Last edited 21 Nov 2019

Design of Intermodal Passenger Terminal



Multimodal Passenger Terminal is transportation center in which several modes of transportation are physically and operationally integrated, usually under one roof. At one terminal complex vehicles arrive and depart while passengers interchange among the modes. Interchanges interconnect different transport modes that complement each other to accommodate a person’s journey from its origin to its destination, these are key public transport nodes. The function of the interchange is to reduce the distance between transport modes to facilitate multi-activities patterns, therefore designing intermodal terminal is a multi-disciplinary task. However, the critical importance of multimodal transport includes time-saving, better use of waiting time, urban integration, and improvement of business operational models.

The goal of every intermodal terminal design activity should be to obtain maximum efficiency and enhance accessibility to all users.

Multimodal passenger terminal can accommodate bus, rail, transit, taxi, automobile, ferry and aircraft modes. Modes operational integration can be achieved by methods such as coordinated schedules, joint use of services, and fare integration. Lots of benefit arise from interchanges like reducing transfer time and enhancing efficient travel. However this can only be achieved by intelligent integration of people and technology. Improving urban transport help to reduce pollution, carbon emission, noise, congestions. Urban interchanges play key roles in urban transport to saving municipal budget in Transport.

The interchange must have three spatial zones access-egress zone, facilities zone and arrival-departure transfer zone.

Access-egress zone

It is a zone in which links to the local area and access to transport modes are present.

Facilities zones

It is a zone that comprises of supporting services like retail shops, restaurants, ticketing, hotels etc.


This caters for intermodal transfers.

Travel information and intermodal services are to be provided in all zones as well as in the facilities and retailing. The main design considerations are safety and security, transfer conditions, emergency situation, information, aesthetics, services and facilities, environmental quality, and comfort of waiting time.

Interchange can be categorized into two groups

  1. A transport node – Functions as a node of transport network
  2. A place – Consists of all features that make the transfer experience more attractive and efficient.

The factors that influences the architecture of interchange are users, operators, third part deals with local impacts, governance and business model, mobility patterns, urban density and location of activities, technology, economic, land use planning and social concerns.

Prime concerns of the intermodal terminals

Key questions to ask yourself when designing intermodal passenger terminals

Where should be the location of the intermodal terminal in the city?

What are the key factors to be considered in the design of efficient intermodal terminals?

What are the efficient spatial systems for Intermodal terminals?

What are the main functions to be addressed first?

Which terminal facilities and services are crucial?

Typologies of intermodal terminals

The typologies of intermodal terminals depend on functions, logistics and spatial location (local constraints).

Functions and Logistics Aspect

This aspect is shaped by the following factors demand, modes of transport present, services and facilities.

Demand – the volume of passengers define the size of the size of the terminal. It defines need for space and access characteristics. There are three levels of demand

  • Less than 30,000 passengers/ day
  • Between 30,000 and 120,000 passengers/ day
  • Over 120,000 passengers/ day

Modes of transport – this aspect include all modes of transport in the terminal and their degree of importance

Intermodal terminal with buses as dominant mode of transport

Intermodal terminal with rail as the dominant mode of transport

Two or more public transport modes or different lines of the same mode jointly.

Local constraints.

Relative location of the intermodal terminal with respect to the main local demand attractions, kind of activities developed around it, and consideration of the intermodal terminal in the development plan of the city or town

To analysis of this aspect falls into

Location in the city

Surrounding area features

Integrated development plan

  • Not integrated
  • Integrated
  • Fully integrated

The physical components of intermodal terminal

It is important to consider the most appropriate use of space when selecting facilities to be provisioned in the terminal. There are three crucial zones to be considered in the intermodal terminal design

The Access-Egress zone

This zone should provide facilities and services for all kinds of users arriving and leaving the terminal. Services and facilities in this zone are those that aid safe, efficient movement in and out of the terminal enhancing convenient access, signposting and way finding. Direct routes, crossings and information about the local area. Outside waiting areas should be provided with shelters for those waiting for public transport.

The facilities and retail zone

It is a zone where travelers who have more extra time available to spend at the terminal such as tourists can do shopping or eating while waiting for transfer. Hence it is essential for shops, food outlets, and sitting areas should be provided. It also provide space for ticketing services and contains real time information.

The transport/ Transfer zone

This a zone that users are waiting for transport modes. This zone should be convenient to all and easy to navigate. And it should contain provisions for up to date information.

Key design considerations to make an intermodal terminal attractive to users