What are we talking about today?

Some days have themes. I don't necessarily post something in each of these topic areas every week.

Sunday: Church-related or spiritual things.
Monday: Running.
Tuesday: Books.
Wednesday: Transportation.
Friday: Green living.

22 February 2017

Ground Transportation

This tweet came rolling across my timeline a couple weeks before my latest adventure in roaming the country to escape my emotion of the day:
I can't speak about Disney from personal experience, although I have anecdotally heard similar sentiments about how everyone loves Main Street, USA, because of its car-free walkability and nostalgia and whatnot. If only they'd all go home committed to asking their city council to make their own main street more like that one, eh?

Airport transportation, however, is another thing. I use it almost every time I travel, usually to transfer between terminals, although during my layover at DFW on Monday afternoon I absolutely took Scott's excellent suggestion to ride around on the Skylink to combat boredom. (It's possible he was joking. I did it anyway, mostly in search of better food than what was on offer at my gate.)

I didn't take any pics on the DFW Skylink, nor on the train
in Houston, but I did see this back home. These signs are
 all through the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky airport
to remind folks to be active while waiting for a plane.
Sure beats standing in another Starbucks line.
The Cincinnati airport has a train, too, although the trek through the underground tunnel between the terminals in a nice one and I've not yet been tempted onto the train. (In the interest of research for this post, I was planning to use it Monday night, but it was at middle-of-the-night service levels and as such, was not worth the wait.) I can certainly see its usefulness for the exhausted, the mobility impaired, those with small children, women wearing high heels, and anyone who isn't trying to squeeze a few more steps into her day to win a challenge on her wearable activity monitor.

So, here's my extremely unscientific observation: yes, airport transportation is a microcosm of our greater public transportation, in many ways. (Click through and read the whole thread above, by the way; it's great.) Folks stand anxiously in front of the doors staring up at the sign, then back at their ticket, then back at the sign again, before finally stepping aboard hoping they've made the right choice. They aren't certain what to do once inside--crowd by the door? (No.) Move further in and grab a rail to hang on? (Yes.) They're equally timid about stepping off again, in case they got the wrong exit. (Actual conversation I overheard in Houston on Friday: "This is our stop." "Are you sure?" "Yes, I'm sure." "How do you know?" "It's on the board right there, and there was just an announcement." "There was an announcement??" In fact, there were at least three.) And that's in an airport filled with employees who are literally paid to get you where you need to go. No wonder folks are so shy about using transit in places where mistakes in navigation take a lot longer to adjust, if the airport train causes that much anxiety.

But I don't think that's a good enough excuse. The things that make airport trains useful and attractive--frequency, reliability, safety, easy-to-understand wayfinding, speed--are the same ones that make all transit user-friendly and successful. Or the opposite, when those factors are missing. What if cities approached all public transit with the idea of moving a bunch of people in a hurry for low cost while minimizing their inconvenience?

That would be a great step toward making all our Main Streets the happiest place on earth.


Scott said...

I was serious about the train at DFW, cheap, easy, and a way to see Dallas from the confines of the airport... And also more fun than sitting at the gate just waiting.

Su Wilcox said...

It was more fun, although I didn't look at Dallas much. (I wouldn't have known what direction to look!) I did watch all the coming and going at the airport itself, which is an incredible sight. The DFW airport is basically a city in its own right.

A few years ago I happened to have a very early AM transfer at Dallas and rode the Skylink around in the dark, which was great--it's also fun to see nothing but lights roaming around.