Today the Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority unveiled nine possibilities in the formulation of a 2040 master plan. The group wants the facility to be ready for changes in consumer demand, technology, and major facility maintenance over the next two decades. Readers are invited to join the conversation at vision2040.rdu.com and on Twitter using the hashtag #RDU2040.
The alternatives introduce a myriad of changes, from replacing each, aging runway to adding gates, to offering easier rental car service access. Personally my favorite is Plan 8. It allows Southwest to keep their own terminal (which could never be altered to be a showcase) while greatly expanding the showcase Terminal 2. Additionally, it uses an elevated people moved to connect passengers with the rental car hub, like Tampa has arranged. some other plans put a parking garage with rentals on the land in front of old Terminal B, but this is precious land and has no place for expansion.
One of these plans struck me as a totally new way of looking at the airport; Plan 5. This plan adds a 3rd independent terminal north of Terminal 2, where the runway observation park is. However if one backs away, it seems the entire complex could eventually handle a Terminal 4 where General Aviation currently is. Of course, there are models which show the most efficient mix of gates, runways, and curb length, but the real key here is that the plans do not absolutely have to be constrained to just the south side of the north taxiway connecting the runways.
The flaw with all 9 plans is that they assume that people will behave the same way they do today. We are on the cusp of a major transportation revolution, mainly centered around the driverless car. This will bring drastic changes in the demand for prime real estate parking, queues of public cars awaiting service, and traffic flow. Perhaps building expensive parking structures is not the best plan given what we know in 2016.
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