Where are the Humans? Planners need better visuals to sell transit as a city building tool

Tamim Raad, Principal, Access Planning

Vibrant Edmonton community...brought to you by LRT.

Vibrant Edmonton community...brought to you by LRT.

Cities around the world are putting light rail transit in the street. They're doing it with intention, to build great cities. To build cities where transit - visible on the street - helps to connect people seamlessly to vibrant places, with housing, jobs and community amenities all just steps away.

So why do images promoting LRT most often, and most prominently, feature the train as the primary selling point? Planners, engineers and advocates have for too long been conditioned to feature the train as the hero in city building. But this doesn't help to sell the public or stakeholders on the vision.

Now, admittedly, this shot of LRT in Australia's the Gold Coast isn't all that charitable, but it is also not all that uncommon. It's actually pretty close to the norm. There a no people anywhere - not even on a driver the train! Just a train moving through an uninspired space.

Gold Coast LRT - where are the humans?

Gold Coast LRT - where are the humans?

We need less of this. After all, who wants to live in that intersection?

In my research for a client, I recently came across a outstanding rendering by Perkins+Will and Nelson/Nygaard for the City of Edmonton. Now this is a place I want to be. And transit I want to invest in. It's compelling -- lively city in the foreground, transit in the background helping to make it all happen.

Planners and engineers need to create (and decision-makers demand) visuals like this to support their communication and to make a clearer case for rail transit that is part of a healthy street and city.

We need more of this. Great streets brought to you by great transit.