UNDERGROUND PEDESTRIAN NETWORKS (UNDERGROUND SPACE FOR PEOPLE)

                                                              

UNDERGROUND PEDESTRIAN NETWORKS (UNDERGROUND SPACE FOR PEOPLE)

Associated Research Centers for the Urban Underground Space (ACUUS)
Solution proposed by: 
ACUUS and many metropolises in the world with a subway (Montreal, Tokyo, Chicago, Toronto, Helsinki, Hong Kong, Paris, Moscow, Singapore,…)
In a Nutshell: 
Indoor or underground pedestrian networks are like TOD in central areas, linking major buildings, subway and train stations with tunnels underneath streets. They may provide public and commercial amenities inside connected buildings. They may be open at the same subways operating hours and help at densifying the city and reducing car usage.
Where and When: 
One of the oldest (since 1962) and still one of the best examples is located in Montreal with the Underground City (called RESO). Other good examples of indoor pedestrian networks are in Chicago (a network called PEDWAY), Toronto (a network called PATH) and in most of the Japanese cities.
Challenges: 
In many countries, underground space development relates to a traditional public utilities building practice and much less to a comprehensive urban planning process. The first has left behind, and continues often to left, a legacy of an overall congestion brought by the uncontrolled invasion of tubes, pipes and tunnels. The need is felt worldwide for a comprehensive planning of cities which is taking in consideration the urban underground space. This implies, among other challenges, changes in laws and regulations governing property rights, but also a responsible and coordinated action of public bodies as regards the development of the urban underground.
Innovation: 
Indoor pedestrian networks are one of the tools available to cities having a subway that reduce the ecological footprint of individual transport and better fight against climate changes. These pedestrian networks specifically allow an increase in the interest for public transport and greater densification of already urbanized areas. They act as an extension of metro and railway stations and increase their users pool in central areas while promoting the development of new economic activities (utilities, office buildings) as well as social ones (indoor public places) that will connect to them.
Concept: 
Most of the underground structures in urban areas are located in the shallow layer, like tubes for public utilities, tunnels for transportation and underground projects dedicated to host people. The last can be (1) stand‐alone projects, like a basement, (2) connected buildings to a train or subway station, (3) indoor pedestrian networks, which are several buildings and train or subway stations connected together by pedestrian tunnels, and (4) underground cities which are indoor pedestrian networks but at a larger scale, with indoor activities (commercial, educational, public,…) along the system. They represent four different realities in term of planning, design and operation, and all four are the physical extension of the city above and are participating to the city life at the surface. However, in many cities, we find underground pedestrian systems linking some office buildings to a train station or a parking, which are often closed or empty after business hours. They are like labyrinths, quite unsafe and they give sometime a bad image to the underground when a safety problem occurs. A development at human scale is required in any underground space project and to achieve it, planners and architects have to design it for people
Description: 
We are using the example of the Montreal “Underground city”, one of the largest indoor pedestrian networks, but the concept is already used and can be transferable to major metropolises in the world having a subway. In Montreal, since 1962, a 32 kilometers indoor pedestrian network has been continuously developed by the City in partnership with the downtown landowners. Under a City supervision, these last have invested ($) alone in the development and management of this public pedestrian network which is linking together 62 buildings and ten subway and train stations in the CBD. It is a good example of an original public - private partnership in which developers gained potential clientele from a direct subway station access as well as an added value to their building, while citizens are gaining a better protected and direct access to their workplace and commercial areas. Like on the street, it offers free public areas, in which users can walk, relax, meet others, and even find places of recreation and entertainment. It is truly complementary to social life outside, and this is particularly true during the cold winter months (the same is also right for too hot and humid cities). Today, after 54 years of development of its Underground city, Montréal finds itself with a unique urban infrastructure, paid for without having to dig into its capital assets budget nor its operating budget for ongoing supervision and maintenance of the pedestrian network. Its underground city succeeded in extending the commercial and socio-cultural activities of its downtown area over 12 months a year. Unlike most of other CBDs empty after office hours, the Montreal one has streets alive, bustling and more safe thanks to its indoor pedestrian network.
Impacts: 
Downtown users can walk safely within such network at no cost between their destination and subway or train stations. Because they are protected from inclement weather, the impact for the subway operator is an increasing of people using mass transit. It is also advantageous for linked building owners as they benefit from the free pedestrian traffic generated by the subway. For the municipal government, it helps at reducing car-pedestrian conflicts at intersections, decreasing demand for parking and at reducing air pollution. Also, CBD retains vitality, as commerce have now to compete with suburb shopping centers and online ecommerce.

Photo Gallery

Artist: Pierre Brignaud (2003). Painting representing the underground space in the international district (QIM) in Montreal
Photographer: Jacques Besner (2015). The public atrium of the Complexe Desjardins in Montreal (part of the Underground City)
Source: Société de Transport de Montréal (STM) (2015). The official map of the RESO (name of the Underground City)