Beautiful, memorable, and iconic—all words that describe a piece of the Bay Area’s transit infrastructure: the Golden Gate Bridge. Visitors come for a glimpse of it, and residents view it as a unifying icon of their city.
Montogmery Station, San Francisco – The Bay Area’s most used public space is drab and uninspiring.
But how beautiful and inspiring is the Bay Area’s underground transit system? We celebrate the timeless design of the Golden Gate Bridge (which carries 100,000 cars daily) and settle for the drab functionality of our BART and Muni subway stations (which carry 500,000 riders daily).
BART is preparing to revitalize its 44 stations for the first time in 40 years. SubArt, a local nonprofit organization, is working with community members and the transit district as they deliberate the extent of BART’s aesthetic overhaul, with the intent of transforming these heavily travelled public spaces to reflect the cultural energy, innovation, and aesthetics of the region.
Munich U-Bahn, Georg-Brauchle-Ring station – Bold design and immersive art gives this vibrant station a unique identity, builds civic pride, and attracts riders.
Since the early 1900s, forward thinking cities around the world have transformed daily travel through the integration of art into station design making subway systems memorable destinations. Station aesthetics include everything from traditional murals and sculpture to artistic lighting, temporary exhibits, and performance spaces.
Toledo Station in Naples, Italy – Riders are willing to walk farther and pay more to use a station enhanced with art. Photo by Rachel Dinno Taylor.
Yes, the BART budget is limited; the system must build new stations, perform routine maintenance, as well as purchase new cars. However, studies investigating the impact of art in transit have proven that it is not just a pretty “nice-to-have” addition; rather, it’s a powerful tool that can have a massive effect not only on rider behavior, safety, and public perception but it can also increase economic activity and investment in the areas surrounding stations. By transforming a station into a neighborhood icon, it becomes a destination rather than a waiting room, increasing the sense of place, encouraging revitalization in the surrounding neighborhood, and boosting the transit system’s revenue through increased ridership by commuters, weekend visitors, and tourists alike.
It happened in Paris—think of the iconic Art Nouveau subway entrances; in Stockholm—where the transit system is known as the world’s longest gallery; in Spain—where the world-renowned Norwegian architecture firm Snøhetta designed a cutting edge portal to San Sebastian’s underground system, and in many other global cities around the world. Metro systems in Paris, Munich, Taiwan, and Naples created large-scale designs by including artists and designers in the earliest stages of station planning and renovation.
Powell Street Station, San Francisco – As BART prepares to revitalize stations system-wide, now is the time to speak up and ask: Why not in San Francisco? Photo by Rachel Dinno Taylor.
In New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and other cities throughout the U.S. transit systems fund art and design by setting aside a percentage of their capital budget. The San Francisco Bay Area is one of the most innovative regions in the world. Shouldn’t we ensure that the public spaces we use daily be as exciting as those in other world-class cities?
In late-June, BART’s Board will vote to create funding for art and design in our metro stations. This is our opportunity to reflect the vibrant art, innovation, and culture of the Bay Area.
Sign the online pledge of support to help make this happen.