APMs are a solution for moving airline passengers

Systems that automatically move people within and between airline terminals, parking and other facilities ease traffic congestion, reduce air pollution and improve the passenger experience.

A planning priority: better airport access
As global airline passenger traffic continues to increase, airport planners seek to match greater passenger demand with greater efficiency and state-of-the-art technology.

As they implement much-needed infrastructure enhancements, it’s no surprise access between facilities at many airports has become a planning priority. Particularly in urban areas where airports are landlocked and infrastructure expansion is not always possible, implementing the most efficient combination of intermodal transportation options is a must.

That’s why automated people mover systems have become an inherent part of airport expansion plans and, at last count, are in operation at 46 airports around the world, with more on the way:

• The Tampa International Airport Master Plan involves modernization and expansion that encompasses a consolidated rental car facility linked to the main terminal via an automated people mover.

• Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport South Concourse Development includes plans for new midfield concourses served by a second, secure automated people mover system that will transport 153 million passengers annually.

• Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport's Hiawatha Light Rail Transit system has plans to add twin light-rail transit tunnels and two new stations — one at grade and one 65 feet underground.

Automated people mover systems have proven to be a passenger-friendly way to transport travelers and employees between and within terminals or to and from parking, hotels and regional transit centers.

On board with APM benefits
Automated people movers operate without drivers or station attendants and travel on guideways with exclusive right-of-way. Compared with traditional rail-transportation services, they typically travel on a narrower span and use smaller vehicles with as many as four cars, each capable of carrying 20 to 100 standing passengers.

Airports are embracing automated people movers because they significantly improve the overall airport passenger experience by:
• Reducing traffic congestion and air pollution. Alleviating traffic congestion in the immediate airport vicinity and passenger congestion within the facility leads to a reduction in associated air pollution.
• Reducing passenger bottlenecks. Mixed-mode transit expedites passenger flows at busy airports, minimizes bottlenecks in and around terminals and leads to easier boarding and capacity flexibility.
• Reducing passenger anxiety. Terminal buildings often are spread out, and automated people movers can enable greater numbers of passengers to move more quickly over longer distances, especially when traditional walkways or buses are not feasible. This helps passengers arrive at their aircraft gates faster and with less stress.

Connecting terminals with other facilities
Automated people mover systems also are being designed to connect airport terminals with parking garages, car rental services, regional transportation services, hotels and other related employment and activity centers.

San Francisco International Airport’s intermodal solution is an example of connectivity between the airport and the metropolitan area. AirTrain, the airport’s automated people mover, links with the Bay Area Rapid Transit System, which is a heavy-rail line that serves multiple municipalities in the Bay Area. As a result, passengers can travel more conveniently between their homes and the airport, leaving their cars at home.

To further enhance passenger convenience, HNTB designed a direct train-to-plane connection that has become the No. 1 choice for air travelers taking public transportation to San Francisco International Airport. Known as the BART to San Francisco International Airport Extension and Stations project, it added underground subway, at-grade track and an aerial bridge, giving travelers direct airport access.

Planning and integrating
Ensuring that automated people movers relieve travel anxiety instead of adding to it is why HNTB experts point to the crucial importance of careful project planning.

The process begins byidentifying airport needs and concludes with a complete project scope for optimal design, construction and implementation. Coordinating closely with the airport’s overall planning process is essential because automated people movers connect with and affect multiple airport facilities.

Advance planning includes:

• Environmental impact studies
• Passenger traffic and surface transportation congestion analysis, including how reducing individual vehicle trips into and around an airport may yield regional and local benefits
• Construction feasibility reviews
• Studying how the system will affect other airport facilities
• Securing required permits and approvals
• Coordinating with all affected agencies
• Addressing operational challenges, such as how to handle security screening and baggage handling

In existing operational airports, it’s also important to carefully integrate new transit options with current systems. Challenges include:
• Designing and coordinating rights-of-way with passenger facilities
• Reducing or managing traffic congestion in existing facilities
• Developing alternatives and contingency plans for conveying and processing passengers, so reliable service continues during construction

Moving the future with APMs
Global airline travel is expected to increase 31 percent by 2017, so airport planners will continue to demand improved mobility, enhanced accessibility and technological advances for their facilities and passengers.

As airport “cities” become destinations for doing business in the global marketplace, automated people movers must efficiently and effectively transport passengers not only to and from an airport but also within the campus where business takes place.

Trends for automated people movers include personal rapid transit. Also called podcars, these driverless vehicles operate on dedicated tracks without rails. PRT, personal rapid transit, is a type of automated guideway transit, a class of system that includes vehicles of varying sizes, as well as small subway systems.

At London Heathrow, for example, a PRT system already has a fleet of battery-powered, driverless pods, each capable of conveniently carrying four passengers and their luggage as fast as 25 miles per hour on a dedicated guideway to and from the terminal.

Automated transit networks — in which fully automated vehicles on exclusive, grade-separated guideways provide on-demand, primarily non-stop, origin-to-destination service over an area network — have been around since the 1950s, but only a few are in operation around the world. This advanced technology eventually may become a viable solution in highly populated urban centers.

Future possibilities also include automated people movers that can integrate directly with rail and make use of efficient, green technologies.