No need to land for take-off: Lyon Saint-Exupery Airport

MODAL INTEGRATION: Formidable design is at the core of modal integration. There is no feasible narrative between two paragraphs without a line to connect the flow. Here is a shot of the tramline which connects much of Lyon to the Airport. It is a core part of the regional mobility, and accessibility of the airport. The airport stops becoming a port of passage, but a part of social life– a hangout, a place not to pass the port; but linger along and enjoy. 

In many ways integrating various transport modes will become easier and more essential in the medium term. What is becoming more clear is that capital assets need to be consolidated in such a way that their utilized effectively. This is particularly important for railways, airlines and airports. Effective utilisation, is not just about a high return on asset: it is also about the induced impact of good design, encouraging delay, lingering  and a fleeting sense of time for the next visit.

Rail companies in France at least have access to the infrastructure and appropriate regulatory tools exist to support this. One of the best ways, but very expenisve, to get to the airport was through a dedicated service– which is run privately. Infrastructure is a public asset, while operations are for the private sector’s expertise. In SA the policy framework is still urging a split between operations and capital in order to breed ground for deeper solutions and alternatives. Airlines suffer from a perishable good that can not be stored— you’ve got no inventory to pass over till next time.

Betting for ‘safety stock’ inverses the need to overbook key corridors in your network— you want to be as full as possible because the margins are perpetually low. What fascinated me about Dubai and Emirates in general is that they figured this part out in somewhat a similar manner that China pushes 20 000km of high speed rail for 667 cities— just without the subsidies only innovative business.

High speed rail is extremely important for Africa going forward, I must say this. There’s no way ‘Made In Africa’ would happen without moving things faster and cheaper between countries and across modes. Airports generate deep revenue from contact. There’s no way an airport survives without multivariate contact points— hence an aerotropolous is such a buzz today. In this picture from Saint Exupéry Airport just highlights something else: modal integration can be very pretty. Architecture is just something Africans love, we like shapes, lines and texture.

I saw this and just loved the idea of high quality design at local level in very simple but genuine ways. This same energy just reflects the tone and attitude behind and around the strategic thinking behind this airport. Creating an opportunity to build something much more marvelous and meaningful would be so interesting. For now,  here’s a slide show!

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