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The intelligent tech, design behind JetBlue's T5 terminal

The intelligent tech, design behind JetBlue's T5 terminal

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Is there a better way to build an airport terminal? A Popular Mechanics report shows the design, technology and planning work behind JetBlue's T5 terminal in New York's JFK airport.

Is there a better way to build an airport terminal?

I'm not sure how I missed this lovely little feature by Popular Mechanics, but just before the New Year Adam Hadhazy wrote about how carrier JetBlue worked with global consultant Arup to optimize its new T5 terminal in New York City's John F. Kennedy International Airport using software and a suite of other tricks.

"Optimize" for an airport, of course, means moving people through it as fast as possible -- no flight delays, thank you very much, despite a 20 million passenger load.

How'd they do it? By constructing a digital version of the terminal, passengers and all, and simulating activity using software called MassMotion. (The forthcoming Fulton Street Transit Center and Second Avenue Subway in New York, Union Station in Toronto and Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas have all had the same treatment.) The software lets them manipulate the three-dimensional space -- widths of corridors, location of elements -- to reduce congestion.

For T5, it turns out that the best design is the simplest: a "triangle" with a curved base -- to give passengers as much area as possible to load and unload -- and apex that funnels passengers into their respective gates without stepping on each other. Add on the nation's largest contiguous checkpoint and you're looking at a curb-to-plane adventure in as little as 15 minutes.

It's not just crowd movement, however: Hadhazy writes that SoundLab software allowed Arup to understand the terminal's acoustics before it was built, allowing for a public address system that can be heard, and exterior design work allowed them to give ample space for pilots to taxi.

Innovation that saves time: we dig it.

How to Build a Smarter Airport Terminal [PopMech, via Next at Microsoft]

Photo: JetBlue

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Andrew Nusca

Editor Emeritus

Andrew Nusca is editor of SmartPlanet and an associate editor for ZDNet. Previously, he worked at Money, Men's Vogue and Popular Mechanics magazines. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and New York University. He is based in New York but resides in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure