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Miami's Stairway to Heaven: Brightline


Intense traffic, gridlock on I-95 and delays from construction projects were ruining our beautiful town, but along came Brightline and now, everything is changing. The first privately owned, operated and maintained intercity passenger train, the Brightline, soon to become, Virgin (thank you Richard Branson), not only provides a much needed transit choice for Miami commuters, it's introduced beauty in transit design. Look out Europe (see my blog on Bordeaux's light rail).

Miami Central is the largest of the three train stations on the train line with the most dramatic design. Just look at this psychedelic stairway/escalator. The florescent colored lights that hug the top and bottom of the escalator railings are like nothing we've ever seen in Miami transit. And here begins the diagonal architectural design motif at Miami Central, which seems to be the unofficial brand of the private venture. You can see it inside, outside and even on the sidewalks leading into the building. It's not your mother's train station. Let's see what I mean.


Miami Central


The entrance is big with a bold design. What I like about this photo is the layering of diagonal lines. First it's on the sidewalk pavers. Gray and white stripes. Then it's mirrored on the underpass ceiling with the white diagonal lights. It continues on the building facade with the large, white, column like elements-- one seems to have a structural purpose, the other is decorative on either side of the Brightline sign. Something that could have been utilitarian and boring is transformed into something lovely and exciting which actually draws people in.

Miami Central

Sidewalk Pattern:

Here is a close up of the sidewalk pavers. From the moment you exit the parking garage, you are subtly guided to the station via this kind of yellow brick road. It's not as obvious as Dorothy's path, and the lack of signage makes it difficult for first timers to navigate, but it creates a cohesive design and sense of place.

Sense of place is what urban planners and architects use to describe cool places. When you feel as though you've arrived somewhere special and where all the buildings and spaces work to create one great thing, there's your sense of place. I think Miami Central has done a pretty good job at this. Let's see some more examples.

Miami Central

More Sidewalk:

I like how the drainage grate is perfectly placed in the center of the diagonal sidewalk pattern. It makes the pattern stronger and draws your eye to that simple yellow post with an extremely tiny directional sign. In this case a bigger sign might have been better.

The vertical palm trees frame the sidewalk, together with the building on the left and this also helps to highlight the diagonal paving pattern.


Miami Central

Bike Racks: Nothing diagonal about this bike rack, but the design is beautiful-- the frame seems to grow out from the ground and mimics the shape of the bicycle wheels. It's a modern adaptation of what could have simply been utilitarian and banal.


Miami Central

The Underpass Entrance:

Let's go inside to the main entrance. The diagonal sidewalk pattern continues and a vertical diagonal is introduced. I think it's safe to say that Miami Central's brand is this lovely diagonal motif. The exterior columns are diagonal. The station's glass wall slants on a diagonal. The building across the street has the same diagonal line. I think you get it.

Miami Central

First and Last Mile Solved:

Ever heard of first and last mile? In transportation, the larger regional and intracity transit, is as important as the first and last mile. Don't get it? Think of it this way. Once you get to your destination--downtown Miami--how do you get to your meeting or your lunch or your conference or hotel? Well, at Miami Central, all you need to do is wait at this nifty Lyft station or be so bold (and crazy) to rent a Citibike and bike your way through downtown Miami.


Miami Central

Step Back Inside:

An instagramable moment people. A cool ode to the Miami area code sits against some serious graphic eye candy. Gray and white floor pattern and windows that slant out. It all works really well together.


Miami Central

Maxing Out Advertising Space:

And as if the escalator, stairs, windows and flooring wasn't enough, one spectacular light filled billboard wrapped around a diagonal column. One day, I'd love to see this in our Metrorail station.


Miami Central

Lessons Learned:

Not all transit has to be bland, boring and drab. While the trains are typically the centerpiece of transit, here, at Miami Central, the station is just as eye popping. Inside and out, the station is bold, flashy and fun. And, as much as possible, this flair is carried out around the station in the sidewalk pattern and the street furniture. It builds both brand recognition and helps people navigate around the station.

Miami Central proves it's possible to make transit fun, modern and attractive.

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