Minding the Gap: Seamless Transit for London by Gabriel Wartofsky, USA

2011: Plus 10. The Best is Yet to Come!


Gabriel Wartofsky aims to enable positive social change through sustainable design. His passion lies within the intersection of vehicles, systems, and urban spaces.


London enjoys a rich heritage of iconic public transit designs, and is actively searching for innovative solutions to tackle the city’s 21st century mobility issues.

According to Transport for London, the company that run’s London’s public transit, “The [21st century] challenge is to improve London’s public transport system in order to accommodate this growth, but at the same time manage overcrowding, reduce traffic congestion and cut CO2 emissions”.

This projects seeks to meet the diverse mobility needs of Londoners with an integrated system of public vehicles and services.

‘Minding the Gap’ is a multi-modal transit system designed for Transport for London that integrates an electric bike-share, smart bus hub network and a multi-tasking re-designed RouteMaster bus to increase both the efficiency and desirability of London’s iconic public transit.

The most important element of the bike is the unique way in which it relates to the city, the system and the user.

The TfL Bikeshare network provides commuters with a healthy and efficient way to realize the first and final leg of their journey. E-bikes are designed for the user to quickly and intuitively fold and deposit into storage modules upon arrival at a transit hub.

The user would ride it from home to hub, fold and deposit it and board the bus bike-free. While on the bus, the user reserves another bike to pick up at his/ her destination hub. Commuters access bikeshare using their Oystercard, and lease the service on a per trip/ monthly basis.

The e-bike has several important design elements. Electric assist widens the user demographic and ensures a sweat-free commute. Airless tires, shaft drive and a robust tubular construction ensure durability, while an illuminated front bar and bright graphics increase rider visibility and safety. The simple overall design references the Transport for London logo family, visually integrating the bikeshare into the brand’s identity.

E-bikes are designed for the user to quickly and intuitively fold and deposit into storage modules upon arrival to a transit hub. The user’s Oystercard gets charged via RFID technology according to the amount of time E-bike was rented. When docked, bikes serve as hub seating and recharge for the next user.

Transit hubs are designed to optimize the commuter’s transitional experience between Bikeshare and bus. Each hub, provides commuters with access to Bikeshare, real-time transit scheduling, cultural information about the surrounding neighborhood and basic shelter from the elements. An iconic modular design provides TfL with distinctive architectural identifiers throughout the cityscape, increasing both the visibility and desirability of London public transit.

The average amount of time it takes for passengers to board a bus is 30 seconds. During this time, a small arm on the hub extends to charge the buses’ ultracapacitors to power it until the next stop. Buses collect and disburse bike modules according to demand, effectively eliminating the need for third party Bikeshare distributors.

There are several important elements of the bus, ranging from design to function.

Designed to both reference the spirit of the iconic original whilst meeting the needs of 21st century commuters, the RouteMaster 2012 aims to optimize the convenience and desirability of public transit. Powered primarily by an on-board battery and ultra-capacitors charged at each hub, the RouteMaster 2012 emits no exhaust.

It integrates with Bikeshare by communicating with transit hubs to properly disperse bike modules, according to demand, throughout the city. While passengers board the bus, the small pneumatic motor powers arms that load and unload bike modules from the hub to the side of the bus. This motor also powers the retractable wheelchair ramp.

Specialized interior zones with unique seating solutions address the varied needs of passengers. Space directly across from the entrances and flat floors facilitate the ingress/ egress of wheelchair assisted passengers. Compact, ergonomically correct lean seats provide a safer location for short-stop and otherwise standing passengers downstairs, while long-distance travelers and tourists can enjoy London from the panoramic second floor.

Modular construction allows for short and longer versions of the bus, while expansive side glazing doubles as digital billboards that promote London culture through public service ads.