Currently viewing the tag: "Airtrain"
Well, I’m back from my latest travels through Europe; we had a marvelous week exploring Vienna and the Austrian countryside. Although I have many stories to share and experiences worth describing, I will offer you all a glimpse into the transportation efficiency which made my trip so worth while. Some of you may liken it to an apples-to-oranges comparison; but I think there is much we could all learn from the European system of planning and constructing cities which would make all of our lives a heck of a lot easier. I will begin now with the airports through which I traveled: Miami International, Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, and Flughafen Wien. Go ahead and visit their respective webpages to see their cyber differences. Ours is a catastrophe, in English only, alluding to the disastrous experience you’ll likely encounter when visiting.Amsterdam’s Schiphol is a paradise for anyone encountering a layover in Europe. The modern terminal is excellently situated to allow transfers between all international flights without having to pass through security or customs, unless traveling to another EU country. The airport features some comforting amenities with which to pass the time including: showers, sleep areas, an museum featuring Dutch art from the 18th century, wireless internet, a mall, and various restaurants, bars, and casinos. The facility was immaculate. The airport employees were well informed, courteous, and fluent in various languages, a rarity even in our cultural “melting-pot.” A PA announcement played whenever someone was running late: “Mr. or Mrs. So and so, you are delaying the flight to Casablanca. Please report to gate D4 for immediate boarding or we will proceed to offload your luggage.” Fantastic.

We didn’t spend as much time in Flughafen Wien due to the fact that it was our final destination, however, while passing through I noted several similarities between it and Schiphol. The airport featured some enclosed glass boxed rooms for smokers only, an innovative thought to keep the smoke away from the general terminals; even though smoking is generally permitted everywhere else indoors in Europe.

The City to airport connection at both airports is a marvel in itself. Forget the Miami Intermodal Center, distant thoughts of running metrorail or a people mover into the airport, or the current inconvenient bus rides to the nearest tri-rail station. Flughafen Wien, located several kilometers away from the city center, is linked via the City Airport Train (CAT), an express train which whisks passengers into the city in 16 minutes. What I find most impressive about the CAT is the feature which allows you to have your luggage transferred from the plane to the train. Likewise, you can check in your luggage at the city train terminal and not worry again about your bags until you reach your final destination. The train terminal at the airport is located beneath the baggage claim and departure facilities, placing it within easy reach of all travelers. Since we weren’t exactly traveling to the city center, we rode another train, a suburban commuter train like tri-rail called the Schnellbahn, which also services the airport.

The City/Airport connection in Amsterdam is no less fantastic than the one in Vienna. Having a five hour layover on the return flight enabled us to catch a train into the city to kill off the wait. Within 15 minutes we were arriving in the city’s central station, within walking distance of all the sights, museums, and activity occurring in Amsterdam. The commuter train was just as pleasant, packed with travelers on both decks of the train.

Amsterdam’s Central Station is an amazing intermodal facility. It links the city with the airport via rail as well as local metro service, streetcars, buses, ferries, water taxis, regional rail service, and long distance rail…

More to come soon…

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Miami-Dade Transit’s own consultants [Not me, however see below] are concluding that a rubber-tired automated people mover that would run from the airport to the Miami Intermodal Center is a better option, according to a draft report obtained Thursday by The Miami Herald.

It appears that my “Airtrain Solution Series” wasn’t such a bad idea to begin with. My main concern regarding this decision is whether it will be designed/built properly to accommodate most of the terminals rather than just one centralized station at the airport (you know, in an effort to cut project costs as usual.)

More info on the vehicle maker, Sumitomo Corp

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To wrap up the discussions on the new proposed plans for the MIC/Airport connection, I will focus on why a direct line to the airport is such a bad idea. Like I previously stated, a direct line partially negates the reason why we decided to construct the MIC to begin with. Given the shape of the airport, tight clearances around the terminals/parking garages, and numerous elevated walkways, I am left to assume that the only suitable location for metrorail and station would be between the parking structures or west of the new cooling tower by the new south terminal. I assume the current taxi parking lot could also be a viable option considering the cars will one day be stationed at the MIC instead. In any case, any of the above three options place metrorail just enough out of reach to make it convenient for all passengers at all terminals. Any of the above options would equate to more than a quarter mile walk (linearly, which we know will not be the case) for some of the farthest gates. A direct line will also only be able to service one location (the airport) rather than an Airtrain like concept which will be able to service every terminal, parking structure, and transfer station. Like most Airtrain systems, travel from terminal to terminal would be free and passengers looking to exit the Airtrain system at the MIC would pay the fare to disembark, effectively solving the ridiculous concept of an automated farecard system so rental car patrons can ride for free to the intermodal center, while anyone who stays on Metrorail will pay a regular fare. We don’t even have fare cards that can be purchased at any station, why are we dreaming up further problems!?

Going back to my previous post, I’d like to present some more evidence with regards to the confusion of the MDT decision makers. As I stated, metrorail is at best a commuter rail with several parking garage park-n-ride stations. The concept of a truly urban transit oriented development is, well, quite foreign around here to put it mildly. MDT somehow conceives that fewer transfers will equate to greater ridership numbers, which for an urban transit system can generally be true. What MDT fails to realize though is that metrorail riders are commuters, which means they have already used another form of transit (a car, likely, parked in one of the massive park-n-ride stations) to arrive at the station which will probably not have any long term parking for people who will be away for longer than a day. Where am I going with this? People who live near metrorail cannot walk to the station because we haven’t adapted the surroundings properly for this type of lifestyle and people who already use metrorail will not be able to ride it to the airport because they usually drive to metrorail to begin with. The problems are worse than we think! Had MDT pushed through some necessary urban train lines first (like baylink) then perhaps this wouldn’t be such a big issue because it could be perceivable that many people could walk a short distance to the nearest Miami Beach station and only have to make one transfer to get to the airport.

There is no clear-cut answer to the problems posed by the MIC-MIA connections. MDT needs to seriously analyze what they hope to accomplish as our transit agency and how they plan to create a transit system that effectively replaces vehicle use from a substantial portion of the population. MDT would also benefit greatly from studying the solutions other airports have concocted to this very issue, rather than continuing to do things the ineffective way…

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Knowing that my day will be pretty complicated tomorrow, I’ve decided to provide you all with a photograph of NYC’s JFK airport’s Airtrain and an interesting recent article on MIA for you all to mull over until I can better analyze the situation catastrophe occurring in our Aviation/Transportation departments…

Other intelligent airport connectors: Newark, San Francisco, Brisbane, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Shanghai

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Apparently, my recent gushing rant about the Miami Intermodal Center, sparked one hell of a discussion over on CriticalMiami. In any case, I’m going to elaborate on the Center and reaffirm my stance and views of the problems we will continue to face until it’s completed. An excerpt from the MIC website:


“In 1989, Miami-Dade County accepted the Miami International Airport Area Transportation Study recommending implementation of a multimodal transportation access facility. It was conceived as the means to link commuter rail (both heavy and light) and public and private bus service, thereby providing needed regional connectivity and improving access to Miami International Airport. In the early 1990s, the State of Florida implemented transportation policies to encourage users to use high occupancy vehicles.”

Honestly, this thing has been in some sort of planning since 1989 and this is the best we could do? It’s Kinda like watching the credits roll on Nacho Libre and wondering: “How can so many people see nothing wrong with putting this into production?” except instead of the $10 ticket and popcorn, it’s $1.3 Billion. They’ve had a decade and half to plan and it is still horribly behind a schedule which is continuously being pushed back. I’d also like to get a copy of those extremely useful policies implemented to encourage high occupancy vehicle use, so that I can wipe my (well, you know what) with them. A lot of good those policies have done, the complex is still at least another 5 years away from completion and our airport is plagued with unbearable traffic. What a great way to effectively cripple Miami’s Business and tourism sectors while continuing to give passengers a reason to head up to Ft. Lauderdale.

With the $1.3 billion price tag, one would expect this structure to be extremely innovative and filled with cutting edge technology. Just take a look at how innovative the integration between it and the airport is; after you hop off one of the airport’s two independent people movers, walk across the airport baggage claim, you hop on another 1.3 mile long people mover (its price isn’t included in the original figure, btw) which will finally take you to your array of transportation options (Sidenote: did you know the now defunct Florida High Speed Rail was also slated to arrive at the MIC?)

I recently experienced a system similar to this at Madrid’s Barajas International Terminal. Beautiful terminal. Absolutely stunning design. It’s such a terrible pain however to travel from the gate to the baggage area; it takes an approximated 30+ minutes of walking/riding, not including the multiple security checkpoints.

Anyone else get the feeling that Miami planners are completely oblivious to what happens in other parts of the world? I certainly do. This is going to be an ongoing saga folks, like the PAC, so hold on for one heck of a disaster…

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