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Transit Architecture in the COVID-19 Era

How can public transportation systems evolve to support resilient responses to public health and other related crises?

By and


July 8, 2020

As governments and transit agencies forcefully respond to COVID-19, the need to rapidly and expansively change urban environments is clear. It is incumbent on transportation designers to consider this need for change holistically, and to transform the built environment in ways that will improve the health and safety of future generations.

While urban areas have traditionally been held up as examples of economic and environmental progress, they also play a central role in the rapid spread of highly infectious diseases, including COVID-19. Subway systems, bus networks and train stations enable modern urban patterns, and the ability of cities to adapt to change and combat public health crises, now and in future, depends largely on the resiliency of these systems. The following design elements could improve the function and safety of public transportation:

  1. A simplified and streamlined station experience: removing unnecessary transactions and high-touch surfaces, while providing new kinds of station amenities, including screening areas and sanitizing stations.
  2. Flexible and resilient space that allows for agility in transit operations: designing for multiple scenarios, and maximizing both interior and exterior spaces to allow for physical distancing and enhanced screening / ticketing.
  3. Station architecture that incorporates new standards of safety and hygiene: analysis of station capacity, improved air quality, antimicrobial surfaces, and enhanced signage that supports both regular transit operations and a potential emergency mode.

In the wake of past pandemics, city-builders, designers and planners took on the challenge of transforming public infrastructure to create safer and more vibrant cities. Our next task as designers is to continue this tradition as we re-think the transit environment.

Read Charlie and Welland’s extended guide. 

10 Transportation Design Solutions for the COVID-19 Era

Charlie Hoang is an architect with 20 years of experience. Over his career, he has built an impressive portfolio of award-winning transit projects that include at-grade stations (Cumberland Bay Station, Victoria Park Station), underground stations (Ottawa LRTEglinton LRT, TTC Finch and Union), and service buildings (EEBs, second exits, and maintenance facilities). His responsibilities span all project phases including architectural design; project and design management; client relations; development of functional layouts and design concepts; value engineering; technical advisory and code compliance coordination between consultants, city officials, and third parties.

Welland is an architect with over 10 years of experience in major public transportation projects. Prior to joining IBI Group, Welland gained a diverse background in architecture, graduating from McGill University and working at firms in both Toronto and Montreal. Within IBI Group’s Transit Architecture Studio, Welland has played a key role on projects in Israel, Canada and the United States. Working in both the Tel Aviv and Toronto offices has given Welland a global perspective on the practice, gaining firsthand experience with unique design constraints and diverse construction methods. With local experience in multiple jurisdictions, Welland applies his skills as a team leader and designer to all phases of the project.

Headshot of Charlie Hoang

Written by Charlie Hoang

Director | Transit Architecture Lead, Buildings
Toronto, ON
Headshot of Welland Sin

Written by Welland Sin

Associate Director | Practice Lead, Architecture
Toronto, ON
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