Over the past 30 years, air travel has grown dramatically. Planes are larger and many airports have changed their character and configuration, becoming far bigger and more complex. Some new airport designs include more and larger terminals and facilities that may be spread over large areas. As a result, these airports have become much less walkable with long distances between facilities and services. Because airline travel is very time-sensitive, it is critical that passengers and employees, of all ages and physical abilities, be able to travel efficiently with luggage, strollers, wheelchairs, or other encumbrances. Recognizing the importance of mobility to passengers and employees, some airports have planned or implemented automated people mover (APM) systems.
APMs are systems with fully automated operations, featuring vehicles that on guideways with an exclusive right-of-way. These systems have been developed and implemented in various sizes and configurations beginning in the 1970s and installed in about 120 locations worldwide, including airports, leisure facilities, institutions, and urban areas. APM systems are distinct from traditional, heavy and light rail public transportation, in that they operate without drivers or station attendants. Typically, APM systems use a narrower right-of-way and smaller vehicles than traditional public transportation services. The advent of computerized operations and increased congestion, along with a desire for improved mobility and integration of activities, has spurred the development of APM systems.
About 30 APM systems are operating at airports worldwide; roughly one-half of these systems are at U.S. airports. APM systems were implemented to facilitate passenger and employee movement generally within the confines of an airport, generally from passenger check-in areas to airplane gates and between gates, allowing more people to move more quickly over longer distances, connecting large, often dispersed airline terminals. More recently, APM systems have been designed to connect airports terminals with parking facilities, car rental services, regional transportation services, hotels, and other related employment and activity centers. Planning tools are needed (1) to assist airports in considering the feasibility of these systems and (2) to plan and implement APM systems, when appropriate.
Research is also needed to provide a historical perspective of APM systems at airports worldwide, a review of existing APM systems at airports, a discussion of available and evolving APM technologies, and a summary of alternative APM service configurations. Research results should be presented in a guidebook that provides practical methodologies and planning criteria for conceptual development and evaluation of airport APM systems. Finally, the guidebook should address implementation of APM systems at airports.
The objective of this research is to prepare a comprehensive guidebook for planning and implementing APM systems at airports. The guidebook should include, as appropriate, a CD-ROM with interactive tools that will assist airports to plan and implement an APM system. The scope of this research includes APM systems that provide transportation on airport grounds as well as access to remote facilities (e.g., airport parking, car rental facilities, hotels, off-airport public transportation, and other related activity centers).
Status: The Guidebook has been published as Report No. 37--Guidebook for Planning and Implementing Automated People Mover Systems at Airports.