What are the points to be focused on mass transport?

Fukuoka City Subway Nanakuma Line, connecting the city center and the western suburbs of the city from 2005, was planned and constructed with Universal Design in mind. To realize a comfortable and easy-to-use subway for everyone, the specialists in each area, such as the civil engineers and the architects worked on the concept of total design based on the same philosophy and concept of Universal Design, listening to the opinions of the transportation users.

Fukuoka City Subway Nanakuma Line

Due to the growing calls for the importance of the barrier-free concept, all people's comfortability and accessibility have been added as essential elements in public transportation since the mid-1990s in Japan, on top of safety and on-time performance. Later the concept developed to Universal Design, which is the design and composition of environment accessible and understandable by all people regardless of their age, size, ability, or disability. The laws related to this accessibility and usability for all people were successively legislated, such as Heart Building Law for in September 1994, then Transportation Accessibility Improvement Law in November 2000. Fukuoka City Subway Nanakuma Line was planned and constructed during such period, and the passenger cars and the stations were designed based on the universal design from the planning stage.

In the early planning stage in 1997, the surveys through questionnaires, and interviews with the general public, wheelchair users, parents with small children, pregnant and nursing mothers were conducted for more than a year. The surveys raised hundreds of problems that the people had experienced in using public transportation. Then the meetings to share views and opinions were held with the council for the associations of people having difficulties in physical, visual, mental, or hearing around Fukuoka City. And finally, the committee set the following four basic design objectives; 1. realization of bright spaces, 2. keeping the good visibility, 3. accessibility and usability for everyone, and 4. offering information easily understandable to anyone.

Lighting was considered as the most crucial element in the realization of bright spaces, especially in the underground, where natural light is not available. Luminous ceilings and walls were introduced for giving the feel of natural light in underground spaces. Yet, to take natural light into the stations as much as possible, the use of glass walls and open ceiling spaces were introduced in the entrance areas of most stations.

To keep good visibility, chamfered and fillet corners were introduced, and glass has been used in many areas, such as partition fences and doors. On the train, the doors between the cars are also full glass for good visibility. The concavity and convexity of the walls and ceilings were eliminated where possible, and the equipment was integrated with the interior. That also made it possible to place continuous handrails without disruption. And the coved ceiling on the platforms gives a feeling of spatial expanse.

For accessibility, it is designed to make traffic lines of wheelchair and stroller users to be minimum. The elevators are in front of the passenger-car door nearest to the wheelchair space of the train. The wide ticket gates facilitate the entry of wheelchair and stroller users, and the positions of elevator buttons and the height of ticketing machines are at the height that wheelchair users can use at ease. Two-level handrails, usable also by children, were placed at the stairs to the platform. And on the directional tactile pavers, paths for wheelchair users secure their smooth mobility.

Pictogram and color schemes were introduced for everyone to understand the instructions or information quickly. Foreign visitors who do not read Japanese can predict the information given by looking at the pictogram signs. Sign colors, for example, the station gateways are green, the color symbolizing this Nanakuma Line, and the departing passengers follow blue signs to the platform, and the arriving passengers follow yellow signs to exit, and the prohibition signs are in red. Each station has its own colors so the passengers can easily notice which station they are at from the color.

Thirty-three million passengers traveled on Nanakuma Line during the fiscal year of 2018 and experienced the universal design as well as safety and on-time performance. Upon the completion of the extension of this line to Hakata Station, scheduled during the fiscal year of 2022, more passengers are expected. This example in Fukuoka City shows an excellent example of how important to consider the opinions of the transportation users and reflect them in the project. That is a keyword to the universal design.

[Case ID: Urban Transportation UT-04]

Edited and photographed by Local Knowledge Platform LLC.