As population, employment, traffic and pollution increase relentlessly, growing robust transit networks is increasingly a major priority for cities around the world. Municipalities and transportation planning agencies are looking for ways to make transit planning more sensitive to actual urban conditions. This paper looks at how ‘station area typologies’ are being used
by transportation agencies to help identify key urban design issues and make design recommendations that are consistent with the needs, character, density and image of their particular communities. Visualising station area form, density and character through a ‘transect’ or cross-section of urbanism, from the most urbanised and dense locales to areas that are more suburban in character with less intense density, helps to assure the continuity and usability of the system. Several ground-breaking planning precedents throughout the USA are examined in which planning agencies have created a tailored set of station area typologies along planned rail corridors in urban areas. Each of these typological systems is reflective of the urban ‘transect’ in which it sits. By calibrating these typological systems along such a transect, urban planners can design a rail corridor that sensitively regulates land uses and building forms near stations–that is, place specific–and that acts as a tool to convey vision, intent and station design concepts to the public.