Changing planes

Airports as Multimodal Interchange Nodes
OECD Observer

When the giant Airbus A380, the world’s largest passenger plane, makes its first commercial landing in 2006, runways will have been extended and ways of quickly and safely disembarking 555 passengers will have been worked out. But once off the plane, how easily will all these travellers get home? Can existing transport modes handle the surge?

Dealing with the passenger flows is already a major challenge to the world’s airports. The ECMT’s roundtable report, Airports as Multimodal Interchange Nodes, predicts that by 2020, global passenger traffic will be two and a half times its current volume, and the number of departures on existing and new passenger routes up by 86%.

Most travellers arrive at the airport by car. Despite growing risks of delay due to increased congestion, private car use is steadily increasing, by passengers as well as airport employees. The already overwhelming preference for curb-side drop-offs and pickups of passengers has created a need for the modern “cellphone lot”–parking lots where drivers wait to be called by their incoming traveller. Chicago’s O'Hare Airport, one of the world’s busiest, provides a “kiss and fly” parking lot, where motorists wait for passengers at remote lots that are connected to the terminal by train.

Traditionally, airports have been seen as mode-specific: a conglomeration of runways, taxiways and terminal buildings. Questions of how passengers reached the airport were generally overlooked. Airports as Multimodal Interchange Nodes examines possible alternative approaches to handling future airport traffic, including coach service, airport/city metro links, railway lines through the airport, and the innovative “horizontal elevator”. Also known as Personal Rapid Transit, this small, three or four-passenger rail car would provide a dedicated trip from origin to passenger-selected destination within the airport system without stopping en route, though avoiding elevator traffic-jams in airport satellites could become a challenge when the A380 lands.

ISBN 9282-10339. See for ordering details.

©OECD Observer No 248, March 2005

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