Smart Stations, Australia

Putting user needs at the heart of future station design

Train stations are at the heart of a public transport network. They are the gateways to the system and are central meeting places for many of our communities. They facilitate the movement of people, linking us with the places we live, work and play. For stations to fulfil their role as an integral part of our lives, and to respond to the diverse needs of both users and operators, they need to be smart.

Aurecon was invited to work with Transport for NSW (TfNSW) to explore and define a ‘smart station’. Part of the Transport Access Program (TAP), this project presented an exciting opportunity to move beyond typical compliance exploring how we might design modern, innovative transport networks which achieve TfNSW’s Future Transport Strategy 2056.

A smart station is flexible and responsive to the needs of its users, offering equity of access to all. It creates a strong sense of place, connecting to the local community. Most of all, it contributes to reliable and easy journeys, recognising the value of people’s time.

Our Smart Stations project focused on creating tangible ideas, enabled by technology that optimise functionality, increase sustainability and create easier, more enjoyable customer journeys.

Putting users at the heart of the design process

Our project team executed Aurecon’s unique people-centric Design to Innovate approach, focused on gaining an empathetic understanding of the key pain points affecting users and operators across the network. They soon came to appreciate that a ‘smart station’ is defined by more than just technology. Insights gathered by the team were fed directly into design criteria, ensuring that ideas reflected the needs of people at the heart of the transport network.

In addition to considering the needs of users, the project sought to increase network performance by developing solutions that facilitate effective touchpoints between infrastructure, people and technology, generating and using data to do so meaningfully.

Understanding user needs led to workable concepts

Following a ‘What Is’ workshop with TfNSW and Aurecon’s subject matter experts, the project team undertook extensive customer observations, customer and rail staff interviews, as well as workshops to define a ‘smart station’ and formulate design criteria.

From this, the team uncovered 57 insights which they grouped into 12 categories, along with four design criteria to guide ideation, centred on themes of reliability, responsiveness, intuition and intelligence.

The project generated over 180 initial ideas, refined down to 43 unique concepts. Assessed for feasibility, viability and desirability, 18 of these were shortlisted for their superior response to identified pain points. Aurecon’s Advisory team helped to identify high-level benefit and payback periods for each concept.

The shortlist of ideas was researched and honed further by subject matter experts and tested against the design criteria. The final ideas were then presented to TfNSW via a digital animation to support them pitching the ideas internally.

Our user-centric approach to this unique challenge has ultimately generated 14 conceptualised ideas proven to be desired by stakeholders, feasible to implement, and viable for TfNSW to create genuinely smart stations that have user needs at the heart of their design.

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