Research Projects

A Guide to Best Practices in Infrastructure and Programs Designed to Increase Public Transit Access to Airports

Information and data are needed on the experiences and best practices of airports and airport authorities, partnered with city, county, metropolitan, state, and federal transportation agencies, for increasing public transit access to airports. Whether capital projects or community-oriented programs, some airports and transportation agencies have been more successful in shifting passenger travel to and from airports away from private vehicles to public transit.

Background (Describe the current situation or problem in the industry, and how your idea would address it.)

Automobile traffic continues to increase on the roads, central terminal areas, curbsides, and parking lots in and around the Nation's airports. The increased congestion leads to a host of problems ranging from passenger delays to increased greenhouse gas emissions. Prior to COVID-19, airports in major metropolitan regions, such as Chicago, Los Angeles, Atlanta, San Francisco, and New York, were experiencing record passenger growth, with increasing passenger demand forecasted into the future. Even with the temporarily reduced passenger activity due to COVID-19, the ground traffic congestion at the airports, and the problems associated with this congestion, will return eventually. Therefore, it is critical that the airports and airport authorities, working with their partner transportation agencies and planning organizations, prepare for this increased passenger traffic.

Facilitating public transit access is one strategy to reduce congestion on surface transportation systems, including airport ground access. However, transit ridership to and from airports is still relatively low in many major cities and metropolitan regions throughout the United States. Whether due to limitations with infrastructure, or general misperceptions of public transit, passengers often travel to airports by using private vehicles, including transportation network companies. In recent years, airport authorities and transportation agencies have invested in capital projects to increase public transit ridership to the airports. Dallas/Fort Worth International, Denver International, Hollywood Burbank, Los Angeles International Airport, Miami International Airport, McCarran International Airport (Las Vegas), Oakland International Airport, San Francisco International Airport, Ontario International Airport, and Honolulu International Airport, have all recently constructed or are in the process of planning and constructing passenger and light rail lines and stations, intermodal transportation centers, people movers, and hyperloop systems, that will allow air passengers direct access to the airports via public transit.

Despite the generally accepted goals of reducing congestion and the other negative environmental impacts associated with private vehicle traffic, light-rail, passenger rail, monorail/people mover, and intermodal transportation projects have not been universally embraced. The time and money required to develop large capital airport transportation projects will always be up for debate, particularly during times of recession and financial constraints. Furthermore, given historical trends, there are ongoing concerns as to whether people will ride public transit and utilize the new infrastructure once constructed. To that end, there are lessons to be learned. Internationally, in countries such as Japan, Germany, and France, there are public multimodal options, including light and passenger rail, to most major airports, which are widely used. Domestically, cities and regions, such as New York, Chicago, and Washington DC, have longstanding and high usage light-rail, subway, and passenger rail lines to many or most of the airports in their city or region.

Much can be gained from a comprehensive study of the lessons, domestic and international, learned from the planning, construction, and operation of airport public transit, light-rail, passenger rail, subway, multimodal ground access, and monorail/people mover projects. Whether it is specific infrastructure design features, the role of regional and local culture, history, political strategies, or the impact of programs (e.g. information campaigns, incentives) to increase ridership, the entire transportation system has much to benefit by a better understanding of the factors that drive and encourage increased public transit usage to the airports.

Objective (What is the desired product or result that will help the airport industry?)

The final objective of this research would be to produce a guidebook of experiences, lessons learned, and best practices for infrastructure (e.g. people movers, multimodal transportation centers) and programs (e.g. incentives, public campaigns) designed to facilitate greater public transit usage to airports in metropolitan areas. What infrastructure investments provided the most bang for the buck (e.g. monorail systems, walkways)? Were there any effective programs or incentives (e.g. shorter check-in lines for passengers arriving via public transit, partnering with airlines for reduced fares or fees)?

Approach (Describe in general terms the steps you think are needed to achieve the objective.)

Review of existing literature on airport ground access planning and airport landside infrastructure.

Data collection on passenger mode choice to airports.

Data collection on the impacts of private vehicle congestion on airport ground access and air passengers.

Data collection on the impacts of public transit (e.g. light-rail, subways) on airport ground access and air passengers.

Identifying and categorizing different types of infrastructure improvements (e.g. multimodal facilities, transit stations, monorails) and programs (e.g. incentives, public awareness) for increasing and facilitating public transit usage to airports.

Interviews, focus groups, and a survey administered to select airports and transportation agencies. The airports and transportation agencies selected would be in the planning phases or have recently constructed passenger and light-rail, subway, monorail/people-mover, and multimodal infrastructure.

Analysis of quantitative and qualitative data.

Produce report and guidebook with observations, analysis, and recommendations.

Cost Estimate and Backup (Provide a cost estimate and support for how you arrived at the estimate.)

Cost Estimate: $350,000 (Based on past studies of similar scale and scope)

Including: Senior Manager/Principal Investigator, mid-level staff, junior staff, support and administrative staff, and staff to administer surveys, interviews, and focus groups.

Related Research - List related ACRP and other industry research; describe gaps (see link to Research Roadmaps above), and describe how your idea would address these gaps. This is a critical element of a synthesis topic submission.

Gaps in research and how this research will address them:

While the current body of research addresses the impacts of automobile congestion, broader strategies and policies to reduce reliance on automobiles, best practices in airport ground access and conveyance systems, and provides guidance on how airports can collaborate and coordinate with transportation and planning agencies, the proposed research would specifically address efforts to mitigate private vehicle congestion through infrastructure and programs designed to facilitate and augment public transit access to major metropolitan airports. By providing lessons learned and guidance from across the Nation, and possibly from around the World, the airports and their transportation partners will have a clearer picture of what types of infrastructure, programs, and strategies to employ in their ongoing efforts to reduce surface transportation congestion in and around the airports.


Related Research:

Reversing Car Dependency (International Transport Forum 2021)

ACRP Research Report 216: Guidebook for Assessing Collaborative Planning Efforts Among Airport and Public Planning Agencies (ACRP 2020)

ACRP Research Report 225: Rethinking Airport Parking Facilities to Protect and Enhance Non-Aeronautical Revenue (ACRP 2020)

ACRP Legal Research Digest 39: Updated Survey of Laws and Regulations Applicable to Airport Commercial Ground Transportation (ACRP 2020)

ACRP Project 03-04: Integrating Airport Ground Access and Metropolitan Surface Transportation Planning Efforts (ACRP 2019)

ACRP Research Report 215: Transportation Network Companies (TNCs): Impacts to Airport Revenues and Operations (ACRP 2019)

Passenger Value of Time, Benefit-Cost Analysis and Airport Capital Investment Decisions, Volume 1: Guidebook for Valuing User Time Savings in Airport Capital Investment Decision Analysis (National Academies 2015)

ACRP Report 146: Commercial Ground Transportation at Airports: Best Practices (ACRP 2015)

ACRP Report 67: Airport Passenger Conveyance Systems Planning Guidebook (ACRP 2012)

State and Federal Regulations that May Affect Initiatives to Reduce Airports' GHG Emissions (National Academies 2012)

ACRP Report 70: Guidebook for Implementing Intelligent Transportation Systems Elements to Improve Airport Traveler Access Information (ACRP 2012)

ACRP Synthesis 36: Exploring Airport Employee Commute and Parking Strategies (2012)

ACRP Report 52: Wayfinding and Signing Guidelines for Airport Terminals and Landside (2011)

ACRP Report 37: Guidebook for Planning and Implementing Automated People Mover Systems at Airports (2010)

ACRP Report 34: Handbook to Assess the Impacts of Constrained Parking at Airports (2010)

ACRP Report 40: Airport Curbside and Terminal Area Roadway Operations (2010)

ACRP Report 4: Ground Access to Major Airports by Public Transportation (2008)

ACRP Report 10: Innovations for Airport Terminal Facilities (2008)



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Idea No. 622