Interchange Design for Seamless Travel

Rapid Transit System

Pawan Kumar, Ph.D. Scholar (CTRANS), IIT Roorkee and Asstt. T&CP, Town & Country Planning Organization, M/o Urban Development, Govt. of India, New Delhi. S.Y.Kulkarni, Professor " Head, Deptt. of Architecture & Planning , IIT Roorkee. M. Parida, Associated Faculty, Centre for Transportation Systems, IIT Roorkee.


Seamless travel is an important characteristic of urban transport system. Transfer is an essential part of multi– modal trip and traveler has to change modes at transfer nodes. Multi–modal Transport System (MMTS) is an integrated approach to incorporate all components of urban transport into a single coordinated, planning and operation system for efficient use of available transport resources and infrastructure to ensure better urban mobility within a wide range of modal options for the commuters. In fact, multi–modal transport system relates to single trip consisting of combination of modes i.e. vehicle modes (bus, metro, car, tram, etc.) or service modes (private/public) between which the traveler has to make a transfer. Multi–modal transport system has two basic components:
  • Integration and
  • Interchange
Integration is a key to sustainable and need responsive public transport. Integration of different modes is required at various levels. New modes of public transport i.e. Metro, Monorail, LRT etc. must be properly integrated. The current infrastructure i.e. BRT corridor, Low floor AC buses, operation through vehicle tracking system, central parking depots (every vehicle can be checked for clearness and fitness before going out for service) etc. are needed to be improved. The solution of traffic problems in metro cities demands the construction of public transport oriented infrastructure. Interchange is one of such infrastructures which promote seamless travel across the modes.

Interchange Design

Concept of Interchange

Interchange and seamless travel are now significant components of an integrated transport strategy. Interchange is an important key element in modern transport network and also a part of infrastructure which involves multi-modal activities. An interchange is thus one of the starting points of any public transportation ride and the first point of interaction the user has with the available public transportation service.

A bus or rail terminal or terminus, is the point at which a transport route starts or ends, where vehicles or trains stop, turn or reverse, and wait before depending on their return journeys, and where passengers board and alight from vehicles. It also often provides a convenient point from which services can be controlled. Hence it is essential that stations particularly interchange stations must not only be constructed as per design standards with adequate capacity, but also suitably located with all facilities and services (Iles, Richard 2005).

Guidelines for Interchange Design

Interchange is defined as people place, place of waiting and place of movement (access to access, change mode and direction). Interchange should be viewed not only as a form of movement infrastructure but as 'seeds' for the emergence of intensive, vibrant, urban nodes and as important elements of place making (Naude, S. et al. 2005).

Seamless Travel

The concept of interchange within the existing transport situation is to integrate the mechanical modes (either private or public) most suited for each stage to obtain overall a more efficient transport system. An unfortunate feature of the resulting interchange process, however, is the inconvenience and time spent transferring from one mechanical mode to the next. This is the penalty of transfer and it must be kept as low as possible for successful interchange (Bell, C. Margaret 1981). The general guidelines for interchange design are as follows:
  • Need assessment of interchange in transport network to fulfill its functions as per travel demand and mobility in different directions and areas.
  • Location of interchange on existing line hauls where there is efficient access to existing transport network. However, it may be located in places of high accessibility.
  • Location of interchange be associated with public space
  • Improvement of existing roads / construction of new roads
  • Access modes in order of priority i.e. walk, bicycles, feeder services, intermediate Para transit, etc
  • Size of interchange to meet expected peak demand
  • Interchange facilities and services
  • Perceptions and attitude towards interchange
  • Public awareness to encourage people for using of interchange
  • Minimum distance between bus stop/terminal and interchange station
  • Provision of automatic services at interchange station
  • Layout for seamless transfer with comfort, security and commuter's safety

Design Philosophy: Learning Experience

Delhi Metro Interchange Station

Delhi Metro Interchange Station

Operation of metro has given a strong image to public transport in Delhi. Integration of various modes with metro is a good choice for better mobility. Various transport infrastructure, facilities, etc are required to enhance public transport rider ship. For seamless transport system, interchange point need to be designed. Location of major interchange on Delhi metro line 2 is shown in Fig. No.2.

Delhi Metro Interchange Station Kashmere Gate

It is observed that interchange design is directed related to parking facilities (free/charged) at the station, access facility, egress facility, waiting and transfer time, single fare system, feeder services, etc. Various steps have been taken for integration of buses with metro but expect smart card ticket, there is no provision for integrated fare system between two different modes. However, escalators, lifts, ramps, etc are provided at metro stations for seamless transfer from one metro to another, one level to another and one direction to another, being in the same mode. Accordingly, interchange has been designed for seamless travel with maximum comfort.

Amsterdam Interchange Station, Dutch

In Dutch, the design of interchange station is generally based on the principle of one mode (transport) being grade separated so that it can cross another mode (transport) at an angle. It helps to create the possibility of easy interchange with the minimum of walking distance.

Amsterdam Interchange Station

Rail – Air Interchange at Amsterdam Schipol Airport

It is one of the best examples of Rail-Air Interchange Station which has various provisions to make travel more comfortable, efficient and seamless. Fig. 5 illustrates various components such as :
  1. Ticket sales desks for railway passengers
  2. The platforms are directly below the concourse, and these are the ways down to them
  3. There are several sets of lifts which link the concourse with the platforms. It is not just for special needs passengers but also to allow passengers with luggage on trolleys to gain access to the platforms. The lift has see-through walls. The visibility increases personal safety for lift users and deters those who might commit a crime if the lift had opaque walls.
  4. Right next door are the airport check-in and arrivals lounges. The view shows terminals one and two.

Interchange Station, Toronto, Canada

Toronto Interchange Station

In Toronto, bus and sub way station is combined and designed as interchange station. Street transport (bus) and subway (rail) are provided side by side. A well planned interchange design allows passengers to enter from street pass through ticket turnstiles and take either left turn for street transport or right turn for subway and vice versa. Bus stop within the station's 'fare paid' zone has advantage that when interchanging between the modes even single-trip 'cash' fare passengers do not need to pay a second fare.

Amsterdam Duivendrecht Interchange Station

It is an excellent example of interchange station between two rail services. Generally, the interchange between rail services may be either cross platform or same level. Cross platform interchange involves walks (little distance) across the platform to the other side. Same level interchange requires short walk along the passageway or to a completely different part of the platform. Amsterdam Duivendrecht Interchange Station has two levels: Upper Level and Lower Level.

Fig 7 A illustrates upper level of Amsterdam Duivendrecht Interchange Station.

Amsterdam Duivendrecht Interchange Station

It consists of two platforms which are used as interchange between metro and long-distance trains traveling in the same direction. It also visualizes that metro train is shorter in length and does not extend beyond the station roof.

Fig 7 B illustrates lower level of Amsterdam Duivendrecht Interchange Station. It has platforms for trains on different routes. The concourse is provided between these platforms which have lifts, steps, etc to connect upper platforms.

Concluding Remarks

Interchange design for seamless travel is much influenced by flow of commuters and traffic which further attract or repel other activities at both station and surrounding areas. Individual interchange includes volume, mix & type of passengers using the same, its hours of operation, character of surrounding and connecting areas, length of walkways, informal space, personal security, incompatibility of tickets, etc. In this context, good design is an essential ingredient to motivate passengers to find travel by public transport convenient, safe & enjoyable and hence architecture and interior design should always give priority to passenger needs.

An interchange design may provide clear routes between services or modes to minimize the time and efforts involved in making transfer. Route connecting the stations where passengers have to board and alight from public transports should be clearly and consistently identified. It helps to take decision regarding routes, direction of movement, guidance and reassurance for seamless travel. The use of visual aids, architectural treatments on the floors, walls, finishes, etc can provide better "way finding information". However, interchange design may take care of accessibility requirements of impaired passengers for seamless travel.


  • Bell, C. Margaret (1981), Passenger Transport Interchange: Car, Bus and Train in Traffic, Transportation and Urban Planning, International Forum Series Vol. II, George God Win Ltd., London.
  • Iles, Richard (2005), Public Transport in Developing Countries, Elsevier, Amsterdam.
  • Kumar, Pawan; Kulkarni, S.Y. and M. Parida (2009),Multi Modal Transport System in Urban India, Proceedings of National Conference on " Developing Harmonious & Sustainable Cities in India for a Better Urban Future" March 20-21, 2009, New Delhi, India.
  • Naude, S., Jones, J. et al. (2005), Design Guidelines for Public Transport Facilities, HHO Africa Infrastructure Engineers, Roggebaai.
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