Hi Mr Comsol, The E-C is a great ship,(I paid £78 for a resin kit model of it.
I think it is a troop ship. Big, powerful and robust. Heavy-duty nacelles, short, powerful Engineering section and lots of space for Federation troops.
Apropos of the 'hatches', in the escape pod scene in ST:FC (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IhoH21tVJnQ
) it can clearly be seen that the Escape Pod's heat shield is the hatch. No open lids.
I suspect that all escape pods were magnetically sealed to the ships hull, thus obviating a mechanical deployment system.
The real difference seems to be in the E-D, where the escape modules were designed, not for planet-fall but rather to connect together and await rescue by a third party whilst still in free space. Although, I also suspect that they were capable of touchdown in a manner similar to how the Soviets' do it. and the singular way that the E-E releases them as 'spores'. Even Picard references the 'chance' involved in the pods landing.
Just some thoughts
The E-D had up to 1000+ inhabitants, a 'community emergency habitat' makes sense as there were families aboard. seems reasonable to provide a "refugee complex" where they have the option to wait it out.