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06.24.2014
Floating Transit
SOM creates an elevated train station for Florida's high-speed rail program.
Courtesy SOM

As flashy, glass towers pull Downtown Miami ever skyward, SOM has unveiled plans for a transit hub that floats 50 feet above terre ferme. The 1,000-foot-long Miami Station sits atop reinforced concrete trusses and is set to become a cornerstone in Florida’s long-awaited, inter-city, express rail. The station—which has retail and restaurants—is just one third of a 3-million-square-foot development site that includes new residential and commercial towers, which will be phased-in after the station is completed.

Pending the finalization of financing, All Aboard Florida—the private company bringing the rail system to the Sunshine State—expects to break ground on SOM’s $150 million station this fall. And, according to a prospectus recently obtained by the Palm Beach Post, All Aboard expects to start running 32 daily trips on the tracks in 2016.

 
 

The planned commuter service, which is built primarily on existing freight rail, runs 235 miles between Orlando and Miami with stops in Florida and West Palm Beach – SOM is designing those stations as well. For Miami Station, SOM worked alongside Zyscovich Architects to create an intermodal hub that connects All Aboard’s service with Downtown Miami’s people mover and the city’s larger mass-transit system. In total, the station is predicted to serve 12 million people in Miami and 42 million across the state.

The two firms raised the station’s rails to keep the street-grid intact and allow for restaurants and retail. This positioning is also intended to create a sense of openness in a neighborhood with staggering density. “We characterize it as a land bridge,” said Roger Duffy, a design partner at SOM. “It connects the courts district of Miami to the emerging cultural district.”

 

For the station itself, SOM created a light-filled terminal to make the experience of commuting more intuitive. As Duffy and SOM’s Kristopher Takacs explained, the best transit hubs of Europe and Asia tend to have high-ceilings and airy spaces where commuters do not need to rely on signage. They tried to replicate that in Miami.

The architects believe that making the station commuter-friendly and architecturally distinct are both vital components in its ultimate success, because, while the upfront funding appears to be secured, there is no guarantee that people in Florida will embrace this mode of transportation. Takacs said that in order to secure ridership, the experience of using the station has to be extremely desirable. “Part of that is creating a door-to-door experience that is built around hospitality and that also allows you to arrive at an urban destination,” he said.

Henry Melcher