This weekend we have different aspects of travel to ponder. How do you feel about some of the wonderful airport architecture that can be found these days? A piece about the old TWA terminal should start you thinking. Localities are having to face up to funding Amtrak trains that have long been a part of their economies. But, is the train service worth it? And finally, what if they got rid of foreign roaming charges? It’s coming to Europe, well within Europe.
TWA’s old terminal at JFK — all lift, no weight
I remember the old TWA Terminal in all of its glory. I walked down the tubular ramps and had the opportunity to tuck into the wonderful first-class lounges. I marveled at the curvature found in everything from the banisters to the stairways to the ceilings. The building seems almost a living creature or a song in progress. I was always amazed at how architecture could affect me both spatially and moodily.
Today, some of the most beautiful and daring architecture is coming in the form of airports. What are your reactions?
Since its completion in 1962, much has been made of the exterior shape of Terminal 5, which resembles a raptor, wings outstretched at the moment of touchdown. But as one critic wrote in a review, “forget the bird,” because the avian image is really a decoy preventing a deeper appreciation of the building, which the Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen designed as an outgrowth of his interest in abstract sculpture. Once you get over the dominant impression of the bird, you can submit to the building, to the experience induced by its forms. From the two curvilinear Y-shaped piers on either side of the entry, which buttress the concrete roof shells, to the spilling stairs and turning staircases, all the curves cast in concrete flow into other curves and countercurves that stream through the building without ever being stopped by anything straight. Billowing shells of the concrete roof arc gracefully over column-free spaces centered on a cantilevered bridge connecting curvaceous balconies. (Though closed, visitors can take a taxi to the front doors or an AirTrain to the Terminal 5 stop and peer in. The building will also be open on Oct. 12-13 during Open House New York.)
Do we want local Amtrak service, or don’t we? Soon the decision will be with state and local governments.
For years, Amtrak has been subsidizing regional rail travel between points like Harrisburg and Philadelphia in Pennsylvania; Boston to Portland, Maine; Oklahoma City to Dallas; Indianapolis to Chicago; and Seattle to Portland, Oregon. Now with the upcoming budget, the federal government is cutting Amtrak funding and forcing localities to decide just how important those rail connections are to them.
For those who like train travel, it is crunch time. As noted in these excerpts, some states are actually investing more in their rail systems. Others still have to make some tough decisions.
From the New York Times—
“We see good rail service as part of our overall transportation plans to reduce congestion on the highways, and the routes add to the economic vitality of our communities,” said Kevin B. Page, the chief operating officer of the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation.
Virginia officials said Amtrak spent over $100 million on goods and services in the state last year. The railroad also employed 864 residents, adding $73 million in wages.
Pennsylvania, which spends about $9 million a year for Amtrak service connecting Harrisburg and Philadelphia, recently agreed to pay an additional $3.8 million a year for the Pittsburgh-to-Harrisburg service. State officials worried about picking up the cost for the line, which averages about 400 riders a day. But they agreed to pay the cost after local officials like Huntingdon’s mayor staged rallies to support the route and Amtrak lowered its cost estimates.
From the Wall Street Journal—
Amtrak’s Hoosier State service, a 196-mile run from Indianapolis to Chicago, travels through the state’s cornfields and small towns four times a week. Congress, under a 2008 law, cut off funding for that line and other short Amtrak routes across the U.S. starting Oct. 1. Amtrak will require Indiana to pony up $3 million a year to maintain the train, sparking a political tussle among small-town mayors, state budget hawks and fans of passenger rail.
European Union plans to end mobile phone roaming charges
Here in the USA, we have already done this with the elimination of roaming charges between states. But wouldn’t it be nice to get rid of the extra fees when moving across borders like into Canada and Mexico or to the Caribbean? The European Union is mandating that roaming fees must end between its 28 nations.
It seems that despite howls from big companies, the EU is putting consumers first and proving that customer service will not bankrupt airlines and eliminating roaming charges will put cell phone companies out of business. Time will tell. The big cell phone companies are upset.
The legislation, proposed by the EU Commission, foresees that customers will no longer have to pay for incoming calls when travelling in other EU countries starting in July 2014. Two years later, all roaming charges will be scrapped under the proposals. It also seeks to cap prices of EU-wide calls at the level of long-distance calls within a country.
The EU commissioner for digital affairs, Neelie Kroes, said the aim is for people to enjoy the same phone costs regardless of where they are in Europe.
Photo: TWA Terminal by Seamus Murray, Flickr Creative Commons