Post by Steven Dale
Station Two (Yunus Emre Meydan Station) of the Yenimahalle Teleferik, as I stated in the last post, is by far the most innovative of the Ankara Cable Car’s stations. Taking up the entirety of an irregularly-shaped traffic island makes it unique beyond compare. There is simply no station that we know of that is configured in such a way.
In a way, that’s surprising. The land in the middle of traffic circles is generally treated as a liminal piece of land. It’s not that it’s unwelcome land, it’s that it is land that is rarely thought of at all because it’s subservient to its purpose. It’s generally just given over to a piece of bland public art, landscaped gardens, a water feature or any combination of the previous. It’s land that becomes little more than an expensive-to-maintain amenity that almost no one gets to appreciate.
After all, it’s not like pedestrians are ever seen wandering around the middle of a traffic circle enjoying a hedge maze and the drivers driving through the traffic circle should be paying attention to the road not to a bunch of water lilies in a fountain commemorating the 100 anniversary of Something-No-One’s-Ever-Heard-Of.
The idea, then, to use this empty space for a piece of elevated transit infrastructure is both inspired and obvious — and a bit of a wonder why we haven’t seen such a thing before.
The station platform, as it is elevated about one-and-a-half stories above grade, is accessed from the west, the east and the north. The western access point services the southbound platform and the eastern access point services the northbound platform. The northern access point, meanwhile, services both the northbound and southbound platforms.
The western and eastern access points include elevators and escalators, but strangely no stairways. This opens up a question of resiliency and redundancy. What happens in the event that the escalators are being out of operation or under maintenance?
This is where the station’s northern access point comes into play. In the event that the station’s escalators are out of service, both platforms may be accessed by the northern staircase. Admittedly, this isn’t the most elegant solution. At-grade pedestrian crossings appear haphazard and the stairway itself isn’t much to look at — but it is a manageable solution to the problem.
What is elegant, however, is the gangway connecting the western access point to the station. As the western access point is actually on the sidewalk on the outside of the roundabout, it was essential to find a means to move people over and above the traffic. Typically, gangways such as these are too utilitarian to even be called attention to, but the marble tiled bridge adds a wonderful drama to the station’s approach that recalls the ascent to platform level in Station One.
Like Station One before it, Station Two maintains the same ribbed white steel leitmotif with similar results. A lack of maintenance and cleaning has allowed significant deposits of dirt and dust to collect on the ribs, muddying what should be a much cleaner, slicker look. Station Two also has the same bare bones interior of Station One which as I said in the last post is less of a problem than it seems.
Unfortunately, Station Two also borrows from Station One the lack of attention to the urban fabric surrounding the station. There is simply nothing at grade. With Station One I can kind of understand it. After all, this is a station that straddles a very tight four-way intersection. There isn’t a lot of room for urban fabric upgrades. But in the middle of a traffic circle there is. And because the station is elevated and all of the access points and ticketing facilities have been shifted off to the sides almost the entirety of the traffic island is left vacant, still available for development.
Would such development upgrades be cost-prohibitive? Unlikely. That argument would usually hold water because typical urban design upgrades such as we’re discussing represent cost, nothing more. That’s the problem at Station One.
Furthermore, as I mentioned earlier, the middle of traffic circles have severe accessibility problems hence the rarity of them being subject to anything other than simple cosmetic upgrades. But here the accessibility problem has been solved from multiple directions, angles and levels.
We therefore have a situation here at Station Two, whereby there exists an opportunity to leverage what is basically worthless land, transform it into rentable square footage and connect it to the urban fabric thereby opening it up for retail uses. That square footage can be monetized through rent and ad revenue that should offset the marginal cost of the urban design upgrades.
That’s a workable model. Either system planners didn’t recognize the model or recognized it and chose to ignore it. Either situation is strange and worthy of further inquiry.
When you peer under the station you see in no uncertain terms how much wasted space there is. This was a massive wasted opportunity to take what is an already very-very-good station into the stratosphere of something close to perfect. There is just so much space available here and none of it is put to good use. Whether as a restaurant, a newspaper kiosk or a vegetable stand, this space is just screaming “use me for something!”
Instead we get nothing.
Well not exactly nothing.
It must’ve been clear to system planners that the lands in question could be put to some good use. As such, they’ve installed a sculpture of three white goats grazing—in a spot where there is no grass due to a lack of sunlight. I’m sure there must be some artistic statement behind that, but I’m equally sure that I’m not smart enough to understand what that is.
Station Two is perhaps the most frustratingly ironic piece of infrastructure I’ve seen in a long time. This structure was specifically designed to put to use a piece of underutilized land, only to waste the most valuable part of the land itself. It’s is in many ways an imperfect masterpiece. It portends what will come of urban gondola stations in the future without quite getting everything right.
It’s bizarre and wonderful in equal parts.
It also makes one wonder what other pieces of forgotten land in urban areas we could use for urban gondolas that can’t be leveraged by other technologies—and how we can craft them to maximum effect.
Want more? Purchase Cable Car Confidential: The Essential Guide to Cable Cars, Urban Gondolas & Cable Propelled Transit and start learning about the world's fastest growing transportation technologies.