The transport complex at COEX includes a large underground bus facility. I wrote about a similar bus transit terminal in Jamsil. Underground bus stations are planned for Sejong City’s BRT system, too. A preview of such bus transfer facilities gives us the Gwanggyo underground bus station. It also reveals big flaws and problems of that concept.
On April 29, the underground bus station at Gwanggyo Jungang Station in Suwon opened. We mentioned the construction of the facility in the post about the southern extension of the Shinbundang Line. In the cross-section profile of the station you can see the bus station on the first lower level and the subway station on the second and third lower levels.
The whole facility is around 500 meters long. Buses enter on both sides through two lanes in the center of the road:
Private cars aren’t allowed to enter the facility. Inside the underground facility there is enough space for two buses next to each other.
Passengers can access the bus station through the same entries as the subway station. This is the first impression of the underground bus station:
The doors reminded me of subway safety doors. It is a huge complex with a lot of light and glass walls facing the bus road. The doors have sensors on the road side, so that they open automatically when a bus stops in front of them. There is a door at the front for people getting on the bus and a wider door a few meters left for people who get off the bus. The waiting hall provides a lot of benches for people.
The map shows eight platforms (or gates) for each direction and a pedestrian crossing in the center. The pedestrian crossing has doors, too. It can be only entered when the traffic signal for pedestrians turns green.
The airport limousine bus at Gate 1 is a bus from Yongin Express Terminal to Incheon International Airport. Actually, the airport limousine didn’t use to stop here. The route was changed in order to have more buses at the underground bus station. Gate 2 to 4 is for express buses and Gate 5 to 8 are used by local buses.
On paper it looks like an active and well-served bus station with two to three buses per gate. But the problem is that none of the buses operates at a high frequency. The Gyeonggi and M-buses pass by every 20 or 30 minutes and some of the local buses have one vehicle per hour.
Displays at the underground bus station show the arriving time of buses and trains of the Shinbundang Line. It emphasizes the importance of the connectivity between bus and subway.
Even greater are the digital screens at each gate. Besides arrival times, they have an interactive map, bus routes, camera function and information about the area.
Future of Bus Transit?
Korea promotes the development of underground bus transit hubs because a small bus shelter isn’t enough to satisfy the large amount of bus passengers. The bus stations on median lanes have also many limitations. For example, they cause a huge queue of buses and people having trouble to see their bus (a solution exists though). An underground bus station is a convenient system for passengers. Waiting for the bus in heat, cold or rain is going to be a thing of the past.
A main advantage of the system should be that it speeds up bus operation. The buses should pass through the station and quickly allow people to get on or off the vehicle. While the Gwanggyo underground station passes under an intersection, the pedestrian crossing inside the bus facility slows down the buses. I imagine that many people are going to use the crossing because the vast majority of people live on the southern side but buses to Seoul or Suwon city stop on the northern side of the station.
The energy demand of the facility is huge. Ventilation, automated doors, monitors and cameras are everywhere. Heating and cooling is also going to be a big long-term burden. I observed that all doors opened due to a very slow-passing bus. In winter, this issue will cause cold air to easily get into the station.
The underground bus facilities will help to secure ridership and raise attractiveness of buses. Not every station can be transformed to this new system but it is an effective measure for larger transport hubs. The Gwanggyo Jungang Station shows the first generation of such facilities. I hope that the next underground bus stations or terminals will be even better. The potential of such a system is huge if it is combined with bus-only median lanes.