August 2010

Shuttle Services Make Key Connections for DFW Airport

by Claire Atkinson, Senior Editor

To serve its high volume of traffic, the airport operates five different shuttle services for customers and employees.

Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) is the world's third busiest airport, officials say, with nearly 1,750 flights per day and 57 million passengers a year.

To serve its high volume of traffic, the airport operates five different shuttle services for customers and employees. There is a need to transport people not just from terminal to terminal (Terminal Link vans), but also to and from remote parking lots, the consolidated rental car center and — with the airport's Express service — from private vehicles to curbside at the terminals. Employees also have their own shuttle service, which transports them from the employee parking lot to the central terminal area.

Wide variety of services

The Express and Terminal Link services use Ford F-450 vans that are converted by a local provider to run on compressed natural gas (CNG).

The consolidated rental car center was opened in March 2001. "We required all the rental car companies to pitch in to the current single rental car shuttle service," says Tomás Rivera, assistant vice president of transportation management. Previously, all 10 rental car companies had individual shuttles running airport routes to two rental car centers, one at the north end of the airport and the other at the south end.

Gillig diesel buses currently comprise the rental car shuttle fleet, from model years 2004 and 2005. "We're in the process of replacing those with ElDorado National access buses that we've received about 12 of on the property, but we have not yet put them into service," Rivera says.

The employee transit shuttle has been in existence since 2005, when the airport's Skylink train system replaced an automated people mover.

The employee and remote parking shuttle fleets are made up of 2004 and 2005 CNG-powered ElDorado National buses. "We just received a shipment of 12 2009 models," Rivera says.

The parking shuttles are managed by Dara Hayden, assistant vice president of parking, point of service. Remote parking, the most economical parking option at the airport, has been available with shuttle service since 1989, she says. The Express service, which picks up and drops off passengers at their vehicles in the airport's 7,000 garage parking spaces, has been available for about 10 years.

"All of the vehicles are owned by DFW Airport," Rivera says. "We purchase the vehicles ourselves at government fleet sales through the metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs), such as the North Texas Central Council of Governments or the Houston-Galveston Area Council. We also obtain the rolling stock tax free, so it's a substantial savings."

The remote parking vehicles are maintained by DFW staff, while vehicles for the four other shuttle services are operated and maintained by contractors.

'The green airport story'

About 95 percent of all the airport's vehicles run on CNG, including non-revenue vehicles.

The emphasis on alternative fuel use first emerged in the late 1990s, Rivera says, when the Dallas/Fort Worth metropolitan statistical area was designated as a non-attainment area for nitrogen oxide (NOx). "The result of that was a state implementation plan, which required the airport to reduce mobile and point-source emissions," Rivera says.

DFW began working with Clean Energy Fuels Corp., and currently has contracts with the fuel provider to operate and supply the private and public access CNG fueling stations that support the fleets. The rental car shuttle fleet is beginning the conversion process to CNG vehicles, due to be completed within four years.

Consolidation of the rental car shuttle fleet contributed to the airport's goal to reduce emissions and also helped reduce the amount of vehicular traffic on the carousel roadways and congestion on the curbside, Rivera says.

The airport has become a champion of alternative fuels, sharing "the green airport story," as Rivera describes it, with colleagues at trade shows and professional organization meetings.


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