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APA Conference: Multi-Tasking At The New Urbanist Airport

Apr 30, 2008
Here's a puzzler for you: What land use creates more pedestrians than any other?

Transit stations? Office buildings? Condos?

Try airports!

Every single person who arrives at an airport from out of town arrives without a car. At many airports, the first vehicle in which people ride after landing is a train of some sort. So what's the rush to put them into cars?

A "new urbanist airport" may seem like an oxymoron. But according to aviation planning experts speaking at the American Planning Association conference in Las Vegas, such design principles may be the key to the sustainable airport of the 21st Century.

North Carolina business professor John Kasarda, who coined the term "aerotropolis," said that in order to be economically successful in the future, airports can no longer afford to follow the "spontaneous, haphazard" development pattern of the last few decades. Because airports are congested and running out of land and because their patrons arrive without cars these new, high-end business centers will have to be nodal and mixed-use.

Part of the key is doing more comprehensive land use planning that involves areas "outside the fence" as well as on airport property. Most airports are focused on "doing a plan that meets FAA regulations inside the fence," said consultant Mark Bowers, who has been working on a "commercial development land use plan" for Dallas-Forth Worth Airport.

DFW's plan was done in collaboration with four surrounding cities and is increasingly focused on the smart growth approaches planners love. For instance, the DART (Dallas Area Rapid Transit) line will run straight into the airport, and instead of turning the station just outside the airport into a park-and-ride, DFW will convert it into a mixed-use center. DFW will also focus on centralized business centers that provide "valet services," such as auto repair and dry cleaning.

Just think drop your car and then run your errands on the way to the terminal.

Bill Fulton
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