Connectivity Options Make it Easier to Access the Airport & Community

Laddie Irion

As a critical component of America's overall transportation network, air travel must be strong, safe and well connected to where we work, live and play. With airline travel expected to increase by more than 50% in the next 20 years, continuing to transform U.S. airports into efficient intermodal transportation centers is increasingly important. Planning must be accelerated and funding put in place to implement improved connectivity between airports and the communities they serve.

Increased traffic congestion getting to airports is one of the top complaints passengers have about air travel. A new public opinion survey by HNTB, America THINKS: Airport Terminals - 2017, found that the majority of travelers (56%) arrive at the airport terminal already frustrated due to vehicle traffic. Overcrowded curbside areas, scarce parking, and long lines at check-in areas and screening checkpoints are other primary factors that cause anxiety about air travel. Travelers want a seamless experience from their front door to the aircraft door that intermodal connectivity provides. 

Airport operators, airlines, municipalities and transportation consultants are working together to develop solutions that include subway/rail connections, automated people movers, personal rapid transit, purpose built ground shuttles and, coming soon, autonomous vehicles. 

Laddie Irion
Laddie Irion has more than three decades of experience in strategic management, business development and leadership positions in the aviation industry. He has worked on more than 100 aviation and airport projects in the U.S. and abroad. Currently, he serves as senior vice president, national aviation market sector leader for HNTB Corporation. 

Adding connections to local and regional rail networks at U.S. airports is an effective solution that is gaining popularity for relieving roadway congestion. In fact, HNTB's recent survey indicates that 84% of respondents would actually prefer using rail to get to and from the airport if it were more effective than automobile travel. 

Some U.S. airports already have connections to local and regional rail systems, and others are in the process of improving connectivity with other transit modes such as automated people movers that transfer passengers from terminals to other landside airport facilities, and connection to metropolitan transportation networks.   

Intermodal transit facilities such as ground transportation centers can serve as hubs for connecting passengers with a variety of surface transportation options. Integrated multimodal transit options, intelligent design and innovative technology can create a seamless travel experience from landside to airside, presenting an opportunity for all stakeholders to come together to plan and design better options.   

Improved connectivity between airports and the communities they serve is only one part of the needs associated with airport development. With an estimated 1.2 billion air travelers expected by the year 2035, the need for world-class U.S. airports is real. Convenient access to first-class facilities and transit connectivity are the overwhelming priorities for these travelers. 

Working collaboratively, airports, transit agencies and cities can map out long-range infrastructure improvement plans that not only guarantee an enhanced passenger travel experience, but also create jobs, spur economic development, improve quality of life and increase American competitiveness in the international marketplace. 

A recent survey by Airports Council International-North America projects about $100 billion of needed airport development projects in North America between 2017 and 2021. To make these development projects a reality, we will need sustainable and reliable funding mechanisms from both the public and private sector. It is imperative that industry and government work together to make that happen.  

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