Plane and Train Stations

During my holiday travel, I've had the chance to see a few of America's airports, train stations, and bus stops. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule, but in general, airports, once you get past the security checkpoint, are typically pretty decent and comfortable places to wait for your flight. At least that's the case compared to some of the Amtrak stations I've seen.

(from Eddie~S on Flickr)

Consider BWI airport. I travel out of BWI nearly every time I fly to and from Washington. I think the Southwest terminals are pretty nice; then I think of the BWI Amtrak station down the road. Compared to the airport, the train terminal is bland, grungy-looking, and generally not a very pleasant place to sit around while waiting for your train to arrive.

There are still a few great train stations left in America. Union Station in Washington isn't a bad place to catch a train, but Penn Station in New York is hardly a warm or inviting environment. And most of the stations outside of major cities barely deserve the designation as a 'station'. A 'stop' or 'platform' is probably more realistic to what they are.

In theory, things like aesthetics shouldn't really matter. How fast, frequently, and reliably trains, planes or buses operate, plus how much they cost should drive peoples' travel decisions. But deep down, these things still matter. I'm not suggesting it's worth rushing out and investing resources in amazing train stations right now, but over time, it's something that really should be kept in mind.


    In theory, things like aesthetics shouldn't really matter.

    why shouldn't aesthetics matter?

    to me, that's an insane statement. and it's clearly insane -- and that's why it's so popular in transit advocacy circles.

    the idea that human beings are actually just widgets or robots is perfectly anti-human, and the people designing and running our transit systems are, for the most part, on board with this perfectly anti-human idea. it's awesome.



    It is insane. Planners seem to have no conception of public transportation as public space, with its attendant symbolism and civic pride. That's probably also why it's looking like transit authorities are willing to sell cell phone companies transmission rights in subways and such: revenues are important, not the social order that is created when people have to respect others' space.