The National Academies

ACRP 07-02 [Final]

Airport Curbside and Terminal-Area Roadway Operations

  Project Data
Funds: $400,000
Research Agency: Jacobs Consultancy
Principal Investigator: Peter Mandle
Effective Date: 1/10/2007
Completion Date: 5/9/2010

ACRP Report 40, Airport Curbside and Terminal Area Roadway Operations, presents a cohesive approach to analyzing traffic operations on airport curbside and terminal-area roadways. It describes operational performance measures and reviews methods of estimating those performance measures. A quick analysis tool for curbside operations and low-speed roadway weaving areas is packaged with this guide. Techniques for estimating traffic volumes are presented as well as common ways of addressing operational problems. The guide should be useful to airport landside operators, transportation planners, and consultants analyzing airport curbside and terminal-area roadway operations.


Efficient and safe roadway operations are critical to an airport's success.  Key elements of an airport's roadway operations are the curbside—where travelers and their baggage enter and exit the terminal—and the terminal-area roadways that provide private and commercial vehicles access to the curbside as well as to other destinations such as parking.  Travelers expect safe and efficient roadway operations even as volumes increase, but the design and capacity of the curbside are often constrained by the terminal building and the proximity of on-airport landside infrastructure. 

For over 60 years, the Transportation Research Board’s Highway Capacity Manual (HCM) has been the authoritative reference for estimating the capacity and determining the level of service for transportation facilities, including intersections and roadways. Over the decades, the HCM has grown to address additional types of facilities and better meet the needs of analysts. While it now includes transit, bicycle, and pedestrian facilities, it does not address the unique challenges posed by airport transportation facilities. Some of these challenges are related to the tight geometrics due to limited space in the terminal area while others are due to the differences in traffic composition and traveler expectations.
In this project, LeighFisher took the first step towards creating analysis guidance comparable to the HCM for airport curbside and terminal area roadways.  They surveyed the largest U.S. and Canadian airports to obtain reports from recent landside analyses and reviewed these reports to identify analysis methods and performance measures of interest, which were then critically evaluated. A conceptual model for analyzing curbside operations and low-speed weaving areas was then developed. Field data was collected for the development of a macroscopic queuing model for curbside operations and low-speed weaving areas. The research team then prepared a guide and validated it with the project oversight panel and staff at two airports. 
The project oversight panel believes that the guide will be practical and useful for conducting roadway analyses. It establishes a baseline for analysis based on the current state-of-the-art but future research and experienced analysts will develop better analysis methods, much as they have for the HCM. These improvements can be incorporated into the analysis approach in the future. 

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