Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Montreal part 5: Métro station look and feel

Welcome to Part 5 in the series "What I learned in Montréal," documenting the day trip a friend and I took in May to check out Montréal's cycling and transit infrastructure for lessons that can be applied in Ottawa. Previously, in Part 4, I talked about our brief look at the bus system.

Station design is one of the few things the public is being consulted on for Ottawa's Transit Tunnel system, most other aspects of the system resembling a foregone conclusion. While I discussed more of the functional aspects of station design in Part 3, in this post I'll look at some of the more aesthetic aspects of station design.

Many of the station entrances used diner-style flipping doors, such as these at Place-d'Armes. Apparently they are useful in dealing with the significant changes of air pressure that occurs when a train pushes into and out of the station. Otherwise, the doors would be very difficult to open when a train arrives.

Each station had a unique look, and many had artistic motifs on the walls. At Henri-Bourassa station, there were some neat terra-cotta patterns that raised out of the walls.

At Outremont station, there is an installation called "light well"--as in a well of light--that brings light all the way down to the platforms. Because of these efforts, the Métro's deep stations are much more open and welcoming than Toronto's, which are shallower but much darker and more cramped. I've got a photo of the ground level end of this light well coming up in part 7 of this series.

At Charlevoix--which has the deepest platform in Montréal's system, another scheme to brighten up the depths of the station is this faux-stained glass motif on the light well alongside the escalators to the mezzanine level.

Further down Charlevoix, switching from light themes to darker ones, this service passageway is gated off from the platform, but still in plain view. You can see the last little bits of light coming down the light well that didn't spill out of the coloured windows. I suspect it also functions to balance the air pressure between the stacked platforms.

The Jean-Talon station has platforms on both the orange and blue lines. As a subtle but clear way of informing passengers of which line they're on, the Sialex floor tiles are coloured accordingly. You can see the blue stripe leading to the escalator down to the blue line platform.

On the blue line platform, which intersects with the orange line one level down, there are blue tiles. A two-storey mural covers the wall of the opening looking down from the orange line.

Not all platforms have large open spaces. The Place d'Armes platform is just one floor below the entrance we saw at the top of the post. As a result, it has a relatively low ceiling. Nevertheless, the side platform configuration and bright lighting keeps the station open.

Back again at Outremont station, the open area and wide balcony reminded me of a brutalist version of the extravagant Moscow metro.

The Place-des-Arts station is very bright, and the perimeter balcony reminds me of the Carlingwood library. You'll also note the blue light, which indicates the location of the emergency telephone.

In the discussions for the Ottawa tunnel stations, one of the suggestions was to leave the excavated rock exposed. There was some romantic notion used to justify this idea, which is really just a cost-saving measure. On this escalator bank heading down to the yellow line at the Berri-UQÀM station, the ceiling is finished with a nice, clean geometric pattern.

Benches are another element that can define the style of a station. Montréal's métro platforms have many benches, and each station has a unique design of bench to match the station's style. By contrast, I was in Toronto last week, and the subway platforms have very few benches and they are an afterthought to the station design. Many waiting passengers squatted on the ground, even just for a couple of minutes.

While some stations had benches just sticking out from the wall, some had recessed areas for benches, presumably to allow other passengers to walk by unobstructed:

The walls of Place-des-Arts platforms are angled, again allowing lots of room for others to walk past:

The benches are made of sturdy blue materials:

One of the items brought up at a meeting on the design of stations was the relationship between benches and terrorism. One participant suggested that benches should be designed so that bags can't be left underneath them, lest they contain suspicious materials (this after concerns about homeless people leading bench design to prevent people use the tops of them either). So these little square marble ones at Charlevoix would be okay (though maybe not--there's a gap behind them)...

...but these stone benches at Outremont would be out.

There were a few stations with rather peculiar designs. These yellow bucket seats at Côte-Sainte-Catherine meet the can't-leave-anything-underneath-them requirement, but look very uncomfortable.

These seats at Plamondon remind me of Playskool toys, but otherwise look utterly uncomfortable. Points for creativity, I guess.

While a discussion on bench design may not be to everybody's fancy, well-designed benches contribute to each station's unique look and identity, which in turn can help passengers navigate the system. In the next post in the Montréal series, I'll talk about bicycles and the Métro. In the meantime, why not catch the game on the big screen on the platform at Lionel-Groulx?


  1. Great series of reading people's opinions and observations on my city!!

    Check out my Montreal photo blog...I have a few pics of the metro in there as well.

  2. In the discussions for the Ottawa tunnel stations, one of the suggestions was to leave the excavated rock exposed. There was some romantic notion used to justify this idea, which is really just a cost-saving measure.