Nearly a month ago now proposals were presented for the modernization of Ashby Station. Last week I posted some initial thoughts on the timing and structure of the meeting. But the actual presentation and plans deserve comment. The first part was presented by FMG Architects, who seem to do a lot of work for BART. After quickly going through a site analysis, they presented several major recommendations.
The first was to add a digital timetable at the entry outside. Basically it would take the real-time information already found at the platforms and put it on a large screen outside. This is a good idea that would make for a more civilized experience.
FMG also suggested reconfiguring the lighting. The idea was to hang a row lights from the ceiling along the length of the platforms, but it was unclear if this would replace, or merely enhance the existing lighting. Now it isn't saying much, but Ashby Station (image at top) is actually one of the better stations in the BART system. This stems from two main components: the natural light and visual connection it receives from the west entry and windows, and the vaulted, ribbed concrete ceiling that gives it an austere brutalist beauty. The proposal to drop lights from the ceiling would detract from these features.
The final major proposal was to add the word "ASHBY" in big building block-style letters above what looked to be shelters on the sidewalk on Adeline Street above. It is hard to describe, but if you took a typical bus shelter found at the Uptown Transit Center (image above), extended the spires up and placed large individual letters above each one, you'd have about what was proposed. The letters looked to be at least 10 feet square, and would have a huge negative visual impact in the neighborhood. Several commenters correctly noted how auto-oriented the sign was.
And it is, but aside from that, the identity problem with Ashby Station isn't that people driving over it don't know where the station is. The problem is, as SF Cityscape pointed out a while back, that people walking (and driving) in the immediate neighborhood a few blocks away might not know which direction the station is, or how to get there.
Unfortunately, SF Cityscape has been reconfigured, and the post on wayfinding near BART stations is no longer available. But I'd encourage you to click the link above anyways. If you do, you'll see some great maps produced pro bono, including one of a proposed downtown Oakland circulator. I'll save my thoughts on what should be done at Ashby Station for a future post, hopefully a bit sooner than the last.