He's Wild About Rail
Even for its chairman, describing what HOK does is a challenge because it's into so many different aspects of what the industry calls the built environment. With 2,000 employees in 24 countries, it plans, designs and delivers solutions -- to quote the company web site -- that include just about every market you can think of: health care, cultural and entertainment venues, airports, retail, justice, commercial, education, government, residential, and, yes, transportation.
It's the latter that has captured the interest of HOK's chairman, Bill Valentine; in particular light rail. His firm was the lead architect and urban planner for Houston's METRO light rail system, designing its 16 stations, as well as urban design along its entire 7.5 mile corridor. Working with Connell Mott MacDonald, they designed Heathrow Airport's new Terminal 5 rail station.
So, when I learned that Valentine would be willing to talk with me about his interest in light rail, I jumped at the chance to dialogue with him on one of my favorite topics, which we both see as an important transportation mode in the 21st century because of its significantly better energy efficiency than virtually any other mobility solution available in an urban environment, and because it offers a means to improve one's quality of life.
"The time for rail is right now," he insisted. "I am wild about it."
He sees urban rail as a way to get sprawl under control and allow more land to be utilized for spirit-restoring green space and even localized food production. It's an idea "whose time has come," he states, referring to a map on which he tracks rail projects over the last 25 years.
"It seems that where rail has been put in place, the quality of life has been getting better, not worse."
In this 32-minute interview, we discuss why he believes that's so. You can listen to our dialogue using either of the two MP3 players on this page in the center column or download the file to your computer for use on your favorite MP3 device.