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Train Station -> Airport Terminal -> Train Station (How to influence friends)


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From the Captain

Train Station -> Airport Terminal -> Train Station (How to influence friends)

What would the train station of the future look like? When they hear "train station," most Americans think of either the traditionally styled station that would fit right into the Magic Kingdom at Disneyworld, or the Grand Central-style Station in NY or Union Station in Chicago or Denver. The common theme is something that is large and imposing, made of stone, with a large clock tower. However this is just the romantic version of a rail station. If you want to think modern, think of an airline terminal.

From San Francisco to New York to Miami, the modern railway station is something that is airy and open; similar to the newest airline terminals in Denver, Dallas, or Dubai. Plenty of glass, open spaces, and air... and I guess, has to be the color white.

(From left to right: World Trade Center Station (NY), San Fran Transit Center, Miami Central Station, Denver Union Station)

Gone are the dark and cold stations of the past. Even Milwaukee has seen this resurgence in design with the opening of the Milwaukee Multimodal Center in 2007 (which is again... white). This 2007 station replaced a dark "modern" station built in 1962 called Milwaukee Union Station, which itself was a replacement of the Everett Street Depot which looked right out of the 1800's.

Of course, the irony is that these stations are developing and becoming modern fixtures in the neighborhoods and cities. So while the change is slow, American's perception of passenger rail is changing. It is just a question of when the trains will catch up with the stations (which, I guess, will also have to be white).


Vintage Travel:

The evolution of the Airline Passenger Terminal

We all use it all the time when traveling, but how many people have actually thought about the design of the airport terminal? Straight, circular, just funky - the evolution of the airport terminal is something which most never think about. However there is a history to it - and the influence of the railroads.

Perhaps the best airport for seeing this evolution is Los Angeles International (LAX), where you can go from historic 1920's to the 2020's all within a mile.

The first 1928 terminal is still around and located on the southeastern side of the airport. The airport was actually called Mine's Field back then and this terminal acted both as a passenger terminal and maintenance facility for the aircraft. Of course, there is an uncanny similarity between this airport terminal and LA Union Station. Hmm, I wonder where the architects found their inspirations.

(Left: Mines Field Airport Terminal 1928, Right: Los Angeles Union Station)

Then the jet age arrived and small little terminals would not longer make the cut. Airports had to rethink how to get hundreds of passengers quickly from the curb to the gate. That is when the round, or curved era began. In response, LA built terminals 3,4,5, 6, & 7. You can still see this original round design buried in terminals 2, 3, 5 & 6.

(From Upper left and around: LAX Terminals 3 thru 7 in early 1970s, closeup of terminal 4 in 1970s, terminals 4/5/6 in 2000s after being straightened, overview of LAX in early 2000s)

Then we enter the hub and spoke age and terminal design straightened itself out. No longer was it about getting passenger from the curb to the gate quickly, instead it was getting passengers from gate to gate. As a result, this is when you saw the mile long concourses built across the nation, and the building of the Tom Bradley International Terminal in 1984. Meanwhile you can see the filling in of those round concourses in the other terminals.

(From upper left and around: LAX Tom Bradley Terminal 2010, overview of all LAX terminals 2010, terminals master plan w red designating new terminals, 2028 planned new concourse)

Looking into the future, we will have long, straight concourses, and LAX will lead the way with several more long concourses coming in the next few years.

Of course, the irony is how, when viewed from above, these airports terminals start to look something very familiar to those beasts on rail. Maybe form does follow function.

Vintage Era Terminals:

Circular Terminal Era:

Modern Straight Terminals:

Spin on a old favorite design:

Mix/Oddball Designs:

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