Rising above – Vertical mobility arrives

Sydney’s new 66-kilometre Metro will bring 40,000 people into the city every day in a major boost for jobs and growth. But the 31 stations that anchor it all will have just as powerful an impact on the city skyline and suburbs above them as they attract investment, development and urban renewal.

Urban transportation in Sydney

“Building a metro station or a high-rise building in isolation, without consideration of the opportunities to link public investment with public benefit, is just a wasted opportunity.”

It is a sign of the emergence of over station development – or “metro precinct activation” as it is also known, as a powerful new force for cities to manage rapid urbanisation by increasingly blending the opportunities offered by new towers, mobility and value capture in ever more constrained and expensive urban sites.

Key to their success is the opportunity to plan, design and build new mobility hubs, towers and urban habitat simultaneously. By better leveraging public and private sector partnerships and investment, it significantly boosts the capacity to deliver seamless transport, commercial and residential connections in re-invigorated city precincts.

Mobility is absolutely crucial to successful cities as they become denser. But we need to shift the focus from purely transport or purely towers to much broader investment, economic and urban design considerations to create thriving, sustainable communities.

Building a metro station or a high-rise building in isolation, without consideration of the opportunities to link public investment with public benefit, is just a wasted opportunity.

Unfortunately, many transport hubs or tall buildings have done just that; however increasingly cities and developers are creating smarter connections between the two. From London’s Shard to New York’s Grand Central Station, the Riyadh Metro, Madrid’s Principe Pio, Kuala Lumpur’s Central or Kowloon Station in Hong Kong, there’s now growing evidence that over-station developments are powerful economic and cultural catalysts. Hong Kong’s Kowloon Station with its airport, rail, bus and pedestrian links is a prime example, having attracted the construction of some of the region’s tallest office and residential towers and busiest retail.

Sydney’s metro stations are expected to do the same, with the Martin Place metro station in the heart of the city – proposed by global investment bank Macquarie Group – one of the best examples in response to the Sydney 10 Metro Project. A seamless transport, pedestrian and retail concourse linking new and existing metro rail lines below ground will be topped by a 200m tower and reinvigorated commercial, shopping, public, cultural and dining spaces above.

Martin Place also rethinks just how new urban development should happen. By assuming the costs of the new Metro, Macquarie Group hopes to significantly reshape the adjoining precinct and air space in a critical evolution of how public and private partnerships will need to be formulated in the future.


Key to vertical mobility is integration. Planning transit and urban development opportunities as a unified project with embedded public and private partnerships vastly expands the chances of delivering a world class experience for passengers and the city, but it does not come without its challenges.

Building metro stations, complex underground thoroughfares and soaring high rise buildings where costs, regulations, heritage, traffic and public interests often collide requires efficient and detailed planning and design.

New opportunities for vertical mobility also ask us to discard the customary approaches to development and investment in favour of more innovative, flexible and inclusive solutions that drive connections in all senses of the word.

A global benchmark of urban land use at transit interchanges by Arcadis and CallisonRTKL provides a compelling snapshot of some of the world’s most successful transit adjacent developments based on the comprehensive strategic planning framework – Mobility Oriented Development (MODe).

MODe sets out to better understand, develop and design what are broadly known as mobility oriented developments in cities by applying four main “values” – transit hub accessibility and comfort, urban environment, social placemaking, and economic development, to help drive the broader investment, design and social imperatives inherent in building on and around stations.

MODe is really the first model to clarify what drives successful urban precincts, linked with transit investment. The framework allows early insight into maximising an integrated transit hub, and in turn high-rise investments, so that planners and developers work together to create sustainable, interconnected cities.

You can read more insights on the rise of vertical cities and tall buildings from Arcadis and CallisonRTKL’s global experts at www.arcadis.com/tallbuildings

Kevin Brake

Technical Director of Urban Regeneration at Arcadis Ask me a question
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