Design Workshop Drums Up Ideas for High-Speed Rail

July 29, 2010

By Greg Aragon
This article first appeared on Engineering News-Record

Shovels, hammers or hard hats were nowhere in sight. Instead, hair curlers, buttons and paper clips were used to construct future train stations for California’s new proposed high-speed rail.

Held in Downtown Los Angeles on Saturday, July 17, the “groundbreaking” was part of an interactive community design forum to engage the public on high-speed rail.

The event was hosted by railLA, an organization comprised of the Los Angeles Chapters of the American Institute of Architects (AIA/LA) and the American Planning Association (APA-LA), created to raise public awareness about the future of high-speed rail.

“We are doing these workshops to get ideas from the public about what they want to see when high-speed rail comes to their neighborhood,” says James Rojas, urban planner and artist with railLA. “Do they want a Starbucks Coffee Shop, a park, an open space or housing? We want to know.”

During the forum the public was seated at tables stacked with piles of shiny bric-a-brac, including ice cream sticks, buttons, toy cars, plastic tubes, necklaces, hair curlers and more. They were then given 20 minutes to build their ideal high-speed rail station.

“The creation of small models helps participants of any age to articulate their desires publicly,” says Rojas. “Since there are no-right or wrong answers, all social barriers are broken down, thereby creating a friendly exchange of ideas.”

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The results of the workshops were creative and varied, with participants adding fountains, coffee shops, parks, movie theaters, bars and restaurants around the stations.

“My model is a tribute to Los Angeles,” says Philip Jones, a self-described “big supporter of high-speed rail,” who took the subway to event. “My station has a dome, an entrance with a lot of grass, a fountain and a couple of stars because it’s LA. I wanted to blend in with the neighborhood and still be dramatic.”

In January, California was awarded $2.25 billion, the largest amount for any state, in federal economic stimulus funds to develop a high-speed rail line running from Anaheim to San Francisco. The project, currently in the process of finalizing track alignments, will feature trains running up to 220 miles per hour. The $45-billion system is scheduled to start construction in 2012 and begin serving passengers between San Francisco and Anaheim in 2020.

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