New York’s Grand Central Station is world’s best for social and economic value

When it comes to a transit hub adding value to the city that is serves, Grand Central Station in New York City is a shining example.

When it comes to a transit hub adding value to the city that is serves, Grand Central Station in New York City is a shining example. The contemporary station needs to be so much more than just a place for travellers to arrive and depart. With urban populations increasing and footfall reaching new highs, the station is increasingly becoming a growing a destination in itself, providing ripple effect on the prosperity and investment in the surrounding area.

Grand Central along 42nd Street at dusk, New York City

Situated in the heart of Manhattan, Grand Central is fully embedded in the surrounding high density environment. More importantly, though, Grand Central itself and the area it sits in are socially appealing, attracting many types of visitor – be it commuters, businesspeople or tourists – which contribute economically to the wider city. All of this contributes to its high score in our index of global transit hubs, Modex, meaning it is that it is one of the most high-performing transit hubs in the world.

However, there are too few examples across the world where transportation infrastructure in this regard is failing and, in many cases, is not adding badly-needed social and economic value to its surrounding area. The facilities in and around a train station or airport increasingly make the area. It is for this reason that new transport hubs cannot be developed in isolation and must be integral to the area they serve.

Our benchmark of 21 of the world’s leading transit-related developments looks at four key indicators that come together to demonstrate the value that a station or airport can have on its wider area. Accessibility and comfort are crucial, as are the likes of the urban environment, social place-making and economic development. The index originates from Arcadis’ original approach to transit-related developments known as Mobility Oriented Developments (MODe).

Although Grand Central tops the ranking, our MODe approach highlights that there is further value to be unlocked from the hub to maximize its overall value. Its quality of public space, prosperity and revenue all score well, potential remains untapped in sustainability, property value and transit quality, if it is to achieve perfection.

Sydney’s Chatswood Station tops the urban environment ranking due to its high density surrounding built environment. This density, created predominantly from the number of tall buildings in the vicinity, make it a vibrant and engaging social area. Added to this Sydney Central assists the vibrancy of the area with just the right balance of mixed-use facilities available to citizens.

Overall, London King’s Cross St Pancras stations came second in the index due to good performance on sustainability measures. While in the social place-making rankings, Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) in the USA leads way with equally impressive scores for both the quality of its public space and the public facilities available.

Meanwhile, Brussels Midi shows a significant disparity in its scores. Although it scores relatively positively for its available amenities for those using the hub, its public spaces score poorly making it socially an unappealing area at certain times of the day. In Dubai’s Union Station the situation is reversed, it has a very high quality of public space available to those frequenting the station but it lacks the public facilities to make it as attractive as it could be.

Madrid’s Principe Pio experiences a striking difference in its scores across the three categories of the economic development indicator, with prosperity and property value performing far better than revenue.

When it comes to transit hub connectivity, Hong Kong comes second to Grand Central. The fact that both stations are well connected and offer many transfer possibilities in a highly concentrated area, contributes to their impressive scores.

Overall, it is clear that all of the transit-hubs analyzed have further potential value that can be unlocked using MODe. This evolution of transit-related development provides transit choices that connect and improve all parts of people’s lives and is about realizing the full value of transit hubs as a means of transportation, but also as a key to wider prosperity for citizens and investors alike.

By quantifying the qualitative values of a transit-hub we gain a better understanding of how multi-modal urban environments can work together. Helping to understand what characterizes a multi-modal urban environment, how the aspects of the environment relate and when the area is in balance.

MODe shifts the emphasis from single-minded rail mobility to the full range of mobility options available to citizens as they live, work, play and learn in high quality urban environments, from walking, cycling and bus, to BRT, LRT, metro and aviation. Where transit-related developments are traditionally designed to induce ridership, reduce driving, increase walking and biking, add convenience and increase density and overall encourage transit use, MODe takes it a step further. MODe looks to sustain that ridership, discourage driving, make walking and biking safe, and support convenience.

With this in mind, we believe that MODe can help cities tackle transport infrastructure and ensure that transit-hubs help lay the foundations for the mega cities of the future. A well-balanced MODe has the power to transform how we think about existing transport infrastructure and raise our aspirations for what transit hubs can achieve commercially, environmentally and socially. Using this holistic approach, we can truly begin to see the full value of our transport assets and how we can leverage them – not just for better returns, but better lives and better futures.

Bas Bollinger

Global Leader Rail & Urban Transport +31 6 27 06 04 14 Ask me a question