the extent possible.
But to think that this is the only example of waste in the system is to be a fool. I work near the Kingsway LRT. Infield, where the tracks now eternally divide the Central McDougall neighborhood, there is a non-descript furnace that pumps constant heat into the winter air to keep a switch ice-free. No one would notice this if they did not know what to look for, and I pray that homeless people do not discover its warmth, for their safety would be in jeopardy. I cringe at the waste when I walk by this mechanical feature, but I shake my head when I realize that there are hundreds of these along the whole LRT system. We boast about being a Winter City and we try to design our city accordingly, but I don’t think heating the outdoors 24/7 should be in the gambit of practices. Certainly, moving parts have to stay warm, but when all is said and done, and the final bills are in, a stronger case could be made for putting the train underground (we have to grapple with the difference between construction costs and operational costs). I have an alternate proposal that I will be introducing on this blog shortly. Currently, the public transit system is a mess, and Edmontonians deserve better.
Question: How else can we make the system more efficient?
Answer: Consult bus and train operators and everyone else that works in transit. These people have answers that we are not listening to.
North Side Journal